“A tradition unlike any other”
By Dennis de Jesus Jr.
What is it about the Masters that makes the casual fan think of it as the greatest golf tournament in the world? I spent most of my Good Friday watching the Masters coverage, and though the timing of the CBS telecast didn’t show much of the second round clubhouse leaders, I was still glued to the TV like I was watching some sort of “once in a lifetime” event. And chances are I wasn’t alone.
Social media and the news reports all suggest that this could be the most watched golf tournament in the 2012 season. With a carousel at the top of the world golf rankings and a healthy Tiger Woods in the field, I can see why this may be the case. But what is it about this particular tournament that manages to get fans of the sport (both casual and hardcore) glued to the TV, unlike any other tournament on the schedule? Why are workplaces around the world able to pull off a “Masters Office Pool”, getting people to spend money and try to pick golfers that they haven’t even heard of for their weekend roster?
I’m sure there are many reasons, but I’m going to try and summarize what I believe are the three key reasons why the Masters is the biggest tournament of the year:
1. The Masters is the only major tournament that is held on the same course year in and year out.
For 76 years, Augusta National has hosted the Masters tournament and out of the four majors, this is the only one that has consistently been played on the same course. It may not seem like a big deal, but I truly believe that if you were to ask any professional athlete, there seems to be an inherent nostalgia when you are playing the big game in the very same location as some of your childhood legends. Ben Hogan walked this very course, Jack Nicklaus teed off over there many times and Arnold Palmer sank a putt on that green right over there to win the 1964 Masters.
It’s hard to ignore the history that has been written on this course and it’s because of the stories about golf shots that happened at Amen Corner, the reason behind the Eisenhower tree or the drive up Magnolia Lane that give personality to a golf course that is seemingly a bigger star than any player competing on it.
2. The media promotes the heck out of this tournament.
“A tradition unlike any other.” What the heck does that even mean? It’s a four round golf tournament where the winner gets a nice handsome check and some sort of tangible prize to take home. It happens once a year and is played on a golf course littered with spectators yelling “in the hole” split seconds after a tee shot from a par 3. Sounds like any other golf tournament to me.
But Jim Nantz saying that every year in the weeks leading up to the event does not get tiresome. It actually makes sense. It’s a self sufficient tournament with its own rules, its own way of doing business and makes no apologies if it bothers you, your dog or if you are a woman. Behind the scenes, Augusta National is filled with controversy with its archaic traditional values and stubborn nose-in-the-air policies. But every spring, it hosts the can’t miss tournament of the year. Fans comes from everywhere to smell the azaleas and well manicured greens to watch the only golf tournament that matters, because that’s what we are conditioned to believe.
It’s supposed to be a magical place where if you are one of the lucky few to see it, you are envied by your weekend golf buddies who couldn’t afford it or didn’t win the lottery tickets to simply have an opportunity to buy tickets. The Golf Channel is on pre-round and post-round coverage while major news outlets will even show highlights of the 3-foot eagle that so and so made on the par 5 15th. Media coverage for this tournament is so overwhelming that even in hockey-crazed Canada, it’s not unusual for each round to headline the sports landscape despite the dramatic playoff chases happening in the NHL.
There is even special edition merchandise like golf shoes that are in Masters green or yellow colorways. Nike released a special Masters edition of their latest Method Concept putter to celebrate this years tournament. Click here to see the story. If it’s not the media, it is now the manufacturers who are getting on the propaganda bandwagon, bombarding us with reminders that this tournament is a big deal and is in fact unlike any other.
3. Tour players have a love affair with this course.
The interviews of the tour players all seem to suggest that Augusta is a challenging and difficult course, but also fair. From all the homage and respect of its undulating greens and hanging branches, it’s as if the 7,435-yard par-72 Augusta National is the most perfectly designed course in the entire world. Now, I haven’t played a lot of courses around the world nor am I good enough to understand what a pro would consider as difficult, but on the Tiger Woods video game on the PS3, the course is just “alright”. (Before you all jump on me for such blasphemy, I’m just kidding. I’m not going to judge the actual course based on my score of 61 from the back tees of Augusta armed with my game controller).
It’s no big secret that a lot of tour players, especially the successful and experienced ones (like Tiger, Fred or Phil) gear up their entire schedule for this tournament. When asked, “What is the one tournament that you would like to win, more than any other one?” the answer from many a tour player, past winners or not, is simply “Augusta”. And the same answer would result if you asked any golf fan, “What is the one golf course you would like to play on, regardless of cost?”
The history and legend at Augusta is one that continues to grow because we get to see it every year. And with each annual edition, there are a host of stories that journalists and beat writers can sink their teeth into and make into a future 30 for 30 program. For me personally, it signals springtime and is the first indicator that my golf season is about to start. Though I may never get to step foot on the course, I buy into the idea that this is a special place, a Mecca of golf if you will. So every year, I spend some of my money to play in the office pool, sit my butt on the couch for a weekend to enjoy the greenery in high definition and enjoy Jim Nantz’s calming voice as he calls the action from the 18th green. It only happens once a year so it is definitely worthy of being a tradition – and on the other 51 weeks, I have my PS3 to tide me over.
You can follow Dennis on Twitter @jugojr.