[PHOTO: Keyur Khamar]

The golf tournament that eclipses all others in popularity and television ratings will itself be eclipsed on its first day by a celestial event that is certain to attract more widespread attention in the US and across the globe.

For only the second time in its history, the Masters Tournament will be affected by a solar eclipse crossing the continental US, the event coming on Monday afternoon during the first official day of practice rounds for the 88th Masters.

A total eclipse, the 17th to affect at least a portion of the continental USA, will bisect the mid-section of the country starting about 2:30pm EDT over Eagle Pass, Texas. It will then make its way over Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont and New Hampshire before heading out over the Atlantic through Maine about 3:30pm. According to NASA, portions of Tennessee and Michigan also will experience a total solar eclipse, a phenomenon caused by the moon lining up perfectly as it orbits in front of the sun.

Augusta, Georgia, will begin to see partial effects of the eclipse, called an annular eclipse – in which a “ring of fire” (annulus) is seen around the edge of the moon – from approximately 1:49 to 4:23pm, (according to TimeandDate.com) with peak coverage of the sun occurring at 3:08pm when about 75 percent of the sun will be obscured. That is not enough, it is believed, to force any stoppage of practice rounds.

Obviously, Masters patrons should plan accordingly to avoid damage to their eyes if they intend to take their gaze off the stars on the course and look up to the sky.

Only one official Masters round ever has been affected by a solar eclipse. That occurred during the final round on April 7, 1940, when an annular eclipse that obscured about 90 percent of the sun passed overhead just after 5pm and lasted about two-and-a-half hours. Jimmy Demaret won the first of his three green jackets that day, beating Lloyd Mangrum by four strokes.

A total solar eclipse is not that unusual. There were 71 worldwide in the 20th century and 68 more are expected this century. The last total solar eclipse that impacted the US occurred on August 21, 2017. Its band spanned the contiguous US from coast to coast. According to NASA, the next one won’t be seen in the US until 2044.