The best thing about the Masters

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The tradition, the beauty, the course, the competition, the sounds – there are many reasons to love the Masters Tournament. Rex Hoggard and Randall Mell weigh in with their respective favorite thing about the men's first major of the season.

By REX HOGGARD

AUGUSTA, Ga. – One by one, the assembled Golf Channel crew answered the $1 million question: What is the best part of Masters week? From the Par 3 Contest to Magnolia Lane, the answers were varied and all uniquely valid.

But when you strip away all the ceremony and history, what makes the season’s first major special is the golf course, and specifically the inward loop that has decided so many Sundays.

Twenty-five years ago this week Jack Nicklaus penned the ultimate Sunday charge, a 6-under 30 that featured just two pars, an eagle and a particularly clutch birdie putt at the 17th hole.

Even Nicklaus still marvels at the twisting 12-footer that defied gravity and conventional wisdom. “I have gone back and putted that putt a hundred times since. I don't think I've ever found the exact spot or the place it was before, but it's never broken left again,” he said.

The history of the Masters has been etched across the closing nine – which, ironically, was the front nine in 1934 when Horton Smith won the first “invitational.” There is no shortage of reasons to savor Masters week, but they all begin, and end, on the back nine.

By RANDALL MELL

AUGUSTA, Ga. – It’s the sounds late on a Sunday. It’s how the Masters offers up the greatest symphonies in golf.

It’s the soul-stirring roars and groans in an arrangement that would move Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It’s all the sweet music rising up out of Amen Corner with the leaders playing the back nine of the final round. It’s all those patrons making like the Augusta National Philharmonic.

The U.S. Open is a terrific struggle, but it’s chamber music compared to the Masters. It’s mostly a parade of pars played to a smattering of applause. The Masters is eagles, birdies and double bogeys played to crashing cymbals and banging drum beats.

The way Amen Corner sits down in a valley, the way all those towering pines hold noise, there are no acoustics quite like it in golf.

When Augusta National’s set up best for a Sunday concert, with the flagsticks in bowls at the 13th and 16th, and accessible at the 15th, with the spirits of risk and reward warring mischievously through that whole back nine, the Masters is an experience as close to the arts as sports.

Can't wait for the music again this week, but curious who will be conducting come late Sunday afternoon.