US Masters week brings with it the hope of seeing the first Australian to wear the green jacket and the lure of the lush, sweet fairways of Augusta National.
The whole tournament is coated in a thick layer of honey that is sweeter than a Fred Couples eight iron. Each year I switch on for the first few days and immerse myself in the surrounds of Augusta National only to feel frustration a few hours later as the staid, superficiality sets in.
The coverage is controlled by the Augusta officials who preside over the female-free, conservative, ye-oldie golf world. No one dare say anything wrong as Sergio Garcia found out last year. He hinted he didn’t love coming and playing the hallowed grounds. Sergio is known for saying dumb things right after a bad round but this was akin to sacrilege.
Even the galleries are on their best behaviour at Augusta National. No one will call Phil Mickleson his nickname around these fairways, nor will anyone mention anything about Tiger’s disappearance from the game. Indeed I assume a few Augusta members may be so far removed from the 21st century that a few will assume his indiscretions refer to a few fluffed chip shots during practice.
If you’re up for a drinking game early each morning, have a beer each time you see a member of the gallery wearing khaki shorts, a shot for three or more khaki shorts standing in a row and a double shot each time Jim Nantz says something that reeks of too much sentimentality.
Augusta National has so much control over the coverage that commentators have been sacked over the years for referring to the greens as “bikini waxed” or describing the galleries as a “mob” rather than patrons. No doubt they’re keen to preserve the word “mob” at risk of offending a group of kangaroos.
It is the commentary and coverage each year that sticks a fly in the honey. While we all get a lesson in floriculture and the personal trials professional golfers, anyone more than four shots back are playing shots in front of the khaki short brigade only.
In 2007, Justin Rose made a flying run at the green jacket with some great birdies on the back nine. His approach to 17 was the first we’d seen of him for a few hours and I wondered if he would be made to replay his shots for the highlights DVD if he had ended up winning.
Channel 9 and 10 have done nothing to help matters over the years. Ian Chappell used to re-introduce us to the tournament after each ad break with the charisma of a lob wedge.
Where is HG & Roy when we need them? To have the option of applying the “mute” button and tuning the radio into a commentary with an ounce of fun and intelligence would be nice. To watch the sugar coated golf without getting our fingers sticky would almost make the Australian heartbreak much more palatable.