In 2012, in the fledgling months of The Wise Guise, I participated in a preview of The Masters. I wrote about my favorite parts of attending The Masters live and provided predictions for the Top 10 golfers to be in the Top 10 on the back nine on Sunday, when it’s well known The Masters truly begins every year.
I encourage you to check out that original post in addition to my reflections on Bubba Watson, The Masters, and life on the Monday after last year. But spring is here, college basketball ends, Opening Day wraps up, the NBA and NHL approach the postseason, and yet another Masters weekend approaches. I’d like to offer a few thoughts and reflections before we lay on the couch and let the sounds of Jim Nantz, that theme song, Butler Cabin, the roaring crowds, and the tradition unlike any other wash over us.
Nike’s newest ad, entitled Ripple, provides the perfect preview for The Masters in 2015.
Some say it simply serves as a tribute to Tiger Woods and the impact he had on the current #1 golfer in the world pursuing a career grand slam and his very own Rory Slam. Sure. That’s how they sold it to Tiger.
But for those of us who grew up with Tiger like Rory but have not been busy winning our own major championships, we see the ad for what it really is. It’s about an end of an era and the passing of a torch.
Look no further than the first two names I listed back in 2012.
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.
What a difference several years makes. Tiger Woods may be returning to competitive golf for The Masters, but I don’t know any golf fan who is optimistic about his chances this week. We still believe that golf is better off if he’s successful and many of us want to see him make that epic comeback. We’ve just given up on spending our energy hoping that will happen.
But Rory has taken the mantle we long believed he could. He’s won four major championships in total, including the 2014 British Open and PGA Championship. Winning the green jacket in 2015 would give him the career Grand Slam and put him one U.S. Open away from matching the Tiger Slam with one of his own.
I don’t think Rory will ever reach the heights of Tiger’s career for several reasons. First, as the Nike ad shows, Rory’s much deserved success comes in the shadow of Tiger’s. Second, the same thing standing in the way of Tiger’s comeback (besides himself and time) stands in the way of utter Rory dominance: a couple dozen extremely talented golfers who could win any given weekend in any given tournament.
Spieth. Stenson. Watson. Day. Johnson. Fowler. Scott. Walker. Reed. Rose. Snedeker. Horschel.
Mickelson. Garcia. Kuchar. Westwood. Furyk.
But Nike’s newest ad sets the stage well for this week. Augusta National is always the star at The Masters.
But, this week, the end of one era and the beginning of another takes center stage next to Amen Corner, Butler Cabin, and the Green Jacket. Odds are, neither Tiger nor Rory will win.
But we’ve come a long way from 1997, when Tiger was the 21-year-old phenom and Rory was imitating him in his Irish living room. Now, more people wonder if Tiger will make the cut than wonder if he will win.
And Rory chases history himself, seeking the elusive major he has yet to win, the one that marks a true champion.