Why We Love the Masters
Every year, everything changes at Augusta–and nothing changes, just as we want
By Michael Bamberger
The Masters has a rhythm all its own. No other tournament has anything like it. It has evolved over the years—there used to be a long-drive contest!—and it will continue to evolve, but this is where it is now.
On the Saturday before Masters Saturday, the final round of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur is played.
On the Sunday before Masters Sunday, the Drive, Chip & Putt finale is played.
On the Monday before the first round, the gates open to the public for the first time, the fans, in their pink-and-green finery, pour in, the merch in the merch tent is scrutinized and the pimento cheese sandwiches get their first reviews of the year. (Most commonly: “For a buck and half, not bad!”)
On Wednesday, the club chairman makes his State of the Masters remarks, and in the afternoon, the par-3 contest is played.
By Thursday, just when you’re about to say you cannot wait any longer, it arrives: the first part of Act I, the players on their playfield, complete with postround examinations of the new (the back tee on 13 this year), with a nod to how it all looks like it has been there forever.
Friday brings the second part and last part of Act I, with some notables paying attention to the leaderboard and others the cutline, as only the top 50, plus ties, qualify for weekend play.
Saturday marks Act II of this exquisite three-act play called the Masters. The stage, a hilly and flowering 18-hole golf course, is set. The protagonists, some of whom you don’t know that well, are identified. There is delight in that surprise.
And then Masters Sunday, one of the holy days of the golfing year, the third and final act for all of us, whether we are watching or playing. Some guys (most years) are playing to win the Low Am title. Some are playing with an eye on a top-12 finish and a guaranteed spot in the next year’s field. And a half-dozen or so are playing to win and secure a place at the center of the green jacket ceremony and at the epicenter of the game itself. Always, always, there are surprises along the way.
It doesn’t get old. In nearly 50 years of watching it, on TV or in person, that’s what I find. I’m guessing, because you have found your way here, that you feel the same. It just does not get old.
That’s amazing, when you think about it. Part of the reason the tournament never grows stale is because of its annual changes. New trees, new tees, new participants (amateur and professional), new controversies, new spectacular shots (for good and for ill), new nice-tries. A new winner, even if he has won before.
You could not pick a better week to play this first major event of the year. The Masters is spring. The Masters is fresh starts. The Masters shows us, every year, how much we need and want tradition in our lives.
Masters week—I know this sounds old-fashioned!—is a week to celebrate the tried-and-true, the values of courtesy and decorum and the spirit of fair play while competing fiercely on a level field. What’s not to like about that?
Late on Sunday, as the last twosome comes up 18, the sun is out and low and the shadows are long. Every single year. At least in our memory.
The winner goes to Butler Cabin. The winner goes to the press building. The winner goes to a dinner in the clubhouse, where he is toasted by the members. One year later, he hosts a dinner of his own. On it goes, and it’s all good.
Michael Bamberger welcomes your comments at [email protected]
Michael Bamberger was briefly a caddie on the PGA and European Tours, invented a golf club (the E-Club) that Lee Trevino used in his final British Open, spent 22 years as a writer at Sports Illustrated and joined the Firepit Collective in May 2022.
email: [email protected]