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Is The Masters Overrated?
There is an awful lot to love about Augusta National. Many of us spend far too much of our time watching re-runs of old Masters and reading all about the history of the place. We play courses which have mimicked certain holes on the property, anybody lucky enough to go will more often than not be seen in their logoed clothing and recounting endless stories of the walk over the top of the hill into Amen Corner.
Some of us spend Masters week eating pimento sandwiches in front of the TV, we all delight in watching a glorified Pitch and Putt contest on the Wednesday and we can even be tempted into watching some children hit golf balls to kickstart the week.
Then, almost without fail, we get a worthy winner at the end of the week and we all go home happy. Another Masters in the book and another incredible week. It stirs the soul, we’ve had eight major-free months before going down Magnolia Lane and we’re more than ready for it. The various Swings around the world are nice but nothing says it’s golf season like the Butler’s Cabin, the pumped-in birdsong, the dyed water, the manageable fields, the honorary starters and the famed back nine on Sunday.
But, strip away the romance, the familiarity of the place and the incredible film set of a course, and are you still left with the best major in the game? For some, not many probably, it wouldn’t be in the top two. For others it’s The Open and then take your pick.
The Masters field is the hardest to get into, the smallest of all four and therefore the weakest. There are 19 categories to be invited and five of them are for amateurs. You can finish as high as eighth (Nicolai Hojgaard) on the Race to Dubai and that still won’t get you into The Masters. You might be 51st in the world and the runner-up in the US Amateur will tee it up at The Masters rather than you.
It shouldn’t really be a debate over what’s the best major. The Open offers a qualifying system, albeit a wonky one, to be able to chase your dream of playing in the game’s oldest major. The tee is booked up from 6.30am to 4.30pm, there’s nothing contrived about the whole thing and it’s just four days of rolling your sleeves up, taking the rough with the bad bounces into pot bunkers, hoping for the good side of the draw and going head to head with some of the oldest and very best courses on the planet.
It’s got a proper history, there is next-to-no discussion over the presentation of the course, unlike the USGA’s showpiece, and it’s all magical. Spectators, like the players, get what they put into it, and the Claret Jug awaits the Champion Golfer of the Year. This, for many of us, is perfection.
The Masters is exceptional. Even the loosest golf fan can set their clock by where they’re going to be on Masters Sunday, the rest of us will be in the same place from Thursday onwards. We’ll be pining for the first sighting of the property and the Champions Dinner menu on the Tuesday. We get sucked in by a place few of us will ever get anywhere near and we can’t help ourselves.
But perfection isn’t plug-hole pins where two very different shots can have a chance of going in. Perfection isn’t the sycophantic message that runs throughout the week and certainly not the secrecy of the whole thing. Who is actually a member of the club? How many ‘patrons’ are allowed through the gates each day? Why don’t we know what the course rating is? Why are grown men still wearing boiler suits? Why can’t you take your phone in and have it on silent? Why are we watching someone's small child holing out on the eve of the game's opening major?
The Masters is like nothing else but that works in both ways, these things can’t contribute to a tournament claiming to be the best in the world. If you’re looking for perfection then you’ll find it on a far-flung links course in the middle of July in the UK.
Mark has worked in golf for over 20 years having started off his journalistic life at the Press Association and BBC Sport before moving to Sky Sports where he became their golf editor on skysports.com. He then worked at National Club Golfer and Lady Golfer where he was the deputy editor and he has interviewed many of the leading names in the game, both male and female, ghosted columns for the likes of Robert Rock, Charley Hull and Dame Laura Davies, as well as playing the vast majority of our Top 100 GB&I courses. He loves links golf with a particular love of Royal Dornoch and Kingsbarns. He is now a freelance, also working for the PGA and Robert Rock. Loves tour golf, both men and women and he remains the long-standing owner of an horrific short game. He plays at Moortown with a handicap of 6.
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