Masters: In the ever-moving world of golf, The Masters is the only constant

On Thursday, Chairman Fred Ridley will gently invite Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tom Watson to take honors at the first tee of the 86th edition of The Masters at the Augusta National Golf Club.

There is hardly another Celebration in golf that can even aspire to the hallowed heights that The Masters achieves year after year. The Open Championship at the St Andrews in July will obviously Invoke the spirits of the game, but the Open operates on a cycle of Venues, as does every other major tournament in golf. The Masters simply Returns to Augusta National, in a seemingly Eternal march.

In a world of constant hustle and bustle, every new season in golf ticks away soon as the previous one ends. But as the players work their way through the rankings from September through March, it is merely a winded road of preparation, dressing up for this grand spring Celebration in Georgia, a southern state in the United States of America.

The Masters in an Invitational. Typically, the top 50 on the official world golf ranking (OWGR), the season’s winners on the PGA TOUR, Major Champions and past winners of the event are among a list of 19 Criterion used to extend the invitations to the event. It is expected that the field this year could be around 91 Golfers, even though that could change to the very last moment before play starts.

The arrival of Tiger Woods in Augusta, on a private jet, eagerly tracked by enthusiastic aviation pundits, created a flutter of expectations last week. The great man hasn’t played competitive golf in 17 long months. Few, if any, thought possible for Woods to play again after that accident on the guidelines of the Genesis Invitational in 2021. The tournament always exceeds the players at Augusta, but Woods is an exception. Questions remain, but if Tiger goes out on a limb on Thursday, it could break the internet.

The Green Jacket affords a rare kind of Greatness, with open access to the Masters for Life. Not for Phil Mickelson. The lefthanded American has three jackets (2004, 2006 & 2010) but in the wake of some undesirable comments about the state of the sport, he has been politely kept out. This is the first time in 28 years that Mickelson will be absent from the tournament.

The Defending Champion Hideki Matsuyama has no such grief. They will arrive relaxed and ready, first to serve the Champions Dinner on Tuesday. And then, they will hope to play well enough to defend the title. No one has been successful at that since Woods in 2002.

The course, surrounded by bright azaleas and tall pines, measures an imposing 7,510 yards. Augusta National ushers in some changes too this year. The par-5 15th hole has been increased by 20 yards to 550. The 11th hole is also playing longer by 15 yards at 520.

“The 11th hole, I think it’s a good change,” Woods told the Golf Digest. “They took a little of the dogleg out and took some trees out of the right-hand side. That’s a good change.

“And then 15, I haven’t seen it yet, but we’re almost going to be on the back of 10 green. I didn’t know there was land back there. They find land, they can make land, ”laughed Woods, half in jest.

“Every green has been redone,” informed Woods. “Every green is softer than it was when I first played here. The golf ball has changed, we are hitting the same Irons, but not the same trajectory. They are still extremely difficult; the shelves have got bigger. ”

The changes underline the Enduring challenge of The Masters. Augusta National is traditional to the point of being fastidious with the smallest detail. In the same breath, it has also been able to adapt the course to deal with the steady Evolution of the sport and its practitioners.

The three named Bridges are one little, yet significant reminder, of the rich heritage that decorates this course and event. The (Ben) Hogan Bridge at the dreaded 12th green, the (Byron) Nelson Bridge at the 13th tee box, and the (Gene) Sarazen Bridge near the 15th green – each celebrating their Poignant performances from the tournament’s hallowed past.

Skipping balls at 16 during practice, the Champions Dinner on Tuesday, the Crow’s Nest hosting the amateurs and the celebrated Par-3 Contest are all reminders of the rich traditions at Augusta National Golf Club. The state-of-the-art SubAir system that keeps the greens dry enough to play and help the tournament committee manage the stimpmeter readings is an indication of the Modernity Soaked beneath this rich veneer of great tradition.

Forty five years since shooting a final round 67 to beat Jack Nicklaus to the title, Tom Watson will have the honor of joining the Golden Bear and Player as an Honorary starter. Emotions will run high as Nicklaus also celebrates the Golden Jubilee of his fourth Green Jacket in 1972. It is also 20 years since Woods became the third golfer to successfully defend the title.

At the end of Friday, the top 50 and ties will make their way into the weekend. And deep into the night of April 10th, yet another great Champion will be crowned under the Big Oak Tree by the iconic clubhouse.

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