The Masters Preview

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 Greens

The Greenery

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.

“GET IN THE HOLE!”

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Posted on by The Wise Guise in Featured, Golf, Sports

14 Responses to The Masters Preview

  1. Joseph Williams

    I’m sorry to inform you, Mr. Stovall, but Wish List #4 isn’t going to happen. Ol’ Dustin Johnson withdrew from the tournament earlier this week due to back problems.

    No worries, though. This will inevitably be a wonderful weekend of golf. It’s a tradition unlike any other… because it never disappoints.

    • Colin Stovall

      Ummmm, quick edit here then. Let’s go with Rickie Fowler to be in contention then. Yeah I like that better anyways. New #4 for the list, Rickie Fowler in contention. 🙂

  2. Doofus from France

    So here is my question: neither of you think it is worth mentioning the controversy surrounding the club rules regarding female membership? I’m sure, being the enthusiasts you both appear to be, you are both aware that females cannot gain membership, a rule that reeks of the misogynist history of the game, seen easily by a trip into a club house. Old fat white men smoking cigars, playing cards, and talking about their foolish bets made on the club tournament.

    Let me say that I enjoy both playing and watching the game of golf, but find this aspect of the game despicable. It’s time to embrace progress and drop the traditions of old.

    The CEO of major sponsor IBM is currently a female. In the past, IBM’s CEO (they have been male up to this point) has worn the jacket because of their involvement. Will the club change their rules as they did in 1990 for the black male (a little late, don’t you think?)? GOD I hope so.

    • Colin Stovall

      Here’s my take on that situation. There is exclusivity in all realms of things we do. Is it fair the masters doesn’t allow any ole joe schmoe to join? Maybe, maybe not. Even if you have money, are of the caucasian persuasion, and a member of the male gender, you still can’t walk up and join. They ask you to be a member of their club. Fair? Not really. But am I ok with that? Yes. Women have their “no boys allowed” club too, so why can’t The Masters? They are uber exclusive and that’s ok. There are thousands of golf course in the country where everyone under the sun can go and play, heck even join. But the guys at Augusta want to keep their place littered with folk of their liking. I don’t get up in arms about not getting an invite to Wednesday night Bunko with the gals, and I’m pretty sure there aren’t many women losing sleep over not getting the invite to be a member at Augusta. Also, progression doesn’t automatically mean we should remove tradition. Tradition helps us maintain perspective.

      • Doofus from France

        It’s one thing to have girl’s night bunko. It is one thing to have a fantasy baseball league with your male friends (although I would dispute the need for male bonding time as a necessity – another day). IT IS A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT THING to have the most important event in a professional sport be hosted by a group that does not extend membership to women. I’m not saying that private clubs should be forced to allow women into their membership – I am all about private institutions setting their own rules. What I AM saying is that as a club that puts on an event seen by millions, with young, impressionable male and female golfers viewing from all around the world, they should strive to embody a sound moral and ethical entity.

        What are they saying with their rules?

        1) We don’t enjoy playing golf with women
        2) We don’t want annoying wives around while we play
        3) Female golfers would jeopardize the quality of our club and the golf played here
        4) We enjoy and wish to continue old notions of gender roles
        5) Women should not be allowed to join one of the most prestigious golf clubs in the world

        You speak of perspective? Why don’t you hop into the shoes of a 17 year old girl who is mocked for being so involved in sports, feels ostracized on the driving range as she is surrounded by males who continually look her over and ask if she needs help (they assume, as males, that their golf game is superior to hers), and has a passion for a sport that continually makes it clear that she does not belong. And each year, as she gets excited, just as you do, to watch the Masters, she is reminded that women still do not have equal footing in the sport, and that no matter how hard she works, she will always have a Shooter McGavin on the driving range trying to help her with her swing.

        Until this club changes their tune, I will not think highly of them, and will in fact refuse to watch the event. Just as I have not eaten a chicken biscuit from Chick-fil-a since I found out their position on homosexuality, and more importantly their donations based on this belief. And let me tell you, not watching the Masters is a piece of cake compared to denying my body the goodness of a warm chicken biscuit.

        What are they saying with their rules?

        1) We don’t enjoy playing golf with women
        2) We don’t want annoying wives around while we play
        3) Female golfers would jeopardize the quality of our club and the golf played here
        4) We enjoy and wish to continue old notions of gender roles
        5) Women should not be allowed to join one of the most prestigious golf clubs in the world

        You speak of perspective? Why don’t you hop into the shoes of a 17 year old girl who is mocked for being so involved in sports, feels ostracized on the driving range as she is surrounded by males who continually look her over and ask if she needs help (they assume, as males, that their golf game is superior to hers), and has a passion for a sport that continually makes it clear that she does not belong. And each year, as she gets excited, just as you do, to watch the Masters, she is reminded that women still do not have equal footing in the sport, and that no matter how hard she works, she will always have a Shooter McGavin on the driving range trying to help her with her swing.

        Private institutions should be allowed to have racist, sexist rules as long as they want. But if

        • Doofus from France

          Sorry, stop reading at the repeat of “what are they saying with these rules”

          Thanks

        • Colin Stovall

          I think we are doing a lot of assuming on both sides of this argument. My view might be a little more naive than yours, and you might be too piercing with your indictment of the club. All that being said, if you choose to not watch this tourney because of a few people’s decision to not allow women to join that’s fine. You are missing good golf, but I guess you can substitute it with other tournaments, just as I assume you are grateful McDonalds now serves a chicken biscuit.
          People don’t like being left out because of differences or the fact others have the power to choose or not to choose their acceptance. My point is this, this happens on so many levels and I am not excusing the behavior. What I can excuse is that everyone is subject to Augusta National’s narrow scope and exclusivity. They don’t allow cell phones on the course. People seem ok with that. I know I am not comparing apples to apples with the previous statement, but what it goes to show is they do their own thing. It will not change based on popular or unpopular opinion.
          The PGA does a great job of encouraging young women golfers, they are fully aware of Augusta National’s stance on membership, but they don’t let it deter their efforts of marketing towards women.
          I hate that you are going to miss The Masters. And for the record, girls are easier to teach golf to because they are more willing to take advice. So let the Shooter McGavins of the world instruct all they want. And those eyes watching the girl on the range aren’t all being rolled or casted maliciously because of intrusion. They might be taking notes because she hits it straight every time.

  3. Doofus from France

    Firstly, I think you are right to guard against assumptions. Secondly, I think it is a fair assumption to say that we all know the actual state of affairs when it comes to the majority of male/female behavior at golf clubs. “Let’s be real”, in the sense that what we want reality to be is most often not the true reality that the oppressed must face. As a white, male, dare I say handsome? member of society, I have the unchosen position of being in a power position. I have at one point in my life been oblivious to the bias this presents, that everything is better than it appears. BECAUSE I AM NOT OPPRESSED.

    Consider this: Augusta National is exclusive. I have no problem with this. But what are they excluding absolutely? I would venture to say the following list is representative of “deal breakers” for membership:
    1) you are female
    2) you are poor
    3) you do not play golf
    4) you are not caucasian (oops, blacks can now be in the club ’90, I am curious about other racial minorities though?)

    I have no problem with 3, or 2 really for that matter. 3 for obvious reasons, although I doubt the golf skills of certain CEOs who have held membership in the past – their wealth outweighed their driving distance. 2 I understand because they must keep up the course, etc, and anyone who might deserve membership on golf ability alone is likely wealthy from a professional golf career.

    Now 1 and 4 are the real problem. You give me one good reason that these rules exist, and I will concede. In the case of Virginia Rometty, she is the CEO of IBM, a position which has generally come with a green jacket. Assuming she plays golf (for the sake of argument), the only reason for denying her membership would be #1. So for every young girl who has the same love of the “greens” as you mention, it will always sit in her head that even if she achieves the number one spot in golf, AND is the CEO of a company worth billions, she is still inferior in some way that prevents her from even being considered for membership.

    And to address your attempted defense of the guys who want to “help” with the swing…be honest with yourself please. I have a relative who is an extremely talented female golfer, consistently placing or winning her clubs female tournament. But she cannot count the number of times that men at the course insist on helping her with her swing. It is THIS assumption that we must really worry about – that women should be viewed as weaker and in need of help. I don’t care if they are better at taking advice. The real concern there is men coming down off of their horse and learning how to ask for help, and then accepting it.

  4. UTBrewster

    As a woman- I have to agree with Colin on this one (rare I know;). If everything in the world was available to everybody then nothing would be special.

    Do women athletes get up in arms because they can’t join the NHL? or MLB? or NBA? or NFL? because those are MEN’s organizations?

    It’s not like Augusta’s telling women they can’t play golf at all(now THAT would be wrong). Or that they can’t join because they have cooties and men rule but women drool. It’s because of tradition. Nothing more. If they allowed women then the tradition would be gone; and in a world where nothing seems to last and commitments are constantly broken (see divorces) it’s NICE and REFRESHING to have SOMETHING that’s a tale as old as time.

  5. UTBrewster

    oh and GO LEFTY!!!!

  6. Joseph Williams

    UTBrewster: Great use of the phrase “tale as old as time.”

    Colin and the Frenchman: Great, respectful debate and dialogue. When we first started this blog, our hope was interaction with readers like this. Bravo for not devolving into strawman stereotypes and unfair statements, for the most part.

    For my two cents’ worth (which probably isn’t even worth two cents): in a free market and democracy, the beauty is that you can have your voice heard, advocate openly, choose to consume or not to consume, etc. What we have here is a clear disagreement. It is ultimately up to each individual to choose to participate or not participate with various organizations, groups, people, businesses, etc. Each can weigh the costs and benefits and make a decision. I could have included in the original post a couple anecdotes calling out Augusta National for questionable legal tactics concerning being compliant with the American and Disabilities Act when my wife and I went last year. I didn’t. Why? Because we still both love The Masters. Are there things I wish were different? Yes. Do I personally believe it’s worth not loving one of, if not my absolute favorite sporting event of the year? I do not. Everyone else is more than welcome to make their own decision given their own values and convictions.

    Also, my sister-in-law always kicks my butt on the golf course. She also absolutely loves The Masters. I ask for her advice often and she gives it to me. Like Colin states, I’m terrible at actually changing to become better though. Not because I’m getting advice from a woman, but because I’m a stubborn man.

    My main point: I find it possible to take issue with some policies or procedures and still not allow that to take away from the magic or enjoyment. I don’t believe, for myself, that abstaining is the best way to change it (at least in this circumstance). Others may feel differently and are welcome to do so and advocate for any collective action they wish. There are consequences (costs and benefits) to all of our choices. Ultimately, I also think it’s possible to distinguish Augusta National as a golf club from The Masters as a golf tournament. But that may be a distinction not all are willing to make.

  7. Doofus from France

    To Joseph:

    Then my question is do you REALLY want things to change?

    If you want to get into the economics of the thing, let us compare this to phone companies.

    If you use AT&T, you are probably aware of their disgusting practices and lies re: data usage, costs, and the ability of them to improve their service. If each customer really desired change, they could leave the company and switch to another. This would force AT&T, if they wished remain a profitable venture, to drop their prices and improve their quality. But instead, everyone seems to assess that the cost of “protest” as I have described it is greater than that of using AT&T as a phone service, therefore AT&T remains the powerhouse that it is and continues to gouge its customers. IT IS PURE LAZINESS AND SELFISHNESS that prevents the change many of us desire, or at least claim to.

    Speaking so highly of tradition, as you all seem to do, I would think that you have similar positive feelings toward having principles and conviction in one’s beliefs.

  8. Joseph Williams

    I most definitely do have these principles and convictions. But to speak as though, in a globalized world with national and multi-national corporations and organizations, everything is black and white, good and evil is simplistic.

    To speak of principles, convictions, and beliefs and the laziness and selfishness preventing change… I’m right there with ya brother. Whether it’s the plight of the poor in Africa or in my own backyard, injustice with human trafficking in India or the United States, the aborting of lives before birth simply because of diagnoses of Down’s Syndrome or other complications… I could go on and on. But regardless of the injustice as I decide it by my core convictions and beliefs, I’m frustrated by my own hypocrisy at times and my own tendency to allow the busyness of my life and daily life to choose comfort over conviction. So you’re preaching to the choir there, buddy.

    But to provide an analogy that you probably aren’t familiar with: I currently disagree with Vanderbilt University’s application of their so-called “all-comers policy” narrowly to certain faith-based organizations. It’s not right from a pragmatic viewpoint nor from the viewpoint of wishing to authentically create a free marketplace of ideas, beliefs, and values. The organizations and their members have been told they shouldn’t let their beliefs in Christ guide every choice they make. I disagree. I have many choices. I could picket and camp out, “Occupying Vanderbilt,” if you will. I could drop out of law school and cut all ties. I could not go to any more sporting events. I could symbolically burn all of my apparel. I could cut off all future donations.

    I’ve chosen to continue going to school and athletic events. But I’ve chosen to speak out publicly in open forums and online. I’ve chosen to meet privately with the leaders making these decisions who I disagree with. I’ve chosen to withhold all donations until the policy and/or its application changes to be more fair and consistent. I’ve chosen to not be a fundraiser for the school any more.

    I have an issue with a policy. I’m taking action that I deem to be appropriate and effective, based on my calculations for costs and benefits and what I believe and how that should dictate my choices. So are you. You clearly feel others should be doing more. You’re welcome to persuade and argue your viewpoint.

    Isn’t America great?

  9. Colin Stovall

    Im just happy this debate is overshadowing some of my horrible predictions. Err Adam Scott and Sang Moon Bae. DOH! Just to let you know the guys who get “paid” get it wrong too. This in no way is a reflection of my golifing abilities either. That is all.

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