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Masters Gets Underway Under A Cloud Of Controversy

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The Masters is starting Thursday under a cloud of controversy over Georgia's restrictive new voting law. CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann spoke to CBS2 News This Morning live from Augusta.

Video Transcript

LESLEY MARIN: The 85th Masters Golf Tournament is getting underway this morning in Augusta, Georgia, and It begins under a cloud of controversy over Georgia's restrictive new voting law. Major League Baseball moved the All-Star Game out of Atlanta last week in response to this law.

DEMARCO MORGAN: And my friend, CBS News senior national correspondent Mark Strassmann joins us live from Augusta. First, good to see you and good morning to you.

MARK STRASSMANN: Good morning to you, DeMarco, it's great to hear your voice. Hi Lesley, how are you doing?

LESLEY MARIN: Good so glad to have you.

DEMARCO MORGAN: Oh, yes. All right, Mark, as a growing number of companies speak out against Georgia's new voting law, you found out some activists are denouncing the Masters Golf Tournament for moving forward.

MARK STRASSMANN: Yeah, you know, every once in a while, DeMarco, the Masters tees off in controversy. This is one of those tournaments. Georgia's new voting law, which has been criticized by a number of activists as restricting access to the ballot, in particular restricting the access of minority voters and of poor voters, and there are lots of these activists that want Augusta National as an institution and as a club of very powerful people to take a stand against the law.

The club's not doing that. The club doesn't like to be dragged into these public issues. They released a statement yesterday essentially saying that we support, in general, the rights of all people-- all Americans-- to have access to the ballot, but they would not take a position on the law itself. And so there will be protests on Sunday, apparently-- the final round on Sunday-- but so far, despite lots of pressure, Augusta National, the club, does not want to be dragged into the controversy.

LESLEY MARIN: Well Mark, another big change this year. You know, the tournament is happening without one of the sport's biggest stars-- five-time champion Tiger Woods. We know he's recovering after being seriously hurt in the car accident here in Southern California. So what does it mean not to have Tiger playing in this year's tournament?

MARK STRASSMANN: You know Lesley, it means everything. It means everything on the course, it means everything on the galleries, it means everything for folks watching at home. I mean, Tiger has been-- is golf's marquee name, a global brand. He's been synonymous with the Masters for the last 25 years-- the youngest winner ever in '97, and then he won a couple of years ago again with an improbable comeback.

And not having him in the hunt, not having him on the course itself, that just changes the dynamic of the competition. It makes it much more wide open for, you know, a dozen golfers or more who probably have a good shot at winning this year. And then off the course, in the galleries, in particular, there's not the same buzz. There's just not. And for folks watching at home, too. I mean, there's a number of non-golf fans who will tune in to the Masters just to see how Tiger's doing. That's not going to be the case this year. So, you know, with or without Tiger, the tournament will go on-- it always does-- but it's not the same.

DEMARCO MORGAN: It most certainly is a game-changer. Mark, a final question for you. As COVID-19 continues to surge in some parts of the country, what precautions are being taken to keep people safe there?

MARK STRASSMANN: Well, DeMarco, you remember that last year's tournament was postponed for seven months from April to November, and then there were no spectators watching, which was completely weird. This year they're going to be a limited number of spectators allowed. Of course, masks, social distancing, all the usual COVID precautions that we've become used to over the last year plus. So it is going to be a different kind of feel to it. But, like most of America, this tournament is slowly getting back to normal. And, let's face it, that's what all of us want.

DEMARCO MORGAN: Yeah, and you know what? Despite all the controversy, it's still a great assignment to have just to be there in Augusta. All right, Mark, good to see you, man.

MARK STRASSMANN: There are worse.



DEMARCO MORGAN: There are worse.

LESLEY MARIN: We're all jealous you're spending the morning on the golf course.

DEMARCO MORGAN: Good to see you, brother.

LESLEY MARIN: Thank you so much.