The Masters Tournament in 2013: the true soul of golf never forgets
This story was originally published in The Globe and Mail on Monday, Apr. 15, 2013
The Masters golf tournament in Augusta has always emphasized the august part of its title. Stately. Grand. Majestic. Sublime. Even when its lofty pretensions set it at odds with the modern world, the Masters held to its august image and many people were just fine with that anachronism.
That’s why this weekend’s traveshamockery cuts deeply for those who think tradition can be a fine thing. First, the green suits dragged 14-year-old Tianlang Guan from China as an avatar of the tournament’s commitment to international golf. Only to slap him with a penalty for a time violation, almost causing him to miss the cut.
Time violations are the PGA Tour version of the phantom tag at second base. Choosing this time and the splendid young Guan to make their point made the Masters officials look very peevish indeed.
But you could at least accept the principle. Hard is what makes golf great.
Then the Tiger Woods penalty-stroke debacle threw all that principle in the waste bin. Golf’s No. 1 player clearly violated a rule. Through negligence or worse, Masters officials covered for him. (There was talk that Woods thought he was right, as if that had anything to do with it.)
Then Woods messed up their handiwork by incriminating himself in a TV interview. Leading the Masters boys to amend their narrative yet again.
Some bought the whole contrivance. Others (like CBS analyst Nick Faldo) flip-flopped. Still others, like Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee, saw the loss of something precious in the rush to keep Woods in front of the cameras for the weekend.
Time will tell the impact of all this on Woods and the Masters. The tremendous media clout of Nike and the Masters may make it all go away. Or the public may see it for what it was. Recall, there are some in golf who still talk about Vijay Singh and his improper scoreboard from almost 30 years ago.
The true soul of golf never forgets. That’s something Woods and the Masters folks should remember as they put this on the curb Monday morning.
For all the unloveable first three-and-a-half days, the players and the course bailed out everyone at Augusta National with an ending for the ages. The 77th Masters had a classic anything-you-can-do finish in the rain with Adam Scott and Angel Cabrera matching shots in the gloaming.
The CBS folks almost managed to blow even that bounty on Sunday. Handed a glorious finish with Cabrera and his son on the bag plus Tiger’s ex-caddy Steve Williams guiding Scott, CBS Jim Nantz instead spent the afternoon doing a Brian Williams “what time is it in Australia?” conversational stream with Ian Baker Finch, an Aussie.
There was little attempt to shape the narratives beyond “he’ll be a hero in Argentina/Australia tomorrow.” Or the delicious irony of Woods falling short while his scorned caddy brought home the goods with Scott. Granted, the Masters officials treat controversial story lines like a bad rash. But this was a slam dunk that went begging.
Then, with rain increasing, there was no attempt by CBS to tell us if this was going to be a passing shower or get worse or we’d see Noah float by on the 18th fairway. CBS has weather people don’t they? So where were they as it affected the speed of the greens (as Woods said post-round). Just a little Doppler radar would have been nice.
Finally they topped the Scott triumph with with the predictable “Wizard of Oz” reference that must’ve taken someone about three seconds to come up with. Please.
What is Bob Costas’s problem? Costas went on The Dan Patrick Show to say that, when Nantz wasn’t figuring out the local time in Australia, he should have been apologizing for the checkered racial and sexist history of Augusta National. “What no CBS commentator has ever alluded to, even in passing, even during a rain delay, even when there was time to do so, is Augusta's history of racism and sexism,” Costas opined on the Patrick Show.
Hey, Bob, you forgot CBS apologizing for Reconstruction, the War of 1812 and Japanese internment, too. Yes, Augusta has been slow to warm to the urban agenda favoured by Costas. But at what point does his statute of limitations toll? There are women members and African Americans at Augusta national now. Does CBS have to revisit the dubious history of the club every year, the same way the club invites past champions back for the Par 3 contest?
Costas is still smarting from the shellacking he took after his lecture to America on guns. Maybe when Costas apologizes for NBC doctoring the audio in the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case we’ll take his high-minded scolding of CBS a little more seriously.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy
Bruce's career is unmatched in Canada for its diversity and breadth of experience with successful stints in television, radio and print. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster, he is also the best-selling author of seven books. He was a featured columnist for the Calgary Herald (1998-2009) and the Globe & Mail (2009-2013).