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Opinion & Analysis

“A tradition unlike any other”

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By Dennis de Jesus Jr.

GolfWRX Contributor

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.

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum.

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Dennis lives in Calgary, Canada where golf is available (at best) six months of the year. The other six months are spent understanding the nuances of the game that make it so addicting and wonderfully frustrating. In a perfect world, Dennis would take his set of G10s and his D300S to travel the world playing and photographing the beautiful, unique landcapes of the golf world. For now, he sits at a desk and is developing an eight-layer golf ball simply called "The Tour Ocho."

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Pingback: “A tradition unlike any other” « wgtgolf

  2. Lauren Conrad

    Apr 7, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    The feeling is definitely mutual. Ultra-Super-Mega Fine Course.

  3. Pingback: “A tradition unlike any other” | Augusta Blog

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On Spec

On Spec: Dr. Paul Wood, Ping Golf’s VP of Engineering

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Host Ryan Barath talks all things design and innovation with VP of Engineering at Ping Golf, Dr. Paul Wood.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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19th Hole

GolfWRXers Vote: Best U.S. Open venue showdown – Quarter-finals

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@neilhartmantv

There were no major shocks in round one of our GolfWRXers vote for best U.S. Open venue, but five-time host Olympic Club was a casualty, losing out to Pinehurst in what was our most competitive match-up. The west coast venue was defeated by a margin of 63% to 37%, in a round which saw the majority of match-ups prove comfortable for the heavy hitters. 

Here is a look at how WRXers voted during round one.

Game 1: Pebble Beach (90%) vs Torrey Pines South (10%)

Game 2: Winged Foot (81%) vs Oakland Hills (19%)

Game 3: Baltusrol (73%) vs Chambers Bay (27%)

Game 4: Pinehurst Resort No.2 (63%) vs Olympic Club (37%)

Game 5: Oakmont (74%) vs Bethpage Black (26%)

Game 6: Southern Hills (76%) vs Olympia Fields (24%)

Game 7: Merion (90%) vs Erin Hills (10%)

Game 8: Shinnecock (86%) vs Congressional (14%)

Now we’re onto the quarter-finals, with some tasty match-ups. We’ll leave voting open for 48 hours. At that time, we’ll determine the winners and lock in our semi-finalists.

Get voting!

*Years hosted, winners and avg. winning score from 1950 onwards*

QF 1

Pebble Beach

  • Years Hosted: 1972, 1982, 1992, 2000, 2010, 2019
  • Winners: Nicklaus (+2), Watson (-6), Kite (-3), Woods (-12), McDowell (E), Woodland (-13)
  • Avg. winning score: -5.33

Winged Foot GC

  • Years Hosted: 1959, 1974, 1984, 2006
  • Winners: Casper (+2), Irwin (+7), Zoeller (-7), Ogilvy (+5)
  • Avg. winning score: +1.75

QF 1

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QF 2

Baltusrol GC

  • Years Hosted: 1954, 1967, 1980, 1993
  • Winners: Furgol (+4), Nicklaus (-5), Nicklaus (-8), Janzen (-8)
  • Avg. winning score: -4.25

Pinehurst Resort (No 2.)

  • Years Hosted: 1995, 2005, 2014
  • Winners: Stewart (-1), Campbell (E), Kaymer (-9)
  • Avg. winning score: -3.33

QF2

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QF 3

Oakmont CC

  • Years Hosted: 1953, 1962, 1973, 1983, 1994, 2007, 2016
  • Winners: Hogan (-5), Nicklaus (-1), Miller (-5), Nelson (-4), Els (-5), Cabrera (+5), Johnson (-4)
  • Avg. winning score: -2.71

Southern Hils CC

  • Years Hosted: 1958, 1977, 2001
  • Winners: Bolt (+3), Green (-2), Goosen (-4)
  • Avg. winning score: -1

QF 3

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QF 4

Merion GC

  • Years Hosted: 1950, 1971, 1981, 2013
  • Winners: Hogan (+7), Trevino (E), Graham (-7), Rose (+1)
  • Avg. winning score: (+0.25)

Shinnecock Hills GC

  • Years Hosted: 1986, 1995, 2004, 2018
  • Winners: Floyd (-1), Pavin (E), Goosen (-4), Koepka (+1)
  • Avg. winning score: -1

QF 4

View Results

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Opinion & Analysis

Clark: A teacher’s take on Brandel Chamblee’s comments

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Because I’m writing to a knowledgeable audience who follows the game closely, I’m sure the current Brandel Chamblee interview and ensuing controversy needs no introduction, so let’s get right to it.

Brandel Chamblee, a former PGA Tour player, now plays a role as a TV personality. He has built a “brand” around that role. The Golf Channel seems to relish the idea of Brandel as the “loose cannon” of the crew (not unlike Johnny Miller on NBC) saying exactly what he thinks with seeming impunity from his superiors.

I do not know the gentleman personally, but on-air, he seems like an intelligent, articulate golf professional, very much on top of his subject matter, which is mostly the PGA Tour. He was also a very capable player (anyone who played and won on the PGA Tour is/was a great player). But remember, nowadays he is not being judged by what scores he shoots, but by how many viewers/readers his show and his book have (ratings). Bold statements sell, humdrum ones do not.

For example, saying that a teacher’s idiocy was exposed is a bold controversial statement that will sell, but is at best only partly true and entirely craven. If the accuser is not willing to name the accused, he is being unfair and self-serving. However, I think it’s dangerous to throw the baby out with the bathwater here; Brandel is a student of the game and I like a lot of what he says and thinks.

His overriding message in that interview is that golf over the last “30-40 years” has been poorly taught. He says the teachers have been too concerned with aesthetics, not paying enough attention to function. There is some truth in that, but Brandel is painting with a very broad brush here. Many, myself included, eschewed method teaching years ago for just that reason. Method teachers are bound to help some and not others. Maybe the “X swing” one player finds very useful, another cannot use it all.

Brandel was asked specifically about Matthew Wolff’s unique swing: Lifting the left heel, crossing the line at the top, etc. He answered, “of course he can play because that’s how he plays.” The problem would be if someone tried to change that because it “looked odd.” Any teacher worth his weight in salt would not change a swing simply because it looked odd if it was repeating good impact. I learned from the great John Jacobs that it matters not what the swing looks like if it is producing great impact.

Now, if he is objecting exclusively to those method teachers who felt a certain pattern of motions was the one true way to get to solid impact, I agree with him 100 percent. Buy many teach on an individual, ball flight and impact basis and did not generalize a method. So to say “golf instruction over the last 30-40 years” has been this or that is far too broad a description and unfair.

He goes on to say that the “Top Teacher” lists are “ridiculous.” I agree, mostly. While I have been honored by the PGA and a few golf publications as a “top teacher,” I have never understood how or why. NOT ONE person who awarded me those honors ever saw me give one lesson! Nor have they have ever tracked one player I coached.  I once had a 19 handicap come to me and two seasons later he won the club championship-championship flight! By that I mean with that student I had great success. But no one knew of that progress who gave me an award.

On the award form, I was asked about the best, or most well-known students I had taught. In the golf journals, a “this-is-the-teacher-who-can-help-you” message is the epitome of misdirection. Writing articles, appearing on TV, giving YouTube video tips, etc. is not the measure of a teacher. On the list of recognized names, I’m sure there are great teachers, but wouldn’t you like to see them teach as opposed to hearing them speak? I’m assuming the “ridiculous” ones Brandel refers to are those teaching a philosophy or theory of movement and trying to get everyone to do just that.

When it comes to his criticism of TrackMan, I disagree. TrackMan does much more than help “dial in yardage.” Video cannot measure impact, true path, face-to-path relationship, centeredness of contact, club speed, ball speed, plane etc. Comparing video with radar is unfair because the two systems serve different functions. And if real help is better ball flight, which of course only results from better impact, then we need both a video of the overall motion and a measure of impact.

Now the specific example he cites of Jordan Spieth’s struggles being something that can be corrected in “two seconds” is hyperbolic at least! Nothing can be corrected that quickly simply because the player has likely fallen into that swing flaw over time, and it will take time to correct it. My take on Jordan’s struggles is a bit different, but he is a GREAT player who will find his way back.

Brandel accuses Cameron McCormick (his teacher) of telling him to change his swing.  Do we know that to be true, or did Jordan just fall into a habit and Cameron is not seeing the change? I agree there is a problem; his stats prove that, but before we pick a culprit, let’s get the whole story. Again back to the sensationalism which sells! (Briefly, I believe Jordan’s grip is and has always been a problem but his putter and confidence overcame it. An active body and “quiet” hands is the motion one might expect of a player with a strong grip-for obvious reason…but again just my two teacher cents)

Anyway, “bitch-slapped” got him in hot water for other reasons obviously, and he did apologize over his choice of words, and to be clear he did not condemn the PGA as a whole. But because I have disagreements with his reasoning here does not mean Brandel is not a bright articulate golf professional, I just hope he looks before he leaps the next time, and realizes none of us are always right.

Some of my regular readers will recall I “laid down my pen” a few years ago, but it occurred to me, I would be doing many teachers a disservice if I did not offer these thoughts on this particular topic!

 

 

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