Take us away, beautiful golf tournament.
Take us away from the chaotic first three months of 2022 to a place where chaos is barred at every green gate. The Masters is really almost as former three-time champion Gary Player once said: “Here, small dogs don’t bark and babies don’t cry.”
If not quite saving the season, the Masters will once again completely define it here in Georgia. Aerial photos of Augusta National revealed the return of a full set of stands standing and ready to receive a full complement of fans. With the banner of the pandemic lifting for a moment and more the usual number of pilgrims admitted to worship on site this year, preparations are underway for a full Master.
The waves running this tournament come up with their own plans in a skull-themed mountain fortress, or so it seems, given all the levels of secrecy that lend to a silly game. But it appears they are intent on returning as many eyeballs in person to their garden as ever – that exact number that will never be revealed. As has been painfully discovered in the last two tournaments – once without fans, once with a few thousand – a Master without all of his patrons is like a Tarantino movie without a soundtrack, a wedding without a wedding night.
For 51 weeks a year you could not enter the place with good manners or with a parachute. The Privilege Dome is so graciously impregnable. But this week, in person or through the miracle of Hi-Def, we’re all stepping into a relocation portal, a gateway between Augusta’s grimy Washington Road trade and Augusta National’s horticultural authoritarianism of Magnolia Lane. In the song, everyone is invited to get rid of the irritations that come from following the sports that are much more messy than golf in Augusta.
True, some faces from this franchise will not be here. Phil Mickelson was persuaded by this year’s event, breaking a 28-year streak of mutual affection. There is simply not enough room in the little champions’ locker room for all of their extra baggage.
Mickelson will be missed by some, but not in any way in the manner of Freddie Freeman. After all, the true enduring faces of this franchise are white, pink and purple and smile on command from the azalea bushes along Amen Corner.
There is no movement of free agents to or from the Masters, nor any transfer in or out. No one requires an exchange for a better event. A player either earns an invite or wilts a bit inside for being banned. Where else would anyone prefer to be? Even the eccentric and professional iconoclast Mac O’Grady was once forced to admit: “This is where God finds himself.” Heaven doesn’t need escape routes.
Here, the players and management seem to get along well. Or if they don’t, players have the good sense to keep their grievances to themselves.
The last time we left Augusta, Hideki Matsuyama’s caddy Shota Hayafuji bowed to the field after his boyfriend drew the championship. You don’t get that level of respect in the John Deere Classic or, for that matter, in many other professional sports.
Matsuyama recalled the moment on a recent Master’s conference call. A year later, he is amazed at how the bow was received by an audience not accustomed to such sporting grace: “I’m glad Shota did it. It is a sign of respect, not only for the Masters tournament but also for Augusta National. … It was something that was good. I never thought he would get the attention he generated. “
Golf changes. The Masters does it too, only in slow motion. Other tournaments have surrendered to the inevitability of the mobile, but not this one. The 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open is a venue for fraternity parties passing through the competition. On the 16th at Augusta National, a much more hallowed par-3, only another pew remains in the church.
Because the Masters is so unlike anything else in sport, that’s exactly why we can’t wait for it to do so now.