Anyone who has ever had the opportunity to go to the Masters will agree that it is one of the most fantastic, beautiful and exciting places for a golf fan to watch a major tournament. The throng of patrons, the colorful outfits on the golfers and the fantastic old-fashioned scoreboards: The whole package is absolutely unbelievable. Having said that, the only thing the that could be more important to share about the 83rd Masters is that it was unlike any other.
With updated weather reports and radar predictions, tournament officials scrambled to adjust for the approaching storms. With so many golfers in the hunt for the green jacket and with Tiger Woods leading field, it was decided that the tournament must not be disrupted. The unprecedented move was decided overnight and the tee times were adjusted. For the first time in years players would tee off in threesomes and on split tees at 1 and 10. Leaders were slated to tee off at 9:30 with national CBS coverage to begin at 9 AM. Oh what a day was in store for all of us.
My usual routine for Sunday at the Masters is simple, arrive after the traffic was already in around 2 o’clock, and head for the first fairway. As the leaders tee off, the throngs would pack the Tee and the green leaving an unobstructed view of their approach shots to the first hole. I’ve seen the tournament actually change hands on that first tee shot. But on this Sunday our schedule changed. With the early tees scheduled, we arrived at the course around 11 o’clock and the leaders were already two or three holes into their round. Everything about this Sunday was different. The field was packed with former major champions with as many as 10 golfers with the chance to win. Five golfers held the lead on the back nine. The majority of the crowd of course was following Tiger Woods. You could hear the roars when he made birdie and even louder when he almost made a hole in one at 16 and tapped in to take the lead. Standing in the crowd of thousands at 16 in the pine straw under the towering pines the roar was deafening when Tiger made that put. It seemed like everybody there was singularly focused on one golfer. It actually was sad because after the birdie, hordes of people raced to the next hole without consideration to the other golfers in the field. The leaderboard was filled major champions and the excitement of that day kept Patrons on Edge until the last hole.
Don’t get me wrong it was a fantastic day and a fantastic win for Tiger and for golf but there were events unfolding that could not be scripted. The lead was in the hands of an Italian golfer named Francesco Molinari. He had never won the Masters but faced down Tiger Woods at the 2018 British Open to claim the Claret jug. The tournament turned around on the par 3 12th hole. Two of the leaders dumped their tee shots in the Rae’s Creek and Tiger hit the green. With a two-stroke swing there the several golfers were tied at the top. Holes 13 and 14 did not move the leaderboard much but then whole 15 came in to play, a Par five downhill over the water to an undulating green. At that point the tournament was tied, and my favorite Francesco Molinari clipped a pinecone and a branch on his approach shot and landed in the water again. With Tiger now in control the events at 16 began to unfold. Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Xander Schauffele gave him a run for the green jacket but came up two shots short.
I remember as a youngster how we rooted for Arnold Palmer. Yes, even over Jack Nicklaus. The four Green Jackets Palmer won at Augusta were celebrated with much enthusiasm by “Arnies Army”. On this day though, Tiger fans were more like “Storm Troopers”.
With so many patrons straining to get a glimpse of their favorite players we often resorted to scoreboard watching. And how entertaining that turned out to be. When an important birdie is made the thunder in that vicinity would tell the story. And then a few minutes later another roar would reflect the scoreboard change in another part of the course. Over the years you tend to learn the value of the Augusta roar. There is a certain decibel range that is reached for an important birdie and sometimes double that for an eagle. And a hole-in-one bellowing lasts several minutes longer.
In unusual fashion Tiger Woods had never won at Augusta while not leading after 54 holes. This year he came from behind to complete one of the most fantastic comebacks in sports history. And I must admit knowing the enormity of the victory I found myself purchasing souvenirs recognizing 2019 as a historic and epic Masters. That day will live in golf history forever right along with Arnie’s Four Green Jackets and Jack’s Masters victory in 1986 at age 46. What a fantastic Sunday at the Masters… Can’t wait till next year!