The Winter Masters – Catchy?

Like a Ghost Tournament, Masters Strives for Semblance of Tradition

Those of us who are tuned into the traditional aspects of the Masters at Augusta have some adjusting to do. We’ve known that for a while now, and our adaptive brains have had time to think of solutions, however separate from reality. I, for instance, have chosen the Winter Masters and Spring Masters, just like the Winter and Summer Olympics. Well, not perfect, but it’s a start.

The Covid pandemic is certainly an enormous factor, and is what got us here in the first place. That, of course, eliminates the gallery, and with what we’ve seen and heard on the 18th over the decades, it will take some getting used to. They have tried canned crowd noise. I’m not sure it will work, but if they do it, it had better come from a real Masters tournament from the past.

The field this year is just a bit larger, but some good names are missing – such as Daniel Berger, #29 Viktor Hovland, and local-boy-makes-good Harris English. For the real purists, the type who watch the tournament prancing from the couch to the refrigerator in a green bathrobe or sport coat, the news is worse. The tee formats are going to doubles three of the four days, and in an unusual circumstance, we will see the action begin at #10 for many of the players.  In our memories, we haven’t seen nearly as much television time on the front nine, but here’s your chances to get better acquainted. Anyway, the Berger, Hovland and English trio would throw the whole thing off.

That format is going to cast a frenzy over the graceful Georgian pace, and course owners may thrill to a forced feeling of sped-up play. It probably took a lot of savvy from schedule organizer types to find a spot for this tournament. This November 12-15, it will not be the feature event, with other sports slated for the weekend. Imagine holding the Kentucky Derby at the stretch of a pennant double-header or World Series ad break.

The biggest problem of all may be one few of us have given thought to. In the usual April slot, the span of a full day of sunlight spans nearly13 hours. In mid-November, that duration shrinks to around 10 hours, plus or minus a little with Daylight Savings Time. The sun setting at around 5:30 will make for waves of play in the morning, with little room for ball searches, tv breaks and historical documentaries with nostalgic piano music transporting us back to yesteryear.

However, back to the sunlight problem. How many will make the cut after the second day, and how will they be scheduled? What if, heaven forbid, there is a playoff? Festivities will have to be done by three in the afternoon to accommodate that. Will it be sudden death or extended holes? If any of the leaders are not familiar with the country, we may have search parties out looking for wayward pros in the middle of the night.

Temperature should probably not be such a problem, but the range in a Georgian November is 42 at the low end, to almost 70 in mid-afternoon. An early starter will play a few holes of winter golf, and a late starter may feel the plummeting temps late in his round.

Capturing that Masters feeling that insulates a golf lover from the anxieties of the world will be particularly difficult this year. The tournament will come shortly after the American election, which will leave one hunk of the field angry. For the others, Thanksgiving comes shortly afterward, To them, it might feel pretty good.

Of course, there is always fashion to worry about. The green jacket is, I’m sorry to say, out of season. A goldenrod color for fall could replace it. If winter strikes early, a dashing black pinstripe with a flannel liner might be nice. Perhaps a snow-white jacket with one colorful azalea embroidered on the lapel may be just the thing.

Breathe deep, purists. Then repeat “Winter Masters, Spring Masters” until it all feels right.

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