The 16th Hole at Augusta National Golf Club

The 16th Hole at Augusta National Golf Club

It is springtime at Augusta National Golf Club, and that means The Masters is in town.

About 250,000 people are expected in Augusta this week. That brings millions of dollars to the local economy.

GPB’s Drew Dawson is in Augusta and has the latest on what’s happening around town.

GPB's Rickey Bevington speaks with Drew Dawson about The Masters in Augusta.

RICKEY BEVINGTON: The Masters has been going on in Augusta for more than 80 years, so what is different about this year's tournament?

DREW DAWSON: Well, one of the things that's different is there's a smaller field this time. There are only 86 golfers participating, which is down significantly from normal years. And that's a good thing, I think, for the fans, because they'll get a chance to see their favorite players more frequently and interact with them more directly.

Of course, the other thing that's different is during the offseason Augusta National did a lot of construction. They purchased some land adjacent to the golf course, lengthened some of the holes, and built a brand new golf shop (which appears to be as luxurious and spacious as a high end shopping mall would be).

But the big difference I think this year is going to be the Tiger Woods effect. Tiger is back. The four-time winner of The Masters is going to be back in town this week.

BEVINGTON: So what exactly is this Tiger Woods effect?

DAWSON: The easiest way to express it is that he's an economic driver. Resale ticket markets are seeing dramatic price increases.

The streetcorner ticket brokers – just like you'd see in a major concert or sporting event in Atlanta – they're buying and selling tickets and they're struggling to keep up the demand. Even with the higher prices.

Some ticket prices have increased even as much as 100 percent since Tiger confirmed his participation a few weeks back.

BEVINGTON: The Masters of course is one of golf’s major tournaments. With ticket prices soaring, this seems like an economic windfall for Augusta. What does the city look like right now with all this influx of people in dollars?

DAWSON: Well I will tell you, one of the things that you instantly notice differently in Augusta these days is the omnipresence of the silver and black Mercedes-Benz vans that transport our guests all over the city.

But what's happening really is there's some good news and some bad news in all this.

Downtown is beginning to fill up as the guests arrive for the various events, and there are a lot, let me tell you. Concerts by artists like Keith Urban to George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic.

There are events like the “Par-Tee On The Green” (See what they did there).

There's the “Rock Fore Dough Concert” and even the Jacket Jams. So there's a lot of events going on and people are coming in and they're patronizing the restaurants and hanging out downtown and seeing other tourist sites.

Now on the other side, the local CBS TV affiliate did a story about people who've been living in hotels being evicted so the owners can get Masters guests, and they're at higher prices so that's a little bit of the underbelly of that situation.

But I will say that just today and yesterday Mayor Hardie Davis announced that he's making provisions for these families. They have opened up community centers to allow them to sleep there, so at this time when Augusta is shining our own residents aren't, you know, sleeping on the streets.

BEVINGTON: Are there any other people in Augusta who may not welcome all of this Masters activity?

DAWSON: Well I'll be honest with you, from what I've seen: no.

Lots leave town. This is spring break week for all the schools, and others take the thousands of part-time jobs that are offered at Augusta National.

And traffic can get bad by Augusta standards. By Atlanta standards, you'd look at this and say “Really? You're worried about this?” But Augusta’s been doing this for decades as you pointed out the top, so the traffic patterns are planned and you learn what roads to take and what roads to avoid and you can peacefully coexist with the Masters during this week.

BEVINGTON:  Today is the second day of practice rounds, and the competition officially kicks off on Thursday. What are you looking at for the rest of the week?

DAWSON: Well I have to tell you, it's been interesting talking to people who aren't directly involved with the golf aspect of this but are impacted by the event.

I talked with a small business owner whose mattress company wouldn't seem to be involved at all. But during the time we were together his phone wouldn't stop ringing!

And I'll be spending some time later this week with air traffic controllers who are charged with guiding in the steady stream of corporate jets with golfers and guests at the intown airport, and we hope to spend some time with a couple of the streetcorner ticket brokers and find out what life is like for them this week.