Growing up, I always viewed the Masters as the “unofficial” start of the golf season because at least in Iowa, late March or early April is when the snow has all melted, the temperature is warming, and the local courses open.
Watching the tournament on TV always fuels the fire. For some reason, watching the PGA players play in this tournament, the first major of the year, the stakes are higher than they’ve been all year, and I always get goose bumps throughout the telecast as big shots are being played. And it just gives me the itch to get out and play golf. I can visualize my own golf shots while I watch the Masters and I picture myself there at Augusta playing the course, even though I know the chances of that happening in my lifetime are slim.
The Masters, I feel, is a lot like the Daytona 500 in Nascar where they have the most prestigious event at the beginning of the year. It’s true that the PGA season starts in early January just after the start of the new year, and there are some big tournaments that are played in the first three months of the season, but nothing that compares to the Masters, in fact, no tournament compares to the Masters. It seems backwards to have the biggest event first, but for both golf and Nascar, there is a chase for “the cup” at the end of the year. And this keeps the fans interested.
Winning the FedEx Cup certainly isn’t as prestigious as winning the Masters, but the 10 million dollar payout isn’t too shabby.
Players plan their playing schedules around the four majors to be sure to be at the top of their games come the major tournaments. Now what I’m going to say now is debatable certainly, but in my book, the Masters is the most prestigious of the four majors. The Masters, US Open, The Open Championship and the PGA Championship are all unique in their own right, but I’ll save this argument for another day.
Things have changed in recent years, and they televise more of the Masters tournament than they did when I was growing up. It seems that when my interest in golf began in the late 1980s, CBS had some sort of deal with Augusta National that prohibited them from airing any of the action prior to hole number 8.
It is well documented that August National holds themselves in high regard, and some might say are arrogant, with the club accepting only male members until just recently. They keep things well under wraps, and only allow the most elite members to join, only allow a select few sponsors to advertise during the telecast, and I’m sure hold most all of the bargaining power during negotiations with ESPN now since they won the bidding war to have the rights to televise the Masters. I mean not even the Golf Channel can get a camera onto the course itself. Their telecast has to be done from the parking lot or something. Shoot, the caddies all have to wear white overalls, which I’m sure is steeped in tradition, but I must say it appears to be a little degrading to make sure they look like servants.
Despite the elitist attitude, we all still tune in, and they are that way because this tournament is held in such high regard, and frankly, they can. This is the only major tournament to be played at the same course year after year. The players develop an intimate relationship with the course over the years. Experience usually wins out at Augusta. I mean, you won’t hear Jose Maria Olazabal being mentioned at all during the rest of the year, but the guy is always on the leader board during Masters week.
In recent years, I’d say since 2005 or 2006 or so, the telecast does air action starting at the first hole. Of course their focus always comes down to the back nine with Amen Corner, Rae’s Creek, 15 and 16, Eisenhower Pine on 17 (RIP…we will miss you, as this iconic pine tree guarding the 17th fairway was badly damaged in one of the ice storms during the winter of 2014 in Georgia) and of course the 18th where it is all ultimately won or lost.
Augusta National has opened their doors so to speak to share more of this special place with the viewers at home and they’ve opened their doors now to women, which is a good thing. They are still the smallest field of any major and the most difficult to get an invite, for players and spectators alike.
Augusta National and the Masters Tournament have created a brand, a very prestigious brand at that. It takes advantage of supply and demand and operates under the belief that “less is more”. And I think that’s why it is so anticipated year in and year out. I block my calendar and make it a point to tune in every year, and especially on Sunday afternoon to watch the action and drama unfold.
And I think that it helps that in the part of the country where I’m from, the timing of the Masters in early April coincides perfectly with the arrival of the golf season in the Midwest. Masters week is perfect timing, and every year it renews my love for the game after the long winter, and it gives me the itch to get out and play.
So with the 2014 Masters just four weeks away beginning on April 10, let the anticipation begin. And after one of the coldest winters on record in Iowa, it can’t arrive soon enough. Let the snow melt, the temperatures rise, and let the azaleas and dogwoods begin their bloom. To get you all in the mood, here is the Masters Theme Song entitled “Fanfare”, written and arranged by Yanni.
Tune in daily for a breakdown of each of the 18 holes at Augusta National and how to strategically approach each hole as we countdown the arrival of the golf season for those of us that live north of about the 40 degrees north latitude line.