The Magic That Is the Masters
Every tournament in the golfing year has its own brand of suspense, but they’re not all the same.
For many of us each year, when it comes time to play the Masters, our relationship with the game becomes super-saturated, and suspense is taken to a whole new level.
That stands to reason, and its not just because of the old southern tradition, the particular beauty and charisma of this course (although that figures greatly into it) or the fact that it’s called one of our four “majors.” The tradition, rather, reflects mileposts along the course of our lives. We remember certain years as we remember titanic world events, and our mental pictures of scenes, shots and individuals remain indelible.
For instance, the ritual known as the ceremonial drives, by itself, is a “major” jolt to our capacity for nostalgia. Arnold Palmer, 83, Jack Nicklaus, 73 and Gary Player, 77 represent two hundred and thirty three years of golf lore, championship play, wisdom and personal legend. They are, for many of us, the John Wayne, Steve McQueen and Robert Mitchum of our past as golf spectators, and own thirteen green jackets between them. That being the case, Palmer’s drive to the center of the fairway, ceremonial or not, tripped a trigger in us, hearkening back to Masters past.
We older fans are very impressed with the new great players of the following generation. They play physically and mentally aggressive golf, and fight a large talented field every week. We are attached in a different way, however, to the old greats, and each year, I suspect that many of us harbor a secret “could Fred really do it once more? Could Tom do the unthinkable, just once more?” After a point, of course, it’s no more of a question than “could UFOs land in my back yard tonight?” but that’s all right. The possibility tantalizes our humanity.
Speaking for myself as a veteran spectator, I am always on the lookout for the bizarre, for the barely possible to happen. I count on the Masters to make that week extra interesting. Along with “could Fred do it?” I also think, “could Tianlang Guan do it?” To say, “I was there” the year that a fourteen year-old guest amateur from China won the Masters? Well all right, the aliens haven’t landed yet, but that doesn’t stop me from checking the window once in a while.
A more sober example – Sergio Garcia is tied for the lead after the first round. Can he hold himself together emotionally to do it four times? That’s what it’s all about, after all. Tiger didn’t win all those tournaments by shooting a 62 then slacking off for three days. He won them by being relentless in a way that no one else could. Can Sergio take his mind off himself long enough to be long-term relentless?
Who are Mark Leishman and Dustin Johnson? – yes, I know who they are intellectually, but who are they down deep this week? Can they match Tiger’s “tigericity” for four days? Furyk, Scott and Johnson (former Masters champion) are in the thick. We know they can play brilliantly, but how together are they this week?
Tiger’s moment-to-moment condition is as powerful, for many of us, as the days of yore, and he must be put to the same question. The past aside, will he be tough enough with himself this week? Do we old guys want him to catch Jack? No, we don’t, not as a general group – come on guys, admit it. Do we want him to realize his potential? Yes, we do – even within ourselves, we would soon tire of unfairness.Those urges might conflict, however. I remember the days as a kid when the thought of seeing Jack catch Arnie meant the end of the world – I guess it’s all right. We all get caught sooner or later.
Two hundred and thirty three years of golf greatness in three old guys who ruled much of the golf world in our day. For me, over half a century of watching this tournament every year, and I don’t think I’ve ever missed one. Still wondering why the Masters grabs our fascination for the possible, even the remotely possible, I wonder if there’s a counterpart to the ceremonial drives for a faithful old Masters watcher like me. It’s an important part of my own lore, even though I’ve never seen Augusta up close. I’m grateful for the suspense of it, though. It makes me want to check the back yard just one more time.