To an untrained eye, Augusta National and the Masters seems to personify (tournsonify?) tradition in all different forms. Caddies must wear the same white jump suits with numbers assigned by when the player registered (except the defending champion whose caddie wears number 1). Etiquette violations aren’t really violations, they’re merely “frowned upon.” Caddies can’t wear crocs (I might be ok with that actually). Patrons are strictly prohibited from bringing cell phones and cameras. And did I mention that they call tournament attendees “patrons”?
And yet with all these traditions, the Masters has become sort of a beacon of the future. Or maybe my expectations are just low.
Drive Chip and Putt
When I first heard that the Masters was putting (ha) on this competition, I laughed and figured it would probably be something along the lines of the NFL’s punt pass and kick. Just a dumb competition that improves public perception about the league and then no one cares about it (just don’t tell Andy Reid). Well it turns out that the drive chip and putt competition that took place this last Sunday was anything but.
The 88 participants in 4 age groups for both genders (that’s 11 a group for those who can’t math) were all brought to Augusta National the day before the tournament officially opened, and played some golf. One of the girl participants has already competed in 2 USGA events which definitely shows value. And did I mention that this was televised on the Golf Channel for 4 hours? I’m sure next year the field will be way stronger too.
This is really a testament to the power that the Master’s name holds. They’re able to take a rather gimmicky competition and turn it legitimate. No doubt this will be a hot ticket for juniors next year. Not much more they can do to show Augusta cares about the future and the DC&P.
Asian Pacific Amateur winner gets invited
The Masters already had a long history of amateurs in the tournament. But since its inception in 2009, the winner has been invited to compete. How futuristic is it that a club consisting mostly of old white men invites the winner of a tournament in Asia to come play. Now I know that this brings in an entire new audience, and very large, population to watch the tournament and that means a ton more money for the old white men, but I’ll still give credit.
The other impressive aspect of this is the string of players. Hideki Matsuyama, currently ranked 26th in the world is playing in his third Masters, but only his first as a pro. And remember Tianlang Guan? The 14 year old who made the cut last year? Yeah he won the Asian Pacific Amateur too.
With the amateur exemption for the Pub Links expiring (along with the actual tournament), who knows if and where the Masters users that empty spot. And if they do, it’ll no doubt be used to grow the game, and maybe their pocket books too.
The best online coverage by far
I think this is the most impressive of all the futuristic aspects of the tournament. “Normal” tv entertainment is going the wayside with Netflix and Hulu. Soon, the only entertainment you might watch through a cable provider would be sporting events. But the Masters even wants to change that.
Through masters.com, anyone around the world is able to watch all of 6 different video streams showing all different parts of the golf course. You’re able to watch every single player come through Amen Corner, holes 15 and 16. you can watch the players warm up on the range too. Add in two featured groups and another “Masters In-Deapth” channel and there’s no need to watch it on cable.
Other sports are starting to understand this trend. Instead of a bunch of shitty rules and blackouts (I’m looking at you NFL), the Masters is one of the firsts to realize you can still make money without going through the standard tv process.
The Masters has done such a good job of turning this tournament into a now more than a weeklong event. Because of this, they’re able to do pretty much whatever they want to. But I’m really happy that they’re using this power in a way that benefits so many people. The Masters is still a tradition unlike any other, but they also have an eye on the future.