Hard to believe golf is so hard to believe.
Golf is assuredly a mystifying game, wrote none other than Bobby Jones, the man primarily responsible for making the first Masters happen way back in 1934. It would seem that if a person has hit a golf ball correctly a thousand times, he should be able to duplicate the performance at will. But this is certainly not the case.
It would seem that if a person was told that he needed to get excited about the same event at the same venue at the same time every year, he might get a bit jaded. But that is certainly not the case either when it comes to The Masters.
It is the first major championship of the season and the most anticipated. There are American players who will tell you they covet a spot in the U.S. Open more. And there are International players who will tell you they would rather win the Open Championship, a.k.a the British Open, more than any other tournament.
But I have yet to find the player who will tell me there is any competition they would rather receive their invitation to in the mail more than the Masters.
Hard to believe, too, by the way, that The Masters is now being run by Billy Payne who has succeeded Hootie Johnson who succeeded Jack Stephens, who succeeded Hord Hardin who succeeded William Lane who succeeded Clifford Roberts.
Hard to believe Augusta National, the golf club that hosts The Masters has simultaneously and deservedly earned the reputation for being at once obdurately secretive and unfailingly hospitable.
I want you to know we appreciate all you have done for us, Payne says to the media in his Message From The Chairman in the 2007 Masters media guide.
Hard to believe Augusta National wont be playing any longer this year than it did last year. As recently as 1998 the golf course measured out at 6,925 yards. Last year it had stretched to 7,445 yards. No new length for 2007.
In the end, two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw told author John Feinstein, you win The Masters with your short game. But you have to have enough length to get into position to make those shots.
It is not hard to believe that Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh have won six of the last seven Masters. All three are inordinately long off the tee and all three possess exquisite touch around the greens. Nor will it be hard to believe if Swedens Henrik Stenson, also long and deft, plays well this year in his second appearance at Augusta. Stenson already has won two titles this year'Dubai and the WGC-Accenture Match Play'in which the redoubtable Woods was in the field.
Hard to believe Gary Player, who won The Masters in 1961, 1974 and 1978, will be playing in his 50th Masters. There is no tournament in the world, Player said earlier this year, that compares to Augusta as far as running a tournament.
To be sure, there is a precision that complements The Masters charm that would make a Swiss watchmaker blush. Although when they are in the same place every year and they know exactly what theyre capable of, it makes it a bit easier, Player added.
But thats kind of the point, isnt it? Television viewers love The Masters because they know the holes because the venue never changes. Raes Creek, Butler Cabin, Eisenhower Tree, Magnolia Lane, Sarazen Bridge. Its all part of the tradition that oozes from the place and makes sentimentalists out of even the most hardened observers.
Familiarity, by the way, is also why the PGA TOURs Players Championship has been catching up so fast. Its not close to The Masters yet (what event is?). But when you get a terrific golf course, a meaningful tournament and you dont change the site, you will be way ahead of everybody else each year before the first ball is struck.
Finally there is this: Augusta National during Masters week is the only place I know where spectators, arriving for the practice rounds for the first time, are more interested in seeing the golf course than they are in watching the players who might happen to be tuning up at the time.
And if you have ever been to The Masters, you will not find that hard to believe at all.