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Friday, September 25, 2020

Magnificent Masters at Augusta never fails to thrill

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Drama guaranteed on the back nine on Sunday and don’t we love it!

Masters Week. Gates open at Augusta National shortly after 7am local time tomorrow and thousands will already have been queuing patiently for hours beforehand, waiting for the start of a great sporting occasion.

Their eagerness and anticipation will be heightened by the exclusivity of a venue which, unlike Open Championship, US Open or US PGA venues, does not permit green fees at any price.

Indeed, obtaining spectator entry passes for The Masters is mighty difficult – not impossible – but much harder to source compared with the relative ease of access to the other three Majors.

All of which is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of The Masters commanding a unique place in the hearts and minds of golfers worldwide, be they Tour players or handicap hackers.

Do you know anybody who plays this wonderful and often perplexing sport who would turn down tickets to Augusta National if they could obtain a prized entry to this most exclusive golf facility?

If you happen to encounter anyone who has enjoyed the privilege of attending the Masters, do you hear them say “No, it wasn’t great. It didn’t live up to expectations?” Absolutely not.

I rest my case. Whatever is going on in the so-called real world, the Masters puts a pep in the step of anyone who has even the smallest degree of enthusiasm for golf.

It’s a cliché, but in recent weeks I’ve heard quite a few club golfers repeat the old adage “The Masters is the REAL start of the golf season.”

Never mind that the PGA and European Tours have been embroiled in the 2018-19 ‘wraparound’ season since last November, or that this campaign will end effectively in August for PGA Tour players with the climax of the FedEx Cup.

Never mind that already metaphorical blood has been spilt in the early stages of GUI inter-club events, or that club competition is in full swing. None of that matters. Masters Week generates a worldwide focus on the verdant, exquisitely manicured Augusta National golf course, and those thousands of “patrons” attending the tournament count themselves fortunate to be allowed inside the gates.

Strict, even rigid, rules ironically help to make the Masters very special.

No cell phones, not even if they’re in your pocket and turned off. Discovery means instant expulsion, as one or two media folk have found in the past.

No running. Power walking is just about tolerated if you really must get somewhere in a hurry but don’t overdo it.

There are no advertising hoardings, which makes for a welcome change.

No media inside the ropes (sob). No sitting on somebody else’s chair. They may leave it beside a green or along a fairway and only sit on it for thirty seconds in a whole day, but you do not plant your ass on their seat.

So many positives: inexpensive sandwiches, drinks, and snacks. Thousands of square footage of Masters merchandise stores and most of the items are reasonably priced.

Patrons are made to feel welcome, once they comply with the requisite code of conduct. Security and crowd control is done discreetly and unobtrusively. The welcome mat is laid out by the Augusta National members to the wide world for this special week only, so make the most of it.

Nothing is left to chance in order to present The Masters and its environs to the highest possible standard. Year after year, the relentless search for perfection brings improvement and innovation to course, patron and facilities.

Above all, drama is guaranteed. Anything can, and will happen, on that back nine on Sunday. Before the leaders get into that stretch of holes, wannabe Green Jacket winners will need to have kept themselves in contention through the preceding 63 holes.

Technique, confidence, course and self-management, courage and focus will have been thoroughly examined before that finishing stretch ramps up the ante to almost unbearable levels.

The Masters – we love it. Go, Rory!

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