Christmas. Easter. Halloween. Augusta. Build-ups unlike any other

John Craven

Way finding signs at Augusta National Golf Club (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

I don’t mean to brag, but occasionally I top up my Lidl shop with items from Tesco. I’m talking Ballymaloe Country Relish. None of that Deluxe home brand tomato chutney for me. But I’ll tell ya what, for those not privy to the stocked towering aisles of Tesco, Saint Nicholas hadn’t slid down his last chimney by the time the selection boxes had been replaced by Easter eggs and the cycle of consumerism was peddled out for another year.

Easter. Christmas. Halloween. They all run in much the same rhythm. The last banger goes off in a wheelie bin on Halloween night and you’re waking up to Christmas carols on the radio. So many holidays, so little time, except all the time in between each one wasted obsessing over getting there.

Augusta feels a bit like that to me. Will the grass be green? Will Rae’s Creek run crystal clear? Will the choirs of birds be heard from the pine trees? Will the heavenly azaleas bloom?


I don’t fret over these questions. Sure the grass is always green at Augusta. They spray it green if it isn’t. The water always dazzles on TV because if it’s murky they dye it blue. If the birds aren’t singing loud enough, they plant stereos amongst the magnolias and play their songs for them. And the azaleas always bloom – sure what else would we talk about if they didn’t? – though admittedly there was no sign of them in November 2020. And there I was sure they had a few in the freezer primed for an autumnal tournament day.

I realise there’ll be people out there saying ‘Jaysus, if you can’t get excited about the build-up to this thing, you’re in the wrong gig’. But I am excited, genuinely, though not to the extent that I need to hear what way Tiger Woods ordered his Wagyu steak at Tuesday’s Champions Dinner.

It was medium rare by the way. That’s the way I like it too. Imagine. That’s what I just did at least. Imagined, because I have no idea how he ordered it. Woods could be a vegetarian for all I care. Main thing is, he’s one hell of a golfer, and the only golfer, if this year’s preliminaries are to be believed, that’s actually playing this week.

Again, please, don’t get me wrong, I completely understand why Woods is the centre of attention this week. He’s the greatest of all time after all. The cat with nine lives. And my God what a comeback. The comeback-to-back. But it’s also not lost on me that the (insert number here) coming of golf’s Messiah is a change of pace from that time the powers that be at Augusta National wheeled out a despondent Woods for a very public grilling; making him repent for his sins in an open air confession box before a gaudy blue curtain, as if his infidelities were anyone’s business but his and his then wife’s. Imagine what they would’ve made Mickelson do if he was invited!

It was the great Happy Gilmore who famously said, ‘Gold jacket, green jacket, who gives a sh*t’. And sure enough, the 1996 Tour Championship winner wasn’t invited to Augusta either. Funnily enough, neither was I.

But look, honestly, I’m OK with that. My love/hate relationship with the place means I can look past the bollocksology and focus on the good stuff. The familiarity of the holes and how the best players navigate them. The drama that inevitably unfolds. How dreams shatter around Amen Corner and hope springs eternal if you come through it unscathed. From Thursday, I’m strapped in until Jim Nantz makes me cringe in the Butler Cabin. I’m here for the tournament days. The roars, the energy and the scenarios down the stretch that the event throws up time after time each year. But everything else?

Well, being honest, they can keep it.

The mild censorship, more rules than the game of golf itself, the blazers, the elitism, the list goes on, and that list is everything I would rid from the game if a genie granted me the chance. Give me Washington Road any day and a bunch of middle-aged men free from dress codes guzzling beers and munching burgers while ogling the supple breasts of John Daly outside of Hooters selling t-shirts from his van.

You won’t hear that side of the story from anyone inside those Pearly Gates of course. They’re all carrying around a golden ticket to the Chocolate Factory, and what sort of a gobshite would risk losing that.

This gobshite, that’s who, so far removed from an azalea induced coma that I have no idea what I’m missing. Just as well, says you!

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One response to “Christmas. Easter. Halloween. Augusta. Build-ups unlike any other”

  1. Lawlor avatar

    Now perhaps you can imagine just why The Open is the greatest golf event!

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