As the 2013 Masters gets underway Thursday at the Augusta National Golf Club, it is important to remember that it has become a tradition unlike any other.
Initially created to attract a U.S. Open, Augusta National has instead become the image of what we think about golf.
From the certain words used only this week—patrons and second nine come to mind—to the distant sound of a passing train through those tall pines, the Masters is a four-day display of a day and age that we long to remember.
That crafted image is the legacy of Augusta National’s founding fathers, Clifford Roberts and Bobby Jones. By design, they wanted this week to be different.
From the commercials you will see to the almost non-stop action on the course—it all comes as part of the language CBS agrees to each and every year.
After 56 years, even CBS does the Masters on a single-year contract. The one partner that has done more to turn the Masters into the biggest tradition in golf will forever be on probation.
However, in their wildest dreams, Jones and Roberts could not have imagined just how ingrained this golf tournament would become. After three quarters of a century, all the hopes of turning an invite-only championship into an event that captures the attention of the most casual fan has become a reality.
Augusta National is not the toughest test of golf like the U.S. Open it wanted to host. It is not a true world championship like the Open Championship. And, its limited field does not have the deepest fields like the PGA.
Instead, the fact this championship is played at the same place every year on a course that is largely the same since we first saw it in 1956 gives this tournament an aura and mystique unmatched in golf.
When that last group hits the 10th tee as the sun lowers Sunday afternoon, images of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and many others come to mind. Because Augusta National embraced its history from the start and wrapped itself in lore, it has become as important as the action we see.
Like Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May or Pasadena on New Year’s Day, it really does not matter who wins or whether we see a nail-biter or a runaway.
For that stretch of time we all become golf fans and patrons of golf’s grandest theater.
All the signs of spring, the deep green grass, the songs of birds in those skyscraping pines, those azaleas—oh, those azaleas—tell us once again that winter is over and we can enjoy a few months of endless summer like we were kids again.
While some lucky person will slip on an ill-fitting green sports coat Sunday night, since 1934 the biggest winner is Augusta National itself.
We would not have it any other way.