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DeChambeau, Johnson among favorites at unique fall Masters

Nov. 11 (UPI) — Augusta National’s tree leaves have brightened to an autumn orange, its azaleas aren’t blooming and Magnolia Lane won’t have any foot traffic, but dozens of elite golfers still will compete at this week’s Masters tournament.

The 2020 major championship starts Thursday and ends Sunday in Augusta, Ga. It had been for April 9 to 12 before being rescheduled from spring to fall and into the 2020-2021 PGA Tour season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Fans are not allowed to attend the event due to pandemic safety precautions. Instead, they can tune into CBS and ESPN for 18 hours of live TV coverage during the four-day tournament.

“This has been an unprecedented circumstance we are dealing with,” reigning Masters champion Tiger Woods told reporters Tuesday. “It has been incredible to have the Green Jacket for this long, but this is not the way I wanted to have it.

“I wanted to earn it back in April. Earlier in the year, we didn’t think we’d have this opportunity. We are all very fortunate to be able to compete.”

The first round will begin just before 8 a.m. EST Thursday.

Despite the change in natural aesthetics and absence of an enthusiastic crowd, temperatures are expected to be in the same range as they have been when the tourney was held in the spring. Rain is in the forecast.

Woods has five Masters Green Jackets, but he is not among the favorites to win the 2020 title.

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DeChambeau, Johnson favored

Oddsmakers give DeChambeau the best chance to win the Green Jacket. He never has finished inside the Top 20 at the Masters, but won the 2020 U.S. Open and tied for fourth at the 2020 PGA Championship.

The 27-year-old is No. 6 in the Official World Golf Ranking. DeChambeau had nine Top 10 finishes during the 2019-2020 season. He tied for 29th at the 2019 Masters. He tied for a career-best 21st in 2017 at Augusta.

“It’s going to be different because I’m going to be able to hit [the ball] on certain lines where patrons would normally be,” DeChambeau said Tuesday. “It provides me a little bit of an advantage. This is a unique opportunity.”

Johnson — the No. 1 player in the world — has the second-best odds to win the tournament. He tied for second at the 2019 Masters. He also has tied for second twice at the PGA Championship and once at the British Open.

His lone major title came at the 2016 U.S. Open. Johnson finished tied for second in last week’s Masters tuneup tournament, the 2020 Houston Open.

World No. 2 Jon Rahm, No. 3 Justin Thomas and No. 5 Rory McIlroy also are among the top five favorites to win at Augusta.

“This is probably my favorite event of the year,” Thomas said. “It’s one of my favorite courses. I enjoy everything about it. I feel like I know the course so well.”

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McIlroy, a four-time major championship winner, can complete a career grand slam with a win at Augusta, as he has won each of the three other major golf titles.

McIlroy’s best finish at Augusta was a tie for fourth place in 2015. Thomas tied for 12th at the 2019 Masters and has one career major title, the 2017 PGA Championship.

Rahm tied for fourth at the 2018 Masters and has yet to win a major championship.

“I’m feeling pretty confident,” Rahm said. “Even at my last start at the Zozo Championship I hit it about as good I’ve hit it from tee to green. I’m happy where I’m at.”

Koepka, Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay, Bubba Watson, Hideki Matsuyama, Patrick Reed, Tony Finau, Tyrrell Hatton also are among the 10 favorites to win the 2020 Masters.

Watson won the 2012 and 2014 Masters. Reed won in 2018. Koepka and Schauffele tied Johnson for second place in 2019.

Sergio Garcia, the 2017 Masters champion, withdrew from the tournament Monday after he tested positive for COVID-19.

Woods, ranked No. 33 in the world, was the last player to win consecutive titles at Augusta — in 2001 and 2002. He tied for third in his last Masters title defense in 2006. The 15-time major championship winner is not listed among the Top 10 favorites by the majority of sports betting websites.

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On Thursday, DeChambeau will tee off alongside Rahm and Louis Oosthuizen at 7:33 a.m. EST at the No. 10 hole. Thomas and Kopeka will tee off with Matthew Fitzpatrick at 11:49 a.m. at the No. 1 hole. Johnson, McIlroy and Cantlay will tee off at noon at No. 1.

Woods, Shane Lowry and Andy Ogletree will tee off at 7:55 a.m. EST at No. 10.

The winner of the 2020 Masters is expected to receive just over $ 2 million in prize money.

How to watch — All times Eastern

Thursday — First round: Live stream from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on CBSSports.com and CBS Sports App; TV coverage from 1 to 5:30 p.m. on ESPN

Friday — Second round: Live stream from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on CBSSports.com and CBS Sports App; TV coverage from 1 to 5:30 p.m. on ESPN

Saturday — Third round: Live stream from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on CBSSports.com and CBS Sports App; TV coverage from 1 to 5 p.m. on CBS

Sunday — Fourth round: Live stream from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on CBSSports.com and CBS Sports App; TV coverage from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on CBS

Moments from the 2020 Masters Tournament

Xander Schauffele (R) and his caddie Austin Kaiser putt on the 17th green during a practice round prior to the start of the 2020 Masters golf tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., on Tuesday. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

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