The Masters — A Tradition that Keeps Getting Better

It’s time for the Masters! Time for golf at Augusta! Time for Jim Nantz! Time for the Masters theme song! Yup the Masters has a theme song. What other tournament has a theme song? (By the way, put this video on in the background on repeat when reading this).

The Drive Chip and Putt is over (thankfully, as “special” and “amazing” an experience that was for the kids, I’d rather have watched JB Holmes birdie the first four holes during the Shell Houston Open’s final round), and the practice rounds are under way, with the first round on Thursday looming like the opening round of a major does. Get ready for golf, green grass, and awkward handshakes! It’s the Masters 2015 preview.

About the Sponsor

We all knew the Masters was unique in that it doesn’t need sponsors. It isn’t the “Waffle House Masters”. It isn’t the “Masters Presented by Waffle House” either. So I was questioning whether or not I should even include this section. Of course the answer is yes! In fact these companies deserve this section even more than normal tournaments because their name isn’t mentioned with the tournament name. In fact their name isn’t even mentioned on the Masters website. Seriously. I couldn’t find anything there that mentioned who’s paying the rich white guys and Condoleezza Rice a ridiculous amount of money and not get mentioned anywhere.

After a little googling, I was able to find this post from 2014 that talks a little about how money and the Masters works. There are three main sponsors for the tournament, IBM, AT&T and Mercedes. The Masters is in such a unique position where they can be dictators over everything that happens in and around their event. For example, they limit the number of commercials to 4 minutes per hour. I would assume (and know from past years) that IBM, AT&T and Mercedes get first dibs on that time. What this also means is that since commercial time is so valuable, those companies are probably going to roll out some new and unique advertising. That article I linked mentioned that last year, IBM had 50 different commercials they were going to play over the course of the tournament. Definitely different than the normal PGA Tour event where you’re spammed with the main sponsor’s one good commercial for the entire time. Unique commercials + 4 minutes per hour = not bad for the viewer.

About the Course

So this section sat blank for a long while. I started writing something, then deleted it all, then started again. And I did that a few more times because really, what are you supposed to say about Augusta National as a course?

I’ve been lucky enough to play most of the courses so far on tour — probably about half of the ones I’ve done the previews for. I haven’t been able to play Augusta yet though. And I say yet because I fully expect to play there at least once in my life. Either that or I’m completely delusional.

I will say that my favorite thing about the course is the set up where the weather, not the tournament committee, determines the winning score. The Masters is semi-alright with players being under par at the end of the tournament. Sure they toughened and lengthened the course after Tiger shot a billion under par in 1997, but the conditions really determine the final score. If it’s cold and windy like it was in  2007, the scores will be higher (Zach Johnson won at +1). Warm, calm and wet conditions mean the winning score is going to be lower like a couple years later in 2010 when Phil Mickelson won at -16. I’m a big fan of this approach to scoring. Especially since the tournament is played at the same course every year, they could be pretty good at setting the winning score before the tournament started if they felt like it.

Last Year….

Bubba Watson won his second green jacket in an unfortunately boring manner. And by boring I mean that it wasn’t a playoff coming down to the wire like it was in the two previous years. That, and I was decently hungover from the night before and fell asleep during the back nine since it was just Bubba hitting for the middle of the greens.

Jordan Spieth, my pick for who’s going to win this year, had the lead for a while after the 2nd hole of the final round. He fell apart mid round which lead to Bubba pulling away.

Also of note, I bet you can’t guess who was the number one player in the world after the Masters last year. Not Rory, not Adam Scott, but Tiger Woods. Two things. 1) He’s really fallen in the past year if he isn’t even in the top 100 anymore, and 2) this has to be the first time in my life that I was surprised to find out that Tiger was ranked number one in the world at any point in his career.

What to Watch For

In a change of pace from the normal PGA Tour what to watch fors, the Masters has about a billion what to watch fors. I’ve begrudgingly shortened the list to the following.

Patrons — The Masters doesn’t have spectators, they have patrons. Just letting you know so that your super snotty friend doesn’t have anything to correct you on. Though if you use the word patrons yourself, you instantly become the snotty annoying friend. Tough line to toe.

Cheap food — Can’t really watch for this, but know in the back of your mind that the food prices for the patrons are super cheap. And apparently pretty tasty too. Note that these prices might be a little out of date. I heard that the Pimento Cheese sandwich now costs a whole $2!

Om nom nom nom

Om nom nom nom

 

Online coverage — The Masters has the absolute best online streaming coverage of any tournament. Just this past Monday, I spent three hours with the “Live from the Practice Range” stream on in the background. Monday! They have that stream on Tuesday and Wednesday (along with the par 3 contest on Wednesday as well). Come tournament time, they have daily streams of two featured groups, Amen Corner, and 15 & 16 all live with separate announcers. That means from around 9:30 in the morning central time (where I am) until 5 at night, I get to watch the Masters.

Old people who kind of suck — When you win the Masters, you get to play in it forever. Cool concept, but this means we still have to suffer through Sandy Lyle hacking it around at age 57. Or Ian Woosnam, also at age 57. But hey, those are the rules, and they are a big part of what makes the Masters great. Without that, there’d be no reason for everyone to get tearyeyed when Ben Crenshaw walks up to the 18th green on either Friday or Sunday in his final Masters. I wonder how much we’ll all cry 30 years from now, when Angel Cabrera makes his final appearance. I’m guessing not quite as much.

Young people who kind of suck — AKA Amateurs! Thanks to Bobby Jones, club founder and lifelong amateur, the Masters goes way above and beyond by making sure that amateurs are an integral part of the tournament every year. You win the US Am, you get to play in the Masters with the defending champion. The US Am runner up also gets to play, as does the Pub Links champ, Mid-Am champ, British Am champ, and now the Asian Amateur champ as well. Pretty soon, the Central American Amateur champion will get an invite. Nice move by Augusta to invite people from around the world, right? So nice that they want to bring in good players no matter where they’re from, right? Nah, they’re just trying to get the people down in those countries to pay to watch the Masters. All about dem bills.

Players not choking down the stretch — If you have a four shot lead going into the back 9 on Sunday, and you par out, there’s a good chance you don’t win. Birdies down the stretch are the norm (depending on the weather of course). Making birdies down the stretch means that the winner was someone who earned it by hitting good golf shots, not just because they were able to hold on (I’m looking at you US Open).

The back 9 on Sunday — “The tournament doesn’t start until the back 9 on Sunday” is a common phrase about the Masters that you’ve probably heard before.

The 63 holes before the back 9 on Sunday — That phrase above? I don’t exactly buy it. You all should watch the rest of the tournament too.

Tiger!!!! — Hey guys? Did you hear that Tiger is playing? You might have missed it, but he’s gonna play. Hopefully we can get more moments like this:

People putting 90 degrees away from the hole — Or at least playing shots 90 degrees from the hole. Big slopes mean that you’re gonna have to get creative around the greens. Fun to watch, especially if it means I get to use another Tiger video! Skip to about 1 minute 20 seconds if you don’t want to watch the whole thing.

Par 3 Contest — A lighthearted contest on Wednesday where players forget about the looming tournament and play the par three course on site. Usually anchored by the feature group of Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, and Arnold Palmer. But this year Arnold is out after a shoulder surgery in December, and Ben Crenshaw is taking his place. This has got me wondering if Arnold will ever be able to play in the par 3 again. Last year he had to resort to taking a cart the last few holes, and having surgery doesn’t bode well for next year. 2015 is Crenshaw’s final Masters, and will likely be around for the par 3 for years to come. But as Crenshaw said, “There’s no replacing Arnold Palmer”.

Conclusion

It’s the Masters. Enjoy it.

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