“It is not that we play the course better as we get older,” Jiménez said. “It is that the more we play Augusta, the more experience and knowledge we have of the course. Plus, patience is vital at Augusta, and we are probably a little more patient and less impulsive as we get older.”
In addition, many older players have continued to stay fit and competitive.
“In the 1970s, there was no Champions tour,” Harmon said. “My dad would show up not having played a competitive round in five years. Back then, those guys didn’t want to embarrass themselves. Now, with someone like Freddie Couples, it enters his mind that he could win it.”
Miller Brady, president of the Champions tour, said the continued competition had indeed helped players’ longevity.
“These guys, unlike the generation before them, are much healthier into their 50s and 60s,” he said. “Look at Bernhard Langer; he continues to play well and win on the Champions tour.”
For some seasoned players, there is a feel about Augusta National. They understand that the Masters has a rhythm all its own, though it may be different this year without the emotional support of fans packed around the greens.
“There are certain intervals in a round that if you get by them, they spur your confidence,” said Ben Crenshaw, who won the Masters in 1984 and 1995, when he was 43.
“The course goads you into trying certain things. In the tough areas, like Amen Corner, you always see special things happen. I’ve had some wonderful things happen there and some wonderful crashes.”