I know we’ve already written an awful lot about the Masters. I offered a short take of appreciation, and Blaze Fyre provided a wonderful and comprehensive set of predictions. But I want to take one more opportunity to write about Sunday at Augusta.
Sundays in General
Sundays themselves are a little odd, right? They’re the exact opposite of Friday. Fridays mean you work all day, but then at night you can let loose a little bit because you know you can sleep in and shirk some responsibilities on Saturday. Sunday, on the other hand, invites you to let loose a little bit during the day, but then at night you have to be conscious of the fact that you have to get back to the grind on Monday. Some people even get what has been called the “Sunday Scaries,” which are pangs of anxiety that accompany impending responsibility.
Personally, I don’t get that anxiety until right around bedtime on Sunday. Luckily, by then, most of the day has passed, so I get to sleep through most of it.
Golf in General
Golf is a lot like a Sunday in some ways. It can be relaxing. It can offer an opportunity to congregate with likeminded people. It sometimes imbibes the player with the calm nature of manicured fairways, bright sunshine, and a 3-knot breeze coming from behind. And perhaps most aptly, it can be nerve wracking and become much more stressful as the day goes on.
Sundays at Augusta
Of course, all of that calming stuff applies mainly to mere mortals like myself: people who typically shoot in the mid-90s, occasionally give into the temptation to fling a pitching wedge in disgust, and take breakfast balls on the first tee box. For the pros, I’m sure it’s different. It’s their job, it’s how they make money, and it’s something that they have to love with an almost marital passion and promise to stay together through good times and bad, through sickness and in health.
Now, I would imagine that any professional golf tournament includes some high stakes and tension on Sunday. After all, by now the players are 54 holes into a 72-hole tournament. They’re likely tired. They know what kind of money is at stake (at the Masters this year the winner gets $2.07 million and the guy in second gets $1.24 million). And they can sense triumph and humiliation equally as they flicker in and out of the auras surrounding other players. I can’t imagine that that is a particularly good feeling, really. Feeling someone radiating soothsaying waves of an impending implosion; feeling someone else radiating the sense of inevitable conquest that indicates a string of birdies coming.
And the television audience can feel that, too. The Masters is one of the four major golf tournaments played each year, along with the U.S. Open, the PGA Championship, and the Open Championship, commonly called the British Open. But the Masters is a bit quirky. It’s not controlled by the PGA. It’s played at the same course every year. There has been controversy surrounding the club (Augusta National) over issues of race and gender equality for years. The winner gets a green jacket. Some old legends open the tournament with ceremonial tee shots. There’s a sort of prestige and vaguely antebellum allure to it. No, not in a strictly racist pre-Civil War way. More in the way of someone in the early twentieth century reflecting on the still standing plantation homes with drives lined with old trees; something William Faulkner or Tennessee Williams would have written about.
And what does that do? It culminates in the sort of subtle excitement that only golf can generate. Only golf can make silences so loud. Only golf can include such a lack of outward emotion from its winner for 71 holes, only to result in raw emotional outburst that is almost embarrassing to watch as that last putt goes into the 72nd hole. And only golf can provide that level of excitement while still adhering to golf norms. For instance, there is no such thing as storming the course as crazed fans storm basketball courts and football fields. There’s a respectful raucousness when someone wins a huge tournament, and no tournament is bigger than the Masters.
So maybe people like me enjoy golf (and particularly the Masters, and particularly Sunday at Augusta) because it allows them to stave off the Sunday Scaries for a bit. We can project our anxiety onto giants of the game whom we’ve never met. We can let Tiger or Phil or DJ or Sergio or Bubba unknowingly lighten our anxiety load. We can watch someone’s dreams come true in a way that so few people have the privilege of experiencing. And we as adults can mentally revert to that kid who had fantasies of watching a Titleist scream past the Georgia pines for just a moment.
For those few moments, we’re no different than children who watch movies then play with their friends, adopting the roles of policemen or cowboys or spies or soldiers, or whoever the hero of that movie was. We can all try our best to imagine (though how futile it is to try and fully grasp!) what it is like to stand on the 18th green at Augusta National Golf Club and feel the fading rays of sun hit our faces as weeks and years of preparation results in tangible proof that for at least a moment, you are in contention for the title of happiest man on Earth. And then we’ll wake up tomorrow and go to work at distinctly non-golf related jobs. But at least we’re one day closer to the next Masters.