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88TH Masters tournament did not disappoint


April in our desert means temperatures are warming and flowers are blooming, but the winds continue. More importantly, Masters week has finally arrived for the 88th time. (The Masters was first played in 1934, but was not held in 1943-44-45 due to World War II.)

While Augusta National golf course appeared to be as pristine, beautiful and intimidating as usual, the weather was difficult. There was a two-hour rain delay on Thursday morning for the opening round, requiring a number of players to complete their rounds in the early morning chill on Friday. Tiger Woods ended up playing 23 holes on Friday, which took a physical toll, but he still played well enough to set the record at 24 for consecutive cuts made at the Masters. By mid-morning on Friday the predicted winds became even stronger than anticipated, with gusts over 45 mph. The snow-white sand in the front bunker on hole no. 18 blew out in a blinding storm, almost covering the bunker cam. One past champion labeled the conditions “borderline almost unplayable.”

Golfing the ball was harder in the second round even for the best players in the world. Among the golfers who would have liked a mulligan in round two was 39 year-old Dustin Johnson, who was the 2020 Masters winner with a record score of 268, but finished his second round at 13 over par, allowing him to pack his bags early for home and another LIV tournament. Then there was Norwegian Victor Hovland, No. 6 in the world, who three-putted the par 5 15th hole from 5 feet, stabbing at a 3 inch second putt to miss it, and falling short of the cut by two shots.

One of the things I love about the Masters tournament is the polite behavior of the patrons who patiently sit or stand and applaud great play, while rarely blabbing “get in the hole.” In addition there are no cell phones permitted on the premises. That means fans who came to watch golf did actually watch golf, instead of addictively looking at their phones. And the concession menu for food and drinks has not changed in price or quality for many decades, seeming impervious to inflation.

The weather for Sunday’s final round at Augusta national was nothing short of ideal for both patrons and golfers. After making bogey on the first hole, Scottie Scheffler proceeded to take control on the back nine. His final round of 68 gave him a four-shot victory and his second green jacket. While others, like Morikawa, Aberg and Homa, stumbled with crushing double bogeys, Scheffler did not make any serious mistakes. “Amen Corner” (holes 11, 12 and 13) was the undoing for the pretenders. Scheffler handled his golf club like a precision instrument in his hands.

For me, the best description of Scheffler in the heat of battle is calm, cool, collected, calculating and a cold-blooded golfing killer. With his wife, Meredith, expecting their first child within a week or two, Scheffler was longing to be home in Dallas, he said after Sunday’s win: “I feel like professional golf is an endless not-satisfying career.” The number one golfer in the world is never satisfied and always wants to do better, but everyone else has lots of work to do.

Finally, Vern Lundquist is signing off after 40 Masters CBS broadcasts. He is best remembered for two calls: “In your life,” on Woods’ 2005 chip in on 16, and “Yes, sir,” on Nicklaus’ winning 1986 putt.

Masters, golf, Blanchard