Springtime! As the new lambs are jumping around Rutland’s fields there will be a band of professional golfers nervously making their way down a tree lined road in Augusta, Georgia – known as Magnolia Lane – in readiness to compete in this year’s Masters tournament, commencing Thursday 5th April.
Traditionally The Masters signals the start of the golfing season and sees us fair weather golfers dust off the clubs and head out to the course, full of hope and expectation for the season ahead. Maybe, just maybe, this could be our year…..
Putting The Open to one side, it is The Masters that excites more golfers than any other event. Perhaps because it’s held on the same magnificent course each year, perhaps because it’s always the first Major of the year – but whatever the reason it throws magical moments at us relentlessly. My first golfing memories were of watching The Masters on BBC 1 into the wee, small hours of a Monday morning with school half a sleep away.
Memories of the sheer brilliance of Seve Ballasteros, Fuzzy Zoeller winning first time out, the despair for Greg Norman, Sandy Lyle’s magnificent 7 iron bunker shot at the last whilst adorning a pair of not so magnificent trousers and the enduring image of Jack Nicklaus, putter held aloft as he rolled in his birdie putt on the 17th and going on to win his sixth Masters Championship at the age of 46. I even thought 46 was old then! I also remember not seeing Craig Stadler win in 1982 as the good old BBC hadn’t factored in that there maybe a play-off.
It could be that the appeal of The Masters is the fact that a very American event provides the traditions that those of us on this side of the pond hold dear. Traditions like:
The Green Jacket – given to each winner since Sam Snead in 1949 but to be returned the following year and kept at Augusta to be worn on visits.
Caddies – until 1982 players had to use caddies provided by the Club, some achieved a certain notoriety including “Iron Man Avery” who caddied for Palmer on each of his 4 wins. Nowadays players can take their caddie of choice but all still wear the Augusta uniform comprising of a white jumpsuit, green cap and white tennis shoes.
The Crows Nest – an area adjacent to the Clubhouse made available for the amateur players to stay during the event.
Par 3 Event – on each preceding Tuesday a sociable event is held over Augusta’s Par 3 course with the field competing for a crystal vase. No player who has won the Par 3 event has ever gone on to win the main event in the same year.
Champions’ Dinner – officially known as the Masters Club where the defending champion invites all former winners to a dinner of his choice and where he foots the bill! Tiger Woods has laid on cheeseburgers whilst Sandy Lyle served up haggis and Nick Faldo flew in fish and chips from Grimsby. Last years winner Charl Shwartzel has asked permission to treat his guests to a typical South African ‘braai’ (wood fuelled BBQ) on the Clubhouse lawn.
So who will provide us with this year’s magical moments and memories? And who will be slipping into the Green Jacket come the Sunday evening (ETZ)? A lot of the top players are hitting form: three time champion Phil Mickleson has started the year well as has the USPGA Champion Keegan Bradley. Tiger Woods is on the prowl once again, albeit with a slight limp due to a damaged Achilles. We would hope for a strong showing from the European contingent in a Ryder Cup year. Can Rory McIlroy exorcise the demons of his final round 80 from last year and add to his US Open success? Perhaps it’s time for the rejuvenated Sergio Garcia to provide an emotional win in memory of the genius of Seve. Personally, I’m hoping it’s time for fellow Midlander Lee Westwood to break his Major duck, could he write himself into Masters history?…….Maybe, just maybe.
Needless to say, The Masters will be showing at Greetham Valley from approx 6.30pm until those wee, small hours from 5th to 8th April. Who will YOU be rooting for? Click here for more in depth discussion about the players with SkySports.
Gary Constable, PGA Advanced Professional, N1Golf Academy at Greetham Valley