The Masters officially begins Thursday in Augusta, Georgia, but the reasons why we love it have already begun to unfold at Augusta National Golf Club. After a practice round that was rained out Monday, The Masters is expecting perfect weather the rest of the week. Let the tradition begin.
Or traditions. There are so many of them. From the par three contest that is held the day before the event every year to the Green Jacket awarded to the winner after each tournament, The Masters offers more tradition than any other golf tournament or perhaps sporting event in the world.
It all begins in the Champions Locker Room where only previous winners of the The Masters are allowed in unless invited by a former champion. A locker room so cozy that the previous champions all share a locker. For instance, for the first time since 1998, a locker will not be used at Augusta National Golf club. That locker belongs to Tiger Woods and 1956 Masters Champion Jackie Burke. Woods is out of the tournament this year due to injury and Burke, at the age of 91 will not be attending this either. The locker does not then get used by other players this year. It is still reserved for Woods and Burke but will not be used for the 2014 Masters.
The nine-hole par three tournament on Wednesday will be the most fun of event of all and certainly the most laid back, which lays in stark contrast the to the stuffy reputation of The Masters and Augusta National Golf club. Players and their family members walk the course and often participate and caddy. The event began in 1960 when Sam Snead won the first par three title and has continued to this day. His second win came in 1974 at the age of 62. Whatever player that wins the event this year will be trying to make history as no winner of the par-three event has ever gone on to win The Masters. Augusta’s par three event will also be played by former Masters’ champions and legends, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus and they traditionally all play together
The Big Three as they have come to be known at Augusta will also be the focal point of the sports world Thursday morning when they kick off the tournament with the ceremonial first tee-shots of the tournament. Each player will tee off from the first hole to start the tournament. The tradition dates back to 1963 and the current group of Palmer, Player and Nicklaus have won the most majors, 34, and the most green jackets, 13, of any group to ever tee it up to start The Masters.
Ah yes, the green jacket. Winning one is one of sports’ most coveted accomplishments and one of the most unique as the winner receives his new green jacket from the previous winner as he helps him in to it in front of the members of Augusta. That exchange is annually one of the highlights of the weekend.
Perhaps the most binding tradition though is the golf course itself. The Masters is held at Augusta National Golf Club every year which provides familiarity and comfort for fans watching their televisions at home. Other major tournaments change venues every year and some have gained a notoriety for a hole or two on the course. The Masters is different. Much like watching a baseball game at Fenway Park or a football game at Lambeau Field part of the broadcast is the venue itself. Fans recognize Amen Corner and both par fives on the back nine. They recognize what they are looking at without ever having seen the course in person.
As hokey as it may sound and viewers are sure to hear it constantly this weekend on CBS, The Masters really does offer a tradition unlike any other. It is both unique and familiar at the same time and much of the reason golf fans love it so much.
Commentary by Mick Varner