Monday, April 7, 2008

The Masters........Best or Worst Major Championship?

Now it's beginning to feel like golf. Half of the snow is gone in my yard and darned if it didn't hit the fifty degree mark today. We'll be playing here in another month or two. All's well. Oh, did I mention, it's Masters week?

Here's the pitch for the Masters being the best major. It's the first one of the year and reignites the golf fires after a cold hiatus. It has tradition coming out the ying-yang. The course is spectacularly beautiful. The flowers, the conditions, the ponds and bridges. The wickedly fast, perfect greens. The lack of knee deep rough that doesn't penalize a player for being two feet off the fairway. Watching the Masters is almost like when Dorothy lands on Oz in her battered house, opens the door and the movie switches from black and white to color. The first time I watched the movie I thought I was having a flash back. The broadcast is even wonderful. The lack of commercials, the music, the lack of Johnny Miller. The history of the place. Bobby Jones, Hogan, Arnie, Nicklaus, Sarazen, Martha Burke. The stories and remembrances of individual great shots is unparalleled. The fact that it's held in the same spot for all those years creates a tradition that's unmatched. I do love the Masters for all those reasons and more. It's the emerald jewel in the Major's crown. Period.

Here's why it's the worst golf tournament of the four majors. The field stinks. 94 men will tee it up on Thursday morning. The 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines will field 156. The 2008 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale starts 156. The PGA Championship at Oakland Hills will be about the same. The Players Championship has the largest purse, $9,000,000.00 in 2007. About fifty percent more world class golfers will populate the fields of the other majors.

Out of the 94 players in the Masters field, let's do some searching. Former winners can conceivably play in it for life. Rumor has it that when he retired from playing in the Masters, it was a back room conversation that got Arnie to hang up the spikes. This year we have playing as former champions, Gary Player, Larry Mize, Craig Stadler, Raymond Floyd, Ben Crenshaw, and Fuzzy Zoeller. Does any average golfer think they have a chance? Trip Kuehne and Drew Weaver qualified as amateurs. I think that's a nice tradition as well, but do they have a snowball's chance? Colt Knost passed on his amateur exemption to join the Tour. Think he'd like that call back? Notables not qualified this year.....Carl Pettersson, 61st in the world, Kenny Perry, Camilo Villegas, Rod Pampling, 57th in the world, Lucas Glover, Pat Perez, 60 th in the world, Davis Love III, injury riddled for last year, Colin Montgomerie. Now, would you trade the eight players that are playing with the eight I mentioned that aren't? Thought so.

The Masters is unique. It's the only major that's an invitational field. That and too many other things to mention make it what it is. Watch it for what it is, a beautiful, beloved spectacle. Watch the others to see the best golfers.

Til' next,

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