The Masters: Lashings of syrup and chunks of cheese
A definitive guide to this weekend’s golf major
If you can stomach the syrupy drivel lead commentator Jim Nance dishes up‚ the cheesy elevator music that accompanies ad breaks‚ shots of the leaderboard and Nance’s toe-curling monologues‚ or announcers calling fans “patrons”‚ and caddies decked in overalls without any irony‚ then Masters week is one of the sporting highlights of the year.
The Masters is a superb golfing occasion despite all its self-importance and idiosyncrasies such as the green jacket presentation in Butler Cabin‚ which is as wooden as the structure it takes place in.
If you can get over these and other quirks‚ the rewards and the drama far outweigh the cringing awkwardness of some of its traditions.
It’s the only major that is played on the same course every year and that familiarity adds to the viewing experience for long-time watchers of the event. Every hole has a name‚ and every hole has a history in shaping the course of the tournament.Average hackers sitting at home know the risk and rewards that come with going for the green in two on the par five 13th (Azalea) and 15th (Firethorn) holes.
Or how fiendishly difficult the par-four 11th (White Dogwood)‚ traditionally the second hardest hole at Augusta‚ can be.
It’s also the start of “Amen Corner”‚ which includes the par-three 12th (Golden Bell) and Azalea‚ where players are supposed to say “amen” once the three holes are completed.
The 12th at 140m‚ shouldn’t pose a threatening challenge to professional golfers‚ yet frequently turns the tide of the tournament.
On Sunday the pin is tucked in tight at the front right of the green. Usually in gusting‚ swirling wind‚ players have to clear Rae’s Creek‚ which is a snaking stream that has swallowed thousands of golf balls and drowned several Masters challenges‚ without drama to stay in the hunt.
But Golden Bell‚ especially on Sunday afternoon‚ suddenly becomes a monster‚ a dream killer and occasionally a dream maker.In 2016 Jordan Spieth’s Masters title run blew up in his face on Amen Corner. He made five at the 11th‚ which cut his lead to one shot over eventual winner Danny Willett.
At Golden Bell‚ Spieth put his tee shot in the water after it hit the bank and rolled back into Rae’s Creek. He went to the drop zone‚ 40m closer to the hole and chunked a wedge straight into the creek.
His next shot made it into the greenside bunker where he eventually took seven. The walk over Hogan Bridge was a test of character. By that stage Spieth wanted Rae’s Creek to swallow him up just as it did two of his golf balls and his title shot.
We‚ as viewers‚ understand that the second (Pink Dogwood) is a birdie hole‚ occasionally an eagle hole and‚ once a lifetime‚ an albatross chance‚ as Louis Oosthuizen showed in 2012.Coming on the heels of the difficult par-four first (Tea Olive)‚ the second is an opportunity to kickstart a round‚ or get one back after a bogey start.
The par-four 18th (Holly) has produced its share of drama. We know that the players have to thread the eye of needle between tall pines from the tee to an uphill fairway that doglegs to the right with bunkers menacingly placed in the left elbow of the fairway.
A long‚ narrow green‚ guarded by two bunkers front left and to the right of a green that slopes towards the fairway makes it a dramatic closing hole.
It was here that Sandy Lyle‚ 30 years ago this year‚ played a crisp seven-iron from the fairway bunker to the heart of the green before rolling in a birdie putt to win.
It was Holly that broke Ernie Els’s heart in 2004 when Phil Mickelson holed a curling‚ 5.5m birdie putt on the last to beat the Big Easy by a stroke on his way to his first green jacket. Ernie has never come as close again‚ and probably never will now.
Familiarity breeds contempt they say‚ but at Augusta‚ to the fanatical and occasional golf viewer‚ it’s the familiarity that makes it worth suffering sleep deprivation and aural bleeding for.