What the Masters and Augusta Have to Tell Us- Especially This Year
From time to time in my life, usually following a high point and entering the customary letdown, I have fallen into the trap of believing that the surprises are finished, and the amazing moments are all behind me, never to come again. It’s easy to fall into that when one’s prime is in the rear view mirror, and we forget all the possibilities that remain. However, Tiger Woods didn’t forget. His victory at the 2019 Masters, the first in many years, was not a “hope, hope, hope” proposition. It was a masterpiece in long-term work, belief, and a decade of patience, not previously one of the star’s greatest qualities. The long road back wasn’t just built on persistence, but insistence. He knew who he was, and who he was supposed to be, regardless of anyone else’s opinion. He almost gave it up – but he didn’t, and here he is today, in another green jacket. There’s a good life lesson right there, and here is another one – Whether by being the person he was then, injuries, or some change in the planets, life saw fit to take away his crown for a while. That’s the thing about thinking that the best part of you is gone. As long as we draw breath, life is never done with us. It knows how to correct us and reward us, in the manner that we most need it. If we get the message and raise our score on the test, the potential is usually still there for good things to happen. I don’t know Tiger the person any more than I did through all the invincible years, but he seems filled out, more complete, and just a tad more philosophical in his relationship to life than he used to be. Life must have approved – he got his life back at the Masters, something many of us thought was impossible.
This Masters was different for me as a spectator. I was, of course, riveted. How could I be a golfer and not be glued to every relevant blade of grass considering the story unfolding? Through the years in other tournaments, I have rooted my brains out for every single one of those players within ten shots of the lead as it changed back and forth through the day. Then I came to realize viscerally what I had only known intellectually. The golfers that have played in the Masters since its inception are the top actors performing the human drama of golf, the Oliviers and Gielguds of golf. Being great is not restricted to past winners, because no one gets to play on that course and in that tournament until they have already excelled at a national level. Getting a place in that tournament is a parade of the best from all over the world, in any and every year. That gave me a sense of history, from Bobby Jones to Snead, Player, Palmer, Nicklaus, Seve and Tiger.
And then there is Augusta itself. All the greatest performers have been invited to play, because Augusta and the Masters…are the most prestigious theater and stage in the world. It is the only major that never moves, and today’s lesson takes us far past mint juleps and beautiful azaleas, birdie this and bogey that. Augusta is to golf what the La Scala Opera, the Louvre, and Churchill Downs are to their industries. The 2019 Masters was the first tournament in my memory where I rooted for everyone, yet simultaneously hoped for a Tiger victory. I knew that beating such a strong field playing well would mean much more to Woods. He doesn’t want to back into anything, or win by default. It’s just not him.
So, thanks to everyone who made this Masters the tournament it should be and always has been. Congratulations to Tiger for staying with it when a lot of players would have thrown up their hands and stayed home. And, thanks for the great theater. I really wish Shakespeare could have seen it.