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There’s no shortage of entertainment at the Masters


There’s a lot going on at Augusta National Golf Club in early April. One week before the Masters (April 6-9) is the Augusta National Women’s Amateur golf tournament to be played on a slightly shorter course than the men play the next week. Then there is the finals of the Drive, Chip and Putt tournament for junior golfers of all ages who spent the summer qualifying. It’s great watching. The week of the Masters we have practice rounds, and even those tickets are expensive. Wednesday is the nine-hole par 3 tournament. Thursday morning is the celebratory first shot by Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, in all probability. Then, let the games begin.

Augusta National is a place that demands prodigious driving of the golf ball, extraordinary and patient putting, and a mentally flawless and experienced game. There will be plenty of birdies, as well as plenty of “others.” Let’s face it, fans like a birdy fest. That may be why a large portion of the American sports public dismisses low-scoring affairs like soccer and hockey that don’t provide ample “excitement,” which happens only a few times per game. Big-time sports has always been in the business of entertainment, but in recent years they have ramped up the requirement for excitement because “that’s what the fans want.”

A few years ago a highly seasoned sportswriter, Doug Ferguson, wrote about the Masters of that year saying it was “a bore” because of the absence of the typical “roars” of the fans on the back nine. I found that patently disturbing. It amplified the fact sports fans of all ilk, spurred on by sportswriters, simply want titillation when they watch; forget about appreciating and honoring the intelligent workmanlike course management like Jack Nicklaus displayed in his heyday. Roars? Bah humbug.

Among 72 players who qualified or were otherwise invited are 14 past champions.

That list includes no fewer than 16 LIV golfers, which I personally find troubling. But those blokes will have to get used to wearing long slacks, not shorts, 72 holes if they make the cut, not 54, and the absence of rappers blasting their noise from huge speakers. Past Masters champions playing this year who didn’t jump ship to the Saudi sportswashing LIV tour include Fred Couples (1992), Zach Johnson (2007), Bernhard Langer (1985, 1993), Sandy Lyle (1988), Larry Mize (1987), Mike Weir (2003), Danny Willett (2016), Scottie Scheffler (2022), Jordan Speith (2015) and Tiger Woods (1997, 2001, 2002, 2005, 2019). Scheffler, now number 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings, and gracing the cover of the March/April 2023 Golf Digest, is without a doubt the favorite, but with a small field and a number of unknowns (special invites), as well as hungry, angry and “abused” LIV players, it could be anybody’s week.

Back to what I like about the Masters, I certainly appreciate how CBS covers the Masters on the weekend’s final two rounds with a virtually commercial-free format. That’s how all sporting events of galactic importance should be broadcast. During each hour of CBS weekend telecasts there are less than eight minutes of commercial breaks, which includes nonprofits like First Tee.  The Olympic Committee, Indy 500, MLB World Series and the Super Bowl aren’t interested in sacrificing vast millions in ad dollars. I also like the fact there is no title sponsor for the Masters.  This is THE MASTERS, period. I realize the Tour depends on sponsors to fund the regular events, but this is not the Western Hemisphere Bank Augusta Championship, or the Expensive Luxury Car Invitational, or the Zoom-Mortgage Open, nor is it the Trust-me Financial Services Open. But, make no mistake, they’re all with Fed-up, oh excuse me, “FedEx  points at stake.” Let’s be real FedEx; golf is like a really long, slow, tedious  march, not a “race.”

            As a TV “patron,” roars or no roars, I know I certainly will be fully entertained watching the 87th Masters as I bite into my homemade pimento cheese sandwiches.