SocraticGadfly: The Masters: A tradition of bullshit unlike any other

April 11, 2019

The Masters: A tradition of bullshit unlike any other

I'm a fairly ardent fan of golf, and focus in during the four majors.

But, golf is a rich conservative man's sport. Mainly white, with occasional exceptions.

And, the Masters, until relatively recently, was the worst of the four.

Cue up histories of Lee Trevino. Or worse, Lee Elder. Or worse yet, Calvin Peete.

Or look at pictures from 1950s-60s Masters, just unearthed by Golf Digest. The fans (fuck that "patrons" shit) ... well, they might have liked golf, but ... to go one better on the GD cutline on this:

Masters galleries of the 1950s and 60s resembled people who, if not waiting for a Klan rally,
were waiting for the next meeting of the local Concerned Citizens Council.
So, no ... the British and US Opens didn't have galleries like that.

And, for the snootiness of the toonyment otherwise, as you look through those old pics?

Before the mid-60s, at earliest, the course itself looked frayed. Scuffed, Like a cheap small-town Southern motel with beyond-its-wearout-date carpet, to extend the theme.

No. 12 with no azaleas behind it looks almost bleah. But, even worse, look at the holes in the cheap apartment
carpet that's called the fairway.
That's not today's Masters. And, though the pix are black and white, I assume the water had no blue dye in it at that time.

I would divide the Masters into four not-quite-equal quarters.

The first is 1935-62. The first one-third of this, before World War II intervened, was just Cliff Roberts, Bobby Jones and a list of swells and golfers playing around. After the war, it picked up more, but as the picture of No. 12 shows ... it still wasn't The.Masters.™

1963 starts are second quarter. "Fat Jack," as he was known then, won for the first time. 1986, with his last win, is a good transition.

This split into roughly a two-thirds front and a one-third back. Tom Watson's first win in 1977 followed by Gary Player's last in 1978, is the break. Or, go back a couple of years earlier. 1975 is the first Masters I remember and still possibly the greatest ever — with Jack beating Tom Weiskopf and Johnny Miller by a stroke.

From there? We're going to 1997, right?

No. 1987-2005 is my next stretch. It's shorter than the first two, but it breaks just about in half. The first half was the rise of Greg Norman and the greater rise of Nick Faldo, with lesser lights and the last years of Tom Watson part of the scene. The second half covers Tiger Woods' four wins.

And now, we're in the post-Tiger era. The course was Tiger-proofed in multiple installments. And, apparently lefty-enhanced, a sentiment of Hank Haney and other coaches and players.

Mike Weir won his only major in 2003 here. Phil Mickelson took three Masters, starting in 2004. Bubba Watson has won two, and no other majors. That's six victories for lefties in 16 years.

Phil's win at Muirfield in the Open is the only other win by a lefty in a major in the last 20 years. Bob Charles of the 1963 Open is the only other lefty to win a major. But, Weir is golf detritus now, Phil is nearly 40 and Bubba is 40, and no top-notch lefties are on the golf horizon.

The reality of Augusta National is that a tournament with a history of changing invitational standards, resetting pairings between first and second rounds in the past, going with non-traditional send-out order for the final two rounds in the more distant past and similar capricious whims, arguably isn't a major. Or, at least, it certainly wasn't in the first segment of its history and not in the first half of the second segment.

Besides, as Josh Sens notes, a lot of modern traditions and legends are also overrated.

ESPN's Ian O'Connor has the temerity to suggest Augusta not invite amateur women but instead host a pro tournament. Sean Zak explains why that won't happen any time soon.

And, I went beyond Sean on Twitter:
Teh bottom line.

Per that piece from The Independent I reference, Cliff Roberts' toonyment is full of "faked, instant traditions Americans love."

Speaking of fake instant real traditions, probably the best way to divide The Masters is into pre- and post Roberts eras. Roberts, around whom a whole cultus has grown, stepped down as chairman in 1976. That's just about midway in the current timeline, and the tournament started modernizing, in fits and starts.


Ed said...

This piece was written by a racist.

Gadfly said...

Pointing out white bigotry from the past, including old racism at Augusta National, ain't racism, Ed.

Try a smarter comment next time.