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The Masters is always worth the wait – Golf Canada SCOREGolf


For Curtis Strange, it is watching the Masters on a 12-inch black-and-white television in the golf shop of the country club his father owned. That’s what comes to mind first when he’s asked to recall when the fabled tournament first captured his imagination.

Not even 10 and hooked on the game, Strange watched his golf heroes battle it out on the billowing fairways of Augusta National.   

“You had no idea, when you’re already in love with the game, and you see something that’s so spectacular,” Strange reminisced recently. “You see Arnold (Palmer) and you see, whenever Jack (Nicklaus) came on the scene, and you’d see (Billy) Casper and the greats of the game, you can’t help but dream about, ‘Gosh, maybe one day I could even meet these guys or play there.’”

He did that for the first time in 1975, invited to the tournament as one of the previous year’s U.S. Amateur semifinalists. He drove down Magnolia Lane in his “yellow, go-to-hell, canary Nova Chevrolet” and wouldn’t you know it, he got paired with Nicklaus in the first two rounds. Strange arrived the Saturday afternoon before the tournament began, missed the cut, and stayed until Sunday night. Witnessed Nicklaus beat Johnny Miller and Tom Weiskopf by one shot in one of the greatest majors ever played.

“I’m going to tell you something that’s the honest-to-God’s truth,” Strange continued. “Jack Nicklaus hit 18 greens that (Thursday). He had 36 putts, and he shot 68. He birdied the third hole with a 20-footer and he three-putted the eighth, so he had 36 putts and he shot 68, and on my drive home to Wake Forest (University) I said, ‘I’ll be damned, I’ve got to study harder because there’s no way I can play that good. I’ve got to take some more serious courses at Wake Forest.’”

Strange did ok for himself, winning two U.S. Opens, but never a Masters in 20 tries.

Some 25 years later a young Corey Conners was inserting his ‘Highlights of the 1997 Masters Tournament’ cassette into the VCR in his Listowel, Ont., home over and over again. Hundreds of times he relived Tiger Woods making history, he said, and then he was glued to the tube when Mike Weir captured the tournament in 2003. Conners was 11 then and filled with nerves watching his fellow Canadian fight to the finish line.

“Every single year from then on, it would be weeks before being really excited about the Masters, and when the Masters was on it also kind of signalled the Canadian golf season had a chance to get started pretty soon so watching that was always exciting for me and something to look forward to,” Conners stated.

I believe the Ryder Cup is golf’s best event given its format and the intensity among competitors playing for country or continent instead of money. But the Masters is unrivalled with it comes to annual anticipation. It’s a four-day tournament with a four-month build-up. As soon as Christmas and New Years are in the rear-view mirror, golf fans are looking down the road to the second week of April.

“It’s weird, as a young kid, something about it on television just looked different and felt different,” said ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt, who worked the tournament for the first time in 1997, the year a 21-year-old Woods walloped the field by 12 shots. “Maybe it was just the reverence my father had for the competitors and what the event was. So that seed was planted before I even really had any participation in the game, and obviously long before I got a chance to do what I do now.”

The Masters logo is instantly recognizable. (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)

It’s the course, of course, that makes the Masters the Masters. It’s true that television doesn’t do the elevation changes at Augusta National justice, but the real genius of the tournament is the familiarity that those who’ve never attended have with it anyway. It doesn’t matter that they can’t truly appreciate how severely the 10th fairway slopes. They know the hole. They know the right-to-left tee shot required. They know the dangers that lurk if a player misses the green long, or left, or right. Same thing for the rest of the back nine. The swirling winds on 12. The scoring opportunities on 13 and 15. That Sunday flag on 16. The colours, the sounds, the CBS song.

And this year, back to normal. No capacity limits on the number of “patrons” attending as there were in 2021. The popular Wednesday par-3 contest returning, which is great news for Mackenzie Hughes, who’s missed it both times he competed previously — last year when it was cancelled due to COVID and in 2017 when a tornado warning wiped it out. Back to what the Masters was like in 2019 and for so many years before that. And you remember what happened in 2019, right? That Woods guy won again. Now he too is on the verge of making a return. Again. 

“There are a few events that sort of galvanize people’s anticipation and sense of, gosh, I can’t wait,” Van Pelt added.

None as much as the Masters.



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