The road to the Masters is a long way from Augusta National

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Associated Press

FILE - In this Sept. 20, 2020, file photo, Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, plays his shot from the fourth tee during the final round of the U.S. Open golf tournament in Mamaroneck, N.Y. McIlroy is among those playing the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek this week north of Las Vegas. ( (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nev. – This is no ordinary road to the Masters.

Instead of the tropical warmth of Florida in the spring, it starts in the hot desert air of Nevada in October.

Instead of a series of PGA Tour events some 500 miles south of Augusta National with an occasional detour into Texas, this road starts 2,000 to the west, heads out to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and then back over to Houston.

What hasn't changed is the top players are back in action with Georgia on their minds.

It starts Thursday with the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek, typically held in South Korea and now part of an Asia swing that moved this year to the western U.S. because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Four of the top five players in the world are at Shadow Creek, with top-ranked Dustin Johnson pulling out after his positive test for the coronavirus.

It's different, just like the entire year in just about every sport.

Rory McIlroy thinks Shadow Creek might be even better than what Florida offers because of the bentgrass greens that are fast with big slopes.

“It's not a bad place to prepare for Augusta,” McIlroy said Wednesday. "Climate's going to be a bit different, but it's not bad preparation. Obviously, it's on the other side of the country. But when you think about the courses that we play leading up to Augusta, they're all Bermuda for the most part. It's Florida. It's a different test and a different setup.