Every year the eyes of the sporting world turn to a Georgia town of around 200,000 for The Masters Tournament and it remains one of the last major sports events that still maintains a sense of reverence and tradition.
Golf, much like the world, is changing rapidly. Players like Bryson DeChambeau are bulking up and crushing drives, trying to eliminate pulling irons out of the bag. Others like Collin Morikawa and Matthew Wolff are a part of the charge leading a shift from the normal progression of amateur to pro and showing that even the young members of the tour are ready to compete at the highest level.
Science has become a part of golf, with the fabric being broken down from feel to a variety of numbers and spreadsheets. Memories have given way to intense research and calculations. The decision to lay up or go for a shot isn’t coming down to feel but to the odds. The game has evolved into a remarkable display of intelligence and precision.
Yet, Augusta National remains the standard bearer.
The collective golf and sports world will descend on the Masters Tournament. The course has gotten longer, greens have been reshaped, mounds added, but the fabric remains the same. The only major that does not rotate from year to year to a different course, Augusta National is something akin to the “Field of Dreams”.
As new players each year attempt to win the famed green jacket, the exploits of the greats and triumphs of the unexpected echo loudly. The heroics of Arnold Palmer are passed down through the Masters. Bubba Watson, a left hander who never took a golf lesson, has two wins filled with unconventional swings and shots off the pine floor. The wins of Tiger Woods, with whatever big cat related pun you’d prefer, still looming large over this generation and the coming generation.
The storylines play out each year on the course. Players like Fowler, McIlroy, and Spieth will look to add to their growing legacies. Tony Finau and Viktor Hovland will be attempting to make career-defining breakthroughs. Phil Mickelson, Bernhard Langer, and Vijay Singh will look for one more moment of glory to cap incredible careers.
None of these names will be the first to play on Thursday morning. Another beautiful round of golf will start with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, two legends of the sport, and Lee Elder, a champion of integration of whom broke the Masters color barrier in 1975, hitting the opening tee shots. As the MLB endures controversy for moving its All-Star Game due to Georgia voting laws, the PGA will endure.
If you have the chance to sit down and enjoy the premier golf tournament of the season, take the moment to cast aside the controversy of the day, the pandemic, and whatever troubles you may have in your life. Breath in the tradition. Appreciate the look of the Georgia pines, the meticulously kept Bermuda grass fairways and signature white feldspar bunkers. Relish in the beauty of “Amen Corner”. Allow yourself an easy smile as one of the great traditions in sports takes place.
Few phrases have become as synonymous with an event as Jim Nantz’s statement of the Masters as a “tradition unlike any other”. It rings true each and every year. If you aren’t in the mood yet, watch this clip from 2019 and let it take you there.