Masters Sunday is iconic at my house. It’s the sleepy music that reminds me of lazy Sunday drives through the back roads. The limited commercials. The docile coverage that echoes to a simpler time in our world. The pine straw. The azaleas. Every hole is named, yet I know them by their slopes and whether they can yield birdies that will kick off a Sunday charge that will ignite galleries from Augusta to snowy Charlottetown. Every tee box, bridge and bunker has its own lore that is tied to the history of the tournament. That is where Tiger Woods chipped in. That is where Bubba hooked it out of the woods. What I love most about Augusta is that the past is ever-present and they celebrate it with old traditions like the Champions dinner, caddies wearing white jumpers, and how newly-minted champions, from that point forward until they’re old men, will always be welcome to play in the Masters.
Nothing is forgotten at Augusta, especially its past champions, but also its victims. Those people who, on greens as slippery as glass, on Everest-like slopes, are humbled on a huge stage. Where a lapse in judgement, one poor swing, is forever captured in a two-minute clip of one of the worst moments of their life.
The Masters is my Superbowl. My dad comes over and I cook a large meal, celebrating the day with lazy calm. I’m sure if I ever got a ticket to Augusta I would go, but I do love watching it at home, my kids climbing over me, roaring at me as if we are gathered there to celebrate them. Next year, maybe I’ll make pimento cheese sandwiches and follow that up with a Georgia peach cobbler. This year, with kids in mind, I settled for spaghetti and meatballs and chocolate zucchini cake. Rich comfort food.
When watching the Masters, I’m there as much for the stories of those people vying for the title as I am the golf. Danny Willet just had his first baby last week. Dustin Johnson is trying to forget Chambers Bay and how a 3 putt from 15 feet cost him a major championship. Jason Day is fighting vertigo and a bad back.
A Masters without drama is a like a Superbowl without a tackle. That is why on Sunday, when nobody seemed to be making a charge to catch Jordan Spieth, I began hoping he would falter. An errant tee shot, a double bogey. Something to show the field that he was human, to give them hope, because he was making the game look too easy, like Augusta was any other course.
Spieth ran off four birdies in a row to finish the front nine. I jeered.
Spieth bogeyed 10. I cheered.
Spieth bogeyed 11. I cheered.
Spieth quadruple bogeyed 12 and I watched with my heart my throat. I didn’t cheer. I couldn’t. Honestly, I felt sick, like I wanted to turn off the TV and forget the side of myself that was rooting against a 22 year old man who had just proved, in his third Masters appearance, that he was very human.
The truth is, Spieth seems like an all-around great guy who has handled his success with maturity and respect for the game. He’s fiery inside himself and shows flashes of competitiveness with his trademark stifled fist pumps. He does mutter to himself, but that is his outlet, his way of releasing tension so that he is loose for his next shot. He never quits. And I do love how he interacts with his caddie, like they’re a true team. Together in a lonely game.
Why I love fiction, and storytelling, is that it attempts to find truth in the hard moments. To make sense of our suffering and successes, to give them context.
My takeaway: we all suffer, some of us more publicly than others. So what really matters is that we suffer with as much grace as we can manage. Jordan Spieth, with watery eyes, met Danny Willet, the masters champion, in Butler Cabin. As per tradition, Jordan presented him with a green jacket that will forever change his life, opening doors for him, cementing his legacy as a champion. In that moment, I saw something in Jordan Spieth I’ve never seen. I saw the grace of a champion, a young man mature beyond his years, and I’m a tiny bit sad it took a devastating loss for me to see it.