Masters week is finally here. Professional golf’s first major tournament of the year is one of the unofficial indicators that spring is upon us once again, and for serious golf fans it is a tournament that they anxiously await year round. My father was one of those devoted fans, he called the Masters the “Super Bowl of Golf” as the anticipation for the four rounds of professional golf that culminate on the second Sunday in April is truly special. The pageantry surrounding the event also makes it such an incredible event, from the opening of the tournament with an honorary tee shot from a legendary golfer all the way through the conclusion where the winner of the tournament is presented with the famous sport jacket simply known as the “Green Jacket” by the previous winner of the tournament.
What makes the Masters so special? Well first of all, it is the first of four major tournaments each year in the golf world. Unlike the other major championships the Masters is always held at the same golf course, Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia. Also, while the Masters is a professional golf tournament it does have a highly commemorated tradition of honoring amateur golfers, which it does by inviting winners of the most prestigious amateur tournaments around the world and offering awards and medals for the top amateur finishers. One of the cooler features of the tournament is also that for the first two days of the event the current U.S. Amateur champion always plays in the same group as the defending Masters winner, which must be a highlight in the young golfer’s career. Thirdly, the Masters tournament is one with limited commercialization, not only during the actual broadcast of the event which has much less breaks from the action than other golf tournaments, but in the advertising year round of the tournament. Almost every other golf tournament these days has corporate sponsors and media bombarding you from all angles trying to get you to watch their event, but the Masters tournament almost sells itself. On the course there is no advertising signage or corporate logos and that helps give the tournament its unique feel.
A tournament would not be compelling without great players and this year’s tournament definitely delivers on that front. All of the best players in the world will be in east Georgia this weekend competing for the Green Jacket. Tiger Woods, who ten days ago won his first tournament in almost three years, will be back in Augusta trying to win his fifth Green Jacket and inch closer to Jack Nicklaus who has the most career wins at the Masters with six. According to gambling sites, Tiger is the favorite to win this tournament and he currently has 9/2 odds to take home the victory. The young man from Northern Ireland, Rory McIlroy, is hoping to have something to say about that, and he comes in as the only other player with a single digit line to win this major championship (currently at 6/1). People who follow golf remember the meltdown that Rory had last year at this tournament, blowing a 4 shot lead going into the final day, and Rory will have to play stellar golf this weekend in order to put that behind him for good. Luke Donald, Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood, Keegan Bradley and the current highest ranked American Hunter Mahan (who has already won two tournaments on this young season) are all also players to watch closely over the weekend.
No matter what happens at this year’s tournament, the Masters is “a tradition unlike any other” and the biggest event of the year for golf lovers around the world. Beginning this afternoon with the Par 3 Contest on ESPN, up until the presentation of the Green Jacket Sunday night on CBS, all eyes of the golf world will be on Augusta National Golf Club and the world class athletes that have the privilege of playing the world famous course designed by Bobby Jones and course architect Alister MacKenzie. One day I hope to have the privilege to play that course, or at least carry my man Joe Scales bag as he goes out and wins a Green Jacket, but until then I’ll be at home watching the drama unfold from the comfort of my couch. I hope that you, my readers, will get the chance to enjoy it too!