There will always be arguments about which major is the most prestigious, but it’s a discussion that there really is no need for, with each of the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship having its own unique personality.
What stands out in my mind about the Masters, which gets underway Thursday, is it signals the beginning of spring and a new golf season, a description that also defies logic since the PGA Tour season actually began way back in the fall.
What also defies logic is that with all the poetic talk – some would call it cornball – about new beginnings is the fact that the Masters is so rooted in the past, driving up Magnolia Lane, in Butler Cabin where the winner slips the Green Jacket over his shoulders, in the Crow’s Nest in the Augusta National clubhouse, which houses the amateurs in the field and at the Champions Dinner.
This year, the only replacement for the late Arnold Palmer will be the cherished memories of the King in the first year at Augusta without him. There will be plenty of reminiscing about the 20th anniversary of Tiger Woods’ 12-shot victory, a pinnacle he shared with Lorne Rubenstein in writing the new book, The 1997 Masters: My Story.
Yet, old school will not be dismissed and eye-rolls will be minimal among the new breed on the grounds or watching the proceedings at home when they dust off the memories of the past this week. Those who don’t follow the game or don’t get it may not understand that, but the ones who do will revel in it.
It’s what golf should be these days. An elite club that was once hidden away for 51 weeks a year is still very exclusive, but at least opening itself up more than in the past, with its inclusion of female members and its Drive, Chip and Putt contest for kids.
Can more be done to loosen up? Sure, but it’s apparently headed in that direction and hopefully, it continues to move that way at Augusta and in golf.
Once again, there will be no running at Augusta and fans will be “patrons” this week, but generations will blend together in the pageantry of Augusta, whether its the ankle-biters who would usually be scooting around the Par 3 contest that got cancelled due to inclement weather on Wednesday, the amateurs in the Crow’s Nest, or Jack Nicklaus not only talking about the past, but enjoying what’s happening in the present.
What will happen or what has already happened out there for Canadians Mackenzie Hughes and Adam Hadwin is something we should all experience on a regular basis, that being a wide-eyed look at something new, something we’ve aspired to that makes all the behind-the-scenes work worthwhile. It’s practice with purpose and fulfilment.
Both are at pinnacles of not only their careers, but their lives. Both have, in the past few months, won their first PGA Tour events, which is why they’re here, and Hadwin has the extra treat of a 59 and other recent top-10 finishes.
Both Hughes and Hadwin have been married recently and Hadwin just closed on a house before leaving for Augusta. Life is new again and so is their experience this week as they pick the mind of 2003 Masters champion Mike Weir, still focused on his game, even with his lack of starts recently.
Whether Weir benefits from combining his own experience and remembering his first time at Augusta though the presence of Hughes and Hadwin remains to be seen, as does how the two newcomers will perform their first time out.
Unfortunately, practice has been limited due to the nasty weather, but both could ride exuberance and momentum to a fine finish. Whether its skating or riding a bike, there may be a few bumps or scratches along the way, but they’ll be building for the future, no matter what happens.
They’ve been doing exactly that in their professional and personal lives the past few months and have done quite nicely. However it turns out, it will be fun to watch along with Dustin Johnson, if he’s able to play after his spill on Wednesday hurt his back, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Adam Scott, Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler and the usual suspects.
Former PGA Tour player Richard Zokol previews the Masters here.