AUGUSTA – While each Masters Monday is pregnant with anticipation and is a Golden Corral, all-you-can-eat buffet for the senses, there has never been a scene to quite match this Monday’s.

After all, how often in all the 87 previous times they’ve gathered here in the name of golf had the sun been put on a dimmer switch?

When, in all the days of the Masters, has it been as necessary to look straight up into blue sky as it was to fix on the Augusta National horizon of unnaturally perfect grass, swaying loblolly pine and blooming azalea?

The great eclipse of 2024 paid a passing visit to America’s most famous golf course, adding a cosmic footnote to the other memories they make here on a yearly basis.

“I don’t think I’ll ever forget the ‘24 eclipse happened on Monday at the Masters, my first Masters – the two will be connected,” said Peter Malnati just as the sun was three-quarters obscured by the moon, the breeze turning ever so slightly cooler and the crisp white of the Augusta National clubhouse behind him gone marginally paler.

Perhaps, someone wondered, the eclipse was some message from the golfing gods, signaling their own wonderment that Malnati actually made this Masters field.

“Who knows?” he smiled.

A grinder’s grinder, the 36-year-old Malnati had spent a career grimly hanging on to his playing privileges before winning the Valspar Championship last month to qualify for his first Masters.

He dresses the part of the everyman player, going about his days from beneath a bucket hat. His equipment is something you’d find at a muni course, too, as he rolls a yellow golf ball because his 4-year-old son likes the color.

Multiple times he turned down invitations from well-connected friends to come over from his home in Knoxville and play a friendly round at Augusta National. He wanted to earn his way on. And time was running out.

“At 36, it was still an easy ‘no’ because I always believed I would have this moment,” he said. “If I got to be 46 I might have had a change of heart on that one”

Malnati’s reward was a Masters Monday just a little odder than any other. For him, it turned into the ultimate family outing, in which his little boy just might place a natural phenomenon above the phenomenal story of his old man.

“Oh, it’s the eclipse for sure,” Malnati said, when asked what his son would rank first. “He’s going to be wearing his eclipse glasses for days.”

Hand it once more to the keepers of the Masters. They are never left unprepared. As fans poured onto the course Monday morning, they were handed official-looking paper eclipse glasses. Can’t have the patrons going blind staring unprotected at the sun. That would put a sizable crimp in the Masters experience.

Those official Masters eclipse glasses are destined to become a valued part of tournament kitsch. A strangely treasured souvenir. Nothing wearable with a Masters logo is free around here – in fact most comes at a punishing mark-up. But these glasses cost nothing, at least until they hit the secondary market.

On her blouse, Aiken’s Holly Lopes wore one of the “Arnie’s Army” buttons they gave out here in 2017 after the death of Arnold Palmer. In her hand, she proudly held a pair of 2024 Masters eclipse glasses.

“I’ll pass these along to my son, just like my Arnie pin, after I’m gone,” she said.

As with those outside the ropes, the players shared a fascination with the simple paper glasses.

“I will be keeping those for absolutely the rest of my life,” Will Zalatoris said. “Those will be some collectables that will be in my office forever.”

By around 1:30 in the afternoon, the moon was taking its first little bite out of the sun here. Camilo Villegas, Vijay Singh and Emiliano Grillo were just finishing their practice round when they borrowed glasses from some fans to sneak a look up at the sun.

Moments later, at the end of a media interview, a helpful writer lent Villegas his glasses to check out the progress of the eclipse.

“Let me see. Is it getting better? Oh, yeah, about a quarter. It looks pretty good,” he said.

Despite its conceit that it is at the center of everything on Masters week, Augusta wasn’t in the path of totality as far as this eclipse was concerned. By shortly after 3 p.m. the show peaked with about three-quarters of the sun obscured. The grounds were daylight deprived just enough that the floodlights flicked on at the practice range. Sunlight bent in strange ways, the shadows cast by the trees taking on curious arcing shapes.

“Yeah, this is timed up pretty good - get to watch the end of the world at Augusta National, right?” said former Georgia Bulldog player Brian Harman.

The villagers, meanwhile, remained calm, going about their business appreciating the earthbound glories of Augusta National. Only stopping briefly, here and there, to glance at the proceedings in the heavens.

To the relief of all the sun did return, and the Masters was once again bathed in full light. And we were reminded just how much this place loves the brightness.