Golf in the Garden (of Eden?) by Joseph Williams
Since starting to date the beautiful woman that is now my wife, I’ve been to the final round of the Open Championship at St. Andrews and the third and final rounds of The Masters in 2011. Prior to that, the only pro golf tournament I’ve ever been to is the Memphis PGA Tour stop. Now although I absolutely love the TPC Southwind and love the tradition of attending the (Insert Sponsor Here) St. Jude Classic, it doesn’t hold a candle to two major championships at two of the world’s most prestigious courses. So there’s an extra flutter in my heart and magical memories in my mind as I prepare for the tradition unlike any other, The Masters (on CBS?). (The debate about what the “tradition unlike any other” is one I continue to have with my friends over drinks annually. Is the tradition THE MASTERS or is it that THE MASTERS IS ON CBS? The world may never know.)
So for our column previewing and predicting The Masters, I’ll present my Top 5 Favorite Things about attending The Masters live last year.
Top 5 Favorite Things about The Masters – Attending Live Edition (in no particular order)
1) Somebody call Indiana Jones – Augusta National IS the Garden of Eden
From the time I stepped into Augusta National, it became clear to me that what I suspected all those years watching on TV and what became more apparent once it went HD is true: Augusta may be the closest we come to the Garden of Eden. I joke and kid, but seriously. It’s even more gorgeous in person. It’s exquisite. Tucked away in the middle of nowhere, Georgia, in a town reminding me of Jackson, TN, is THE most prestigious golf club in the world. The gorgeous logos are everywhere. The grass, flowers, and nature is pristine. The sun shines brighter (I got a pretty bad sunburn) and it’s as if The Masters theme song and Jim Nantz narrates your life while you’re there. It’s that magical.
2) How Cozy It Is
The way the course is laid out, you can see most spots on the course from other parts, at least from a distance. So when Tiger started roaring back on Sunday, the roars followed him and you could tell where he was on the course. Also, because cell phones aren’t allowed, there’s an old school way that news travels by word of mouth. So before we could see Rory’s collapse on the scoreboard by the 17th green on Sunday, we heard things went poorly for him. But we didn’t know how poorly until it was posted and the crowd groaned aloud. Everyone’s so happy to be there experiencing the magic that everyone is so nice to one another. So friendly.
3) THE FOOD!
So I had heard about this phenomenon, but experiencing it was true bliss. At The Masters, food is cheaper than any other sporting event. BY FAR. Egg salad and pimento cheese sandwiches for $1.50. Drinks for $1 or $2. The delicious and simple food is affordable and perfect for a beautiful spring day. It’s like a picnic with Tiger, Phil, and Rory. At one point, about five Arnold Palmer’s and four egg salad sandwiches in, I closed my eyes and could have sworn that Bobby Jones was there. With Bagger Vance too, I think.
4) The Best of the Best Competing on the Best Course
It’s so simple I almost overlooked it. It’s the hardest tournament in the world to qualify for. The traditions, though not as long as some of the other major tournaments, are stronger. The stage is grander. It’s the first major of the year. It’s the least commercialized and the most standalone. It’s the major tournament that launched Tiger to stardom and the last one that the Golden Bear notched on his belt. Seeing all the players play in person was unlike anything. Hearing the roars. Seeing them play Amen Corner. Watching people walking quickly (no running!) to catch up to Tiger surging or jumping to see Rory. There’s nothing like it.
5) The Legacy. The Tradition.
It’s the reason I get goosebumps when The Masters commercials start airing each year. The theme song gets me. It’s why I race home on Wednesdays to watch the Par 3 tournament. It’s why I watch as much of the coverage as possible. It’s why I knew the terms “green jacket,” “Butler Cabin,” “Hogan’s Bridge,” and “Amen Corner from the time I was nine years-old. It really is a tradition unlike any other. Whether on TV or in person, no golf tournament beats it. And the older I get, the more I think that The Masters may be my favorite sports event annually. There’s nothing like it. Period.
Most Likely to Be in the Top 10 at the end of Sunday (in no particular order)
1. Tiger Woods: Even though I remember watching a little of The Masters with my dad in the early to mid 90s, it was the 1997 Masters that kept me glued to the TV screen for every hour of the coverage. Tiger’s historic win, launching his professional career into the record books, hooked a whole new legion of golf fans. Within the next few months, when my dad took me Overton Golf Course for first time, I wrote “Lil’ Tiger” on my scorecard. I read biographies and followed his career closely. Over a decade later, I found myself using the controversy surrounding Tiger’s infidelity as a case study in the Media, Celebrity, and our Society with my students. Tiger is still polarizing. He’s still controversial. But golf is better off if he’s successful. And I have a hard time believing he won’t be in contention on Sunday. And The Masters 2012 will be better off for it.
2. Rory McIlroy: The leading superstar of the new youth movement in professional golf. He’s lovable, fun to watch, and the new Boy Wonder. The only thing better than Tiger being back in contention would be the development of Tiger and Rory rivaling for victories whenever they’re both in contention. With how Rory has matured as a player and bounced back from collapses like last years Masters, you have to consider him a favorite for the Butler Cabin.
3. Phil Mickelson: Like Tiger, he’s older and he’s had his ups and downs. But he’s been there. He’s won. He’s lost. And he’s won multiple times. At Augusta on Sunday, this gives you an advantage. Being really good at golf also helps.
4. Jason Day: Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Like Scott Hoch was known to say, “If you keep knocking at the door, eventually someone will answer.” After Jason Day’s consistent Top 5 finishes in major tournaments last year, it’s just a matter of time before he wins one.
5. Brandt Snedeker: Vandy. Vandy. Oh hell yeah. Native Nashvillian and fellow Commodore Brandt Snedeker has already won this year. As a young talent who has won multiple times on tour, including a high-pressure FedEx Cup playoff win, Sneds could be a great dark horse on Sunday surprising to some viewers, but not to those who have watched his early successes thus far in his career.
6. Kyle Stanley: After his collapse at Torrey Pines and 8-stroke final round comeback to win in Scottsdale, AZ the next week, Kyle Stanley showed he has the mental game and grit that, when paired with his youthful talent, could make him a contender any week, any where. Augusta is different, as is The Masters. But this kid’s got it.
7. Luke Donald: He’s consistently ranked #1 or #2 in the world for a reason. My gut tells me that he won’t pull off the win at Augusta this weekend, but he’ll definitely be in contention.
8. Miguel Angel Jimenez: He’s always lurking. Just look at the man. How he dresses. How he warms up. As an announcer once said… He’s a man in charge of his own life. His “go-my-own-way” style always puts him in contention at the majors.
9. Charl Schwartzel: He birdied the 69th, 70th, 71st, and 72nd holes at Augusta last year to win the Green Jacket. With the names Scott, Day, Donald, Cabrera, Woods, Ogilvy, and Choi right near him. He’s followed the win up with a lot of success and solid golf. Hard to not give him credit as a contender.
10. Keegan Bradley: Current holder of the Wanamaker trophy and another of the new youthful generation of golfers. I see him winning at least one more major in the next 3 years. Why not go back-to-back?
The Wish List by Colin Stovall
I’m a golfer. An addicted golfer to be more accurate. I am watching the Golf Channel as I type these sentences. I watch golf, play it, read about it, even listen to podcasts to learn more about it. Have you fallen asleep yet? What’s that? Oh, Joseph’s 1200 words already made your eyes heavy and you happened to wake up at my portion of the post. Well I would like to welcome you to my perspective about the Masters.
First memory of the Masters dates back to Greg Norman’s collapse and Nick Faldo’s 1996 victory. Greg was my favorite golfer for a large part of my adolescence, mainly because his nickname was the Shark! I was in the car heading to my grandparents’ house and golf was on the RADIO. So I listened because I had nothing else to do (no Twitter/cellphone/Ipod). I wouldn’t suggest this as your station of choice for a road trip. But I found myself slowly intrigued about the events transpiring in this event named the Masters. I immediately rushed into my grandparents house only to find the Shark floundering to Sir Nick Faldo.
My connection to this tournament has a strange start so I can only assume the finish will be equally awkward (hoisting a trophy?). When I think of the Master’s I think of green. They were way ahead of Al Gore and others proclamation for people to “Go Green”. The Masters is green:
The Green Jacket
The jacket is synonymous with the first Major event of the year. Players long to have another gentleman assist them in putting on this Green Jacket. The jacket distinguishes the haves from the have-nots in the world of professional golf. Either you got it or you don’t. You become Nick Faldo or Greg Norman.
The greens are spoken of in almost fabelesque tone, often imitated never duplicated. Golfers of all levels have an inherent understanding of how well maintained and difficult the greens of Augusta are for players. Meticulous doesn’t describe the detailed work dedicated to each green. The Masters prides itself on its tradition and grandeur, in which these greens are the shiny blue ribbon in their trophy case.
The greenery has been most appreciated recently thanks to HD TV. People have all different motivators for playing golf, but perfectly groomed blades of grass give you a tingle on the inside and more often than not. Spending time watching the Masters on a high definition television stirs up a desire to go and play golf unlike any other tournament on tour. I dare you to spend some time watching this tournament on a well funded television and I bet you I’ll see you on the course Sunday afternoon.
Golf has its tradition that can repel outsiders, but this tournament supersedes these preconceived notions. I want you to give it a chance this weekend. Let your guard down and be open to new experiences. Maybe you will have a radioesque moment like I did 16 years ago. Worst case scenario, you’ll get a good nap.
My wish-list for this weekend’s tourney goes as follows:
1.Tiger and Rory paired together on Saturday and Sunday.
2. Phil Mickleson starting Sunday behind the leaders and setting a torrid pace on the front 9.
3. Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia relevant on the weekend.
4. Dustin Johnson in contention.
5. Tiger/Rory/Phil playoff that becomes an instant classic.
Side notes for you golf junkies like myself. I’m taking Sergio Garcia and Webb Simpson as my dark horses. Adam Scott as day 1 leader. KJ Choi top 10 finish. Sang Moon Bae low round of the tourney. Winning score 14 under. Winner? Haven’t flipped a coin yet.