AUGUSTA, Ga. — The Masters has returned to its traditional spot on the calendar, with the azaleas in bloom and a reduced number of spectators — here they're called patrons — taking in the sights and sounds of Augusta National.
But outside the gates of the world's most exclusive golf club, and with the first round of the Masters on Thursday, controversy continues to swirl.
Fred Ridley, chairman of both the club and the tournament, said Wednesday the right to vote is "fundamental in our democratic society" but stopped short of condemning the Georgia voting law that prompted Major League Baseball to pull the All-Star Game from Atlanta.
The measure, signed into law March 25, among other provisions, has new voter ID requirements and changes to mail-in voting that opponents believe will make it more difficult for some minorities and poorer voters to cast a ballot.
"No one should be disadvantaged in exercising that right, and it is critical that all citizens have confidence in the electoral process," Ridley said. "This is fundamental to who we are as a people.
"We realize that views and opinions on this law differ, and there have been calls for boycotts and other punitive measures. Unfortunately, those actions often impose the greatest burdens on the most vulnerable in our society. And in this case, that includes our friends and neighbors here in Augusta who are the very focus of the positive difference we are trying to make."
Some of the competitors, too, weighed in on the social implications.
"As you can tell, it really targets certain Black communities and makes it harder to vote, which to me it's everyone's right to vote," said Cameron Champ, the only American player of Black heritage in the tournament. "For me to see that, it's very shocking. Obviously, with MLB and what they did and moving the All-Star Game was a big statement. I know there's a bunch of other organizations and companies that have moved things.
"Again, this is a prestigious event, and I know there's a lot going on with it and the people involved with it."
That percolating controversy aside, this Masters is replete with interesting storylines.