These are some of the words that may come to mind when you think about the Masters, the premier tournament in all of professional men’s golf.
But, while those words will always be associated with this favorite event of players on the PGA Tour, you might want to throw some new ones in to describe this year’s Masters.
Excitement, for example.
Yes, golf has officially become an exciting sport to watch. And the 2002 Masters, which began yesterday and continues through this Sunday, is going to be one to remember.
This is not your father’s Masters. This is the Masters of a younger generation.
Sure, older people will still be able to appreciate it. All of the grandparents in the senior citizen’s homes down in Florida will huddle around the big screen television to catch a glimpse of Greg Norman and Arnold Palmer. But this year millions of younger viewers will also be tuning in to the Masters on television and many will be at Augusta National in person to see the likes of Tiger Woods, David Duvall, and John Daly play.
The tournament, which was once exclusively associated with a kind refinement and ceremonial self-importance that may have alienated younger Americans, is now “cool” to watch.
Why? Well, because there is a whole new crop of very young and very talented players in the sport who have proven incredibly marketable for the Professional Golf Association, and because so much is at stake for all of them in this year’s tournament.
Take Tiger. Everyone knows what he has done for golf. He has shattered the myth that the sport is a stuffy country club activity for good ol’ boys. And he has done it with grace. There is no 12-year-old kid in America who does not respect and even admire him for his tremendous winning ability and the modesty he shows when he wins.
But besides being a hero and a representative of the diversity within the sport, Tiger Woods is a treat to watch. The guy in the trademark red shirt, and, more recently, with the trademark red hair, gets into his game. After sinking a big putt for birdie or eagle, he riles up the crowd with a swooping pumping motion that you can’t help but love. He is spirited about golf, and he is not afraid to show it.
As the defending Masters champion, Tiger Woods is looking to reclaim the trophy that he won last year by finishing 16 strokes under par for, by the way, the fourth lowest score in the tournament’s 68-year history. He has not been playing as well this year as he did last, placing 14th at the Players’ Championship a couple of weeks ago, but that does not mean that he is out of the running this weekend. He is still very much the man to beat.
Also livening up the Masters is David Duvall. Duvall, the guy who has a penchant for wearing suave black Oakley sunglasses on the course, is not your average old fart. Like Tiger, he is young and hip, and he brings a whole new dynamic to the sport and to the Masters.
And in a sport not known for being bad-ass, John Daly may be the first of a new breed and is guaranteed to attract some new viewers to this year’s Masters. Though he now claims to be sober and to live a healthy, substance-free life, for a while he was a smoking and boozing party animal whose private life is as storied as his professional one. Now that he has kicked his addictions and recommitted himself completely to golf, he should be considered a contender for the Masters. After a few top 10 finishes at Augusta in the last 10 years, Daly has demonstrated that he is one of the best out there.
Not only have younger and more exciting players made the Masters more exciting to watch, but new changes to the tournament itself have made it more interesting. This year, the officials at August National decided to lengthen nine of the 18 holes as a way of making things a little less comfortable for the players. The course is, without a doubt, harder to play after the recent renovation work than it was before, and there are likely to be some surprises that will frustrate even the best of the players in the field.
So, gather your buddies around this weekend, order a keg, and sit down to watch the three remaining days of the Masters. Who says golf isn’t exciting to watch?