Sunday, April 01, 2007

It's Masters Week...

I realize for most of you, golf is kinda 'meh'...but for those of us who play the game, there is nothing like the Masters. Indulge me.

Four days. 72 holes. An elite field of players. The Masters is the Superbowl or World Series of golf. Yes there are four other majors over the course of a golf season (US Open, British Open, PGA Championship)...but the Masters tournament takes the cake.

Rae's Creek. Amen Corner. The Green Jacket. To a golf fan, these words hold the same meaning and allure and mystique as baseball's Green Monster to baseball or hockey's Maple Leaf Gardens.

Part of it is the time of year...early usually marks the end of another winter for those of us who live in northern climes, and signals the beginning of another season of playing the game. But more significantly, it's because they play it at the same course - Augusta National in Georgia. You've grown up seeing these same holes every even know the slope and break of the greens, almost as if you've played there yourself. The other majors move around...and while Pebble Beach or Pinehurst or St. Andrews have hosted these majors enough times for you to remember some of the holes, it's just not ingrained in the same way.

They say the Masters doesn't begin until the final nine holes on Sunday. No truer words have been spoken. Here are some of my fav memories of the back nine at Augusta.

"Yes sirrrr!"

The first, as for most fans of the game, was in 1986 when Seve Ballesteros and Greg Norman faltered while a 46 year-old Jack Nicklaus burned through the final holes on Sunday to win his 6th green jacket. I watched it with a best friend (and my main golfing partner-in-crime) in his family room - it was as good as television can get. And when Nicklaus almost holed out his tee shot on the par three 16th hole, my friend scrambled across the room yelling at the ball on the TV to... 'Get in! Get in! Get in!!!'

It didn't, but his putt for birdie did. As did his putt for birdie on 17. And his forty foot try on the last hole stopped inches short. But par was all he needed to couldn't have scripted it any better.

Sadly, my friend passed away suddenly from a heart attack a few years ago. That Masters moment was my favourite memory of him and our time together.

"O' Canada!"

Jump forward many years to 2003. Three of us were gathered together to watch on Sunday as Canadian Mike Weir was in contention. We were the remaining three of a foursome that used to play all the time when growing know, before lives and wives and kids and work took priority. Weir is a small-statured lefty who doesn't hit it as far as a lot of today's bombers, but he's consistent and had a hot putter that week. He needed to sink a six footer on the 18th green to tie Len Mattice and get into a playoff. I couldn't watch. But he made it, and then won the tournament on the first extra hole. A Canuck won the Masters, and I teared up. I've never felt so proud or patriotic or whatever you want to call it as I did that day (probably have to go back the Henderson goal in the '72 Canada/Russia hockey series to find an equal).

"In your life...have you seen anything like that!"

The final memory is from the current phenom of the game, Tiger Woods. To watch Woods hit a golf ball is nothing short of miraculous. We see these guys smack it around on TV, but it doesn't do any justice to their skill and ability. Five years ago, I stood behind Woods and watched him hit practice balls on the range for an hour and was simply in awe. The height and distance of his ball flight...his remarkable accuracy...his touch and feel around the greens - it was something to behold.

Anyway, two years ago he was grinding it out against Chris DiMarco when they reached the 16th hole. And then he hit this shot:

The chip heard around the world, one that led to Tiger's fourth Masters title. For anyone else I would say he was just lucky or it was a fluke...but not Woods. He is that good. Nevertheless I still jumped up off the couch and yelled in amazement.

Live sports is one of the few entertainment choices left that can do that to me. If you've been working in TV/movies for a long time, it gets harder and harder to be surprised. You tend to watch with an analytical eye...figuring it out as it goes... guessing who did it or how the plot is going to turn or twist. But a live sporting event is being written as we watch. The outcome is not foretold. And as the story unfolds, we can hope or wish but we cannot know with absolute certainty how it will end...until it's over.

This uncertainty can create some very intense emotional responses. Tears. Screams. Gasps. Cheers. But at least these responses aren't via orchestrated manipulation. They're Honest. Real. Visceral. Pure.

Pure entertainment.

The Masters can do it for me. What does it for you?



Bill Cunningham said...

I grew up about 25 miles away from the Augusta National. We used to skip school and our parents took us for one of the days. We'd watch the tee off and then head to the 16th green to watch them play through. Par 3 along the water...

blueglow said...

I hate baseball but for some reason I never miss the Little League World Series. It is one of those events where the "thrill of vicory and the agony of defeat" can be seen without filters.

I like the little "info bullets" they put undr each player
Favourite Food -- pizza
Favourite Movie -- Toy Story
Bats Left.

I like watching how the kids emulate the pro's moves and mannerisms to a T.

Juniper said...

It's you all the way baby!

Good Dog said...

Mmmm... golf. Tried once. That was about it.

My aunt and uncle used to live across the road from Royal Troon in Scotland so they played. I suppose it didn't help that as young kiddies we were made to caddy for them. Nice.

Having said that, I do find the coverage mildly addictive. Usually it's when one of the golfers makes a right hash of it.

Some years back, at a tournament in - I think - Scotland, there was a French guy who made such an absolute pig's ear of either the final hole or a playoff that I couldn't take my eyes off the screen. Rather than take a drop (is that the right term?) and a penalty, he walloped the ball all over the place to try and get back on the course. It went in the rough, in the water. I think it might have walloped off the stands at one point.

Then again, I have found myself watching Crown Green Bowls as well. But only because they don't televise croquet or real tennis.

wcdixon said...

Lucky you, Bill...ever play it?

Blueglow is back! lovely fan club of one.

Good was Frenchman Jean Van de Velde in 1999 - and yes, he butchered the last hole so badly that his name has become a verb in golfing in, don't Van de Velde it.

Bill Cunningham said...

Never played it - but I didn't mind because there were so many other cool courses in the south to go play a round...Palmetto, Hilton Head, Myrtle Beach, Woodside, Houndslake, etc...

We actually had many Canadian golfers who booked tours through the area...

But that's what the Central Savannah River Area is - golf courses and horse stables...

The_Lex said...

I would think the sheer skill of Woods would make anyone yell more than a lucky swing by someone else.

Never got into golf, myself, though. My dad's immersing himself into it as I grew up just turned me off.

Good Dog said...

Will, that was in 1999? I thought it was only a few years back. Holy crap, where have the years gone?

CAROLINE said...

Golf was never my thing ... I lack eye-hand coordination so it really isn't a game for me. Though I do hold the dubious distinction of being the first-ever girl caddy at the prestigious St. George's course in Toronto. It was more about marketing than skill, trust me.

As for your fan club, Will, it's membership is at least two ;-)

Blueglow, great to see you around.

blueglow said...

thanx, it's been a busy few months, laying low until the canadian entertaiment industry breaks my heart again.

Lee said...

I don't mind watching a round of golf on the telly, but it's hard to appreciate or evaluate skill in a sport that you've never tried for yourself.

With that in mind, I'll be stuck to the sofa in a couple of weeks, when the World Snooker Championship comes up on BBC2.

I also watch a lot of darts.

wcdixon said...

There's some of the examples I'm looking for...certainly some of you heart the World Cup or the Superbowl or Wimbledon, no?

Mef said...

came late because of some blogger issues...

march madness first:

british open golf
us open

also enjoy the first two rounds of hockey playoffs...