Start you off with a little video of the 1986 Masters. I’m probably jumping the gun on Augusta, but there is absolutely nothing going on right now. As I said last week most of the interesting stories at this point are just off-season speculation. We’ve got a few days until the Final Four, a few more until opening day, and nothing in the meantime. So, I saw a story Bob Harig had at ESPN about Jack Nicklaus coming back to the Masters to be the honorary starter, and I figured the Masters was as good a thing to talk about as any. By the way, if you can carve out ten minutes, I’d watch the video. Great shots, great announcing catch-phrases, the whole deal. I’m feeling I may have even posted this before, I don’t know. It’s a personal favorite.
Anyway, Harig hinted that he wouldn’t mind seeing Jack and Arnie play the front nine as honorary starters. This was the tradition back in the day until the likes of Sarazen and Snead couldn’t handle the full nine holes, and so they just rifled a tee shot out there. Neither Jack nor Arnie sound too interested in the thought of playing more than a tee shot, but I certainly wouldn’t stop them if they wanted to get out there and play a couple. The crowds would go wild. It might even keep a person or two out of Tiger’s gallery this year. I know it’ll never happen, though. You might be able to talk Arnie into it, but Jack would get out there, make a bogey or two and be furious. Guy can’t handle playing poorly, and it’s hard to blame him. He’ll gut that opening tee shot, though, I’m sure.
It’ll be nice to have Jack back to hit the starter with Arnie. The Masters really does a nice job of maintaining their connection to the past, even though the changes to the course have rendered some of the past champions obsolete a little before they are ready to leave. If this was still a cozy little 6,800 yard golf course you might be able to talk yourself into Tom Watson going Turnberry out there for a couple of days. That situation is unlikely now, but the old guys still give glimpses. Larry Mize opened with 67 last year, and it always seems like some past champion is lurking at least for a while. And, it’s nice that they are always invited back.
Watson will be there, and Fred Couples will as well. Fred, who has won three straight on the Champions Tour, and could contend if you listen to some people, wouldn’t be in the field had he not won the event in 1992. But, because the Masters takes such good care of their past champions, we get to see if Fred can translate his Champions Tour success into Augusta success. Plus, it gives Tiger someone to play a practice round with.
Now, your criticism might be, this is a limited field event as is. There’s only 85-100 players, and 8-12 of those spots are going to old guys and amateurs. Meanwhile, hot young sensations like Rickie Fowler will be nowhere to be seen. It’s a valid point in some ways, but no one ever says the Masters has the deepest field in golf. There are plenty of ways to get in. If you can’t get yourself into the top-50 in the World, maybe the Green Jackets don’t want you hoisting the trophy. They’ll kindly wait for Ben Curtis to win the British Open before they start inviting him to play the Masters, for example. And, I suppose that is their choice. If you like longshots, root for the amateurs.
So, I guess what I am saying is, one of the things I like best about the Masters is the familiarity. There will be more of that this year with Jack and Arnie on the first tee. And, I like to see the occasional good round by one of the old guys, or a quick Ray Floyd cameo. It all works for me, and in this disgusting week of sports lull, it’s something to look forward to.