To paraphrase a young Tom Cruise from “Risky Business,” The Masters — there is no substitute.
The Masters is indeed the Porsche of professional golf and I would put it on the Mount Rushmore of sporting events.
The Masters drips with tradition. From calling its fans “patrons” to the presentation of the quite honestly ugly green jacket to the winner, the tournament truly is a tradition unlike any other as it likes to market itself. There’s no drama quite like the back nine on Sunday at Augusta.
There’s no Tiger Woods this year, yet much hasn’t been made of it because the former greatest golfer on the planet has been a shell of his former self for more than 2 years now as most of the headlines he creates come for what he does off the course.
It’s the course itself that’s the draw. It looks more like a painting, with its pool-table fairways and flawless glass greens. It’s a course setup that’s risk-reward with its reachable par-5s flanked by water and sand. Even after it was “Tiger-proofed” after it appeared Woods was going to win so many green jackets that he could open his own store, it still favors the bombers, even though a surgeon like Zach Johnson or that sneaky little Mike Weir can slip in and steal the jacket.
Even the announcers step up their games. Who’ll ever forget Verne Lundquist in 1986 screeching “Yes Sir!” when Jack Nicklaus made a putt on the 16th hole, the most famous call in golf and right up there with Russ Hodges’ 1951 call of Bobby Thomson’s home run when the Giants won the pennant? Of course, Verne’s colleague Ben Wright had uttered the same phrase earlier in the day, but who’s counting? And Jim Nantz is practically breathless by the end of the tournament, making every shot seem to the listener like it’s the one that will decide the outcome.
I’ve never been to Augusta, but I have friends who have. They all tell me it’s a slice of heaven, a utopian place where you feel like you almost have to take your shoes and socks off to walk on it. It’s lined with beautiful trees and glorious flowers and the roars that cannonade throughout the pines are chilling. You know something special has happened when the sound reverberates throughout the old layout, which has withstood the test of time like few others.
The Super Bowl will forever be the No. 1 sporting event in the eyes of the average fan because the NFL is in a class by itself in terms of popularity. The NCAA Basketball Tournament, despite covering more than 2 weeks, is not far behind. But I rank The Masters ahead of the World Series, NBA Finals and Stanley Cup. Those sports play such a long season that by the time they reach the pinnacle event, fans are just wanting to get it over with.
I, for one, will enjoy every minute of The Masters. And who cares if Tiger isn’t there, I certainly don’t. Golf is evolving with some young guns and some of the new stars aren’t your cookie-cutter types with robotic swings, there’s some personality and flair. So sit back and enjoy all the pomp and circumstance.