If I could attend one sporting event in my life it would not be the Super Bowl or the Final Four or Daytona. It would be the Masters.
You know its spring when the Masters rolls around. The azaleas, the dogwoods, redbuds all in bloom. The immaculate green grass. Augusta National is a cathedral, a celebration of rebirth, of new life. I know millions are spent, untold thousands of man-hours are expended to get the grounds to that amazing state of perfection. That’s as it should be. The Masters is homage to spring.
But there’s more to it than that. There is tradition. There is history. There are memories. Nicklaus, Palmer, Player, Floyd, Faldo. And yes Wood. And the magnificent failures. Greg Norman comes most readily to mind but they all, the greats and the near greats, have known the humbling power of the Masters on Sunday afternoon. Augusta National looks ridiculously easy. Some holes are laughably short. The par fives are easily reachable. It used to be that going for it in two was a big decision. With today’s players and equipment just a decent drive means you go for it without question. But just getting to the green doesn’t mean a two putt birdie. And just a slight mishit could still mean a bogie. Witness Jason day on Saturday. They have maintained the integrity of the old girl without having to trick her out. For that I am grateful.
The golf swing is unique in sport. It’s just you and the ball. Other sports are about reaction, reaction to those around you, reaction to the ball coming at you. The serve in tennis is a little like it. Maybe a big league pitcher knows a little about it. The ball sits there waiting for you to make the first move. You stand over it frozen, immobile. The purpose of the waggle is to get loose from that frozen state. Gary Player did that forward press, moving his hands almost imperceptibly toward the target to start his swing. Anything to break loose. Because there are a million ways you can mess up the golf swing and if you freeze up you will make several of them. It takes courage to hit the ball with authority, with complete confidence when you know there is a target the size of a dining room table 230 yards away that is the only place to land if you are going to survive this hole.
Rory McIlroy sank a birdie on seventeen yesterday. Seventeen is not a hole to make birdie on. On the eighteenth tee he had the look of a kid who just realized he was twenty-one and leading the Masters on Saturday afternoon. He got off a decent tee shot and finished with an easy par but he was jabbering to his caddie on the green. Nervous? Probably. Sunday afternoon will be worth watching. I hope he comes out Sunday hitting the ball with courage, with authority, with confidence no matter what score he shoots, no matter who wins.
I know what would happen if I woke up on Sunday morning leading the Masters. I would run to the bathroom and throw up.
Copyright © 2011 by Angus B. Lewis
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