Why Do Golfers Love The Masters So Much
EVERYBODY loves The Masters, but have you ever stopped to ask yourself why it holds such a special place in our hearts?
Is it the course? Is it the vibrant colours? Is it because it’s the first major of the season? Is it because, yet again, we hope that Rory McIlroy might finally break his duck and complete the career grand slam?
Is it because there are so many players fighting it out to be world number one? Is it because we know there will be much drama, that hearts will be broken and that somebody’s dreams will all come true come Sunday night?
Is it because we are just as likely to see a dramatic birdie at the par-three 12th, an eagle at the 13th or a couple of balls in the water at the 15th? Is it because there may well be yet another hole-in-one at the par-three 16th?
Is it because even when the leader stands on the 18th tee we all know that disaster could still befall him? Or is it because of that special moment when the winner holds his hands aloft after holing the final putt and embraces his caddie before greeting his family at the back of the 18th green? Or could it be the excruciating interview with the champion in the Butler Cabin before he receives his Green Jacket?
It is, of course, a combination of all of these things. And far more besides.
There is Always a Story
There is always a story at Augusta National. There was the incredible comeback of Tiger Woods in 2019. There was Jose Maria Olazabal breaking down in tears following his second victory, just months after he thought that he may never walk again. There was Ben Crenshaw’s tears when he won just days after the death of his beloved coach Harvey Penick.
There is not a European alive who doesn’t hope that it all comes together for McIlroy. Nobody who witnessed it will ever forget his collapse in 2011, all the worse because it was so unexpected and so public. He began the final round with a four-shot lead and ended it 10 shots behind Charl Schwartzel.
He came undone with a seven at the 10th and followed it with a bogey at the 11th and four putts on the 12th. McIlroy played the final six holes in a daze. There have been six top-10 finishes in the years since but, in truth, he has never looked like winning on a golf course that is made for his game. And with each passing year, the task becomes ever more difficult for the Northern Irishman.
But, like everybody else, he will head back to Augusta full of hope.
It is, of course, possible that one of the reasons golfers of all abilities are so captivated by The Masters is because Augusta has the capability to make world-class golfers look like weekend hackers from time to time. When they struggle, it gives us all hope.
Do you remember 1996? I do. That was the year when Greg Norman took a six-shot lead into the final round. After a series of near-misses, The Masters owed him. Except that it did no such thing.
Watching Norman fall apart in front of our eyes was heartbreaking, made all the worse for the Australian by the fact that it was his nemesis, Nick Faldo, playing alongside him, who was there to take advantage. Faldo shot a flawless final round of 67, while Norman required 78 blows. At the end of it all Faldo embraced a devastated Norman with the words: “Greg, I just don’t know what to say to you."
For me, it is the drama that makes The Masters special. Augusta is a course that tends to favour the brave.
My favourite shot of all time at Augusta was played by Phil Mickelson on his way to a three-shot victory in 2010.
During the final round he hit a wayward drive at the par-five 13th. His ball finish in the line straw among the trees. His caddie, Bones Mackay implored him to chip the ball back into play. But Mickelson saw a gap in the trees, asked for a six iron and struck a magnificent towering approach that finished feet from the hole. It was a shot for ages and it didn’t matter that he missed his eagle putt.
Of course the other three majors produce moments of drama and brilliance but none come close to Augusta. And because the tournament is played at the same course every year we become familiar with it so we recognise just how good these shots are. Just as we know that a ball struck to the wrong part of a green is destined to roll off and end up 70-80 yards from the surface.
So why do we all love The Masters? See all of the above.
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