News & Opinion

‘Masters Rewind’ gives golf fans what they want

Coronavirus pandemic closes gates of Augusta National Golf Club during 2nd week in April, but memories flow as networks remind us why Masters matters

It was supposed to be Sunday at the Masters. And that has to sink in for a minute. A world with no Masters on the second weekend in April would have been impossible to get your head around a year ago.

Now, it’s a reality, thanks to the mind-bending, brave new world in which we live for the foreseeable future – and perhaps beyond. Even so, we still need the Masters, maybe now more than ever. When you’re on the grounds of Augusta National or at home in the den in front of your television, the explosion of color and the grandness of the place almost takes your breath.

The Masters
Augusta National will push its colorful annual rite of spring into the fall this year, extending Tiger Woods' reign as defending champion by 7 months, if not the blooms on the azaleas. But, the coronavirus pandemic didn’t keep 3 of the major TV networks from giving viewers what they have come to expect during the 2nd week of April: Masters coverage, and plenty of it, even if none of it was live.

We consume the Masters, take it all in with each of our senses. And we can’t seem to get enough. There is no such thing as too much Masters.

So, ESPN, Golf Channel and CBS did their best to feed us last week, with the weekend christened as “Masters Rewind.” The Masters Twitter account began Sunday morning with “A Masters Sunday. Good morning and greetings from Augusta National Golf Club. #MastersRewind.”

Watching Masters highlights and reruns is kind of like sitting in a Zoom meeting. You can see the people Brady Bunch-like on your computer screen, but it’s tough to form a connection that makes any kind of sense.

But when it’s all you have, which we’ve found out about so many things during this coronavirus crisis, you’re grateful for what you’ve got. So, we watch.

We saw highlights of the 1990 Masters, in which Nick Faldo beat Raymond Floyd in a playoff. It’s easy to forget how much Floyd wanted to beat his opponents’ brains out or how methodical or even robotic Faldo was. John Huston, who finished third in his first Masters, was another nearly forgotten blast from the past.

Back then, Huston was a frequent practice-round gambling partner of Phil Mickelson’s. “Johnny Ray Huston can make some birdies,” Mickelson would say.

On Saturday, CBS broadcast the final round of the 2004 Masters, which was Mickelson’s first major championship.

“I just saw myself look like an idiot on the 18th green,” he said in his press conference of his 4-inch vertical leap after making the winning putt.

CBS’s Jim Nantz was at his home in Pebble Beach, and Mickelson was home down the coast in Rancho Santa Fe, making the California connection virtually during the re-broadcast. Mickelson, who would be one of the game’s best broadcasters if he were to choose to go in that direction, was fun and insightful with his recollections of the round.

However, someone should have put a couple of boxes of golf balls under Mickelson’s computer terminal to raise it so he wouldn’t have been looking up at the screen the whole time, making the logo on his hat not visible, which was the point of wearing the hat in the first place.

The 1986 Masters is always a staple, come highlights time. Quite a number of people believe it’s the best Masters ever as Jack Nicklaus won his sixth green jacket at age 46. Somehow, golf fans never get tired of watching Nicklaus level the back nine at Augusta National on that Sunday afternoon, shooting an incredible 6-under 30. There is always Verne Lundquist’s iconic call of, “Yes, sir!” after Nicklaus holed a birdie putt on the 17th hole for sole possession of the lead.

But we forget that about a half hour earlier, Nicklaus made eagle on the 15th and Ben Wright was the first to exclaim, “Yes, sir! There’s life in the old bear yet!” Wright never got the proper credit for that, among other things.

We rarely see highlights of the 1975 Masters, which could have been the most thrilling ever, with Nicklaus tussling with Tom Weiskopf and Johnny Miller down to the final climactic hole.

The weekend ended with the re-broadcast of last year’s Masters, complete with Tiger Woods from his home in Jupiter, Fla. Nantz began by ham-handedly asking Woods how difficult it was for him and his family during this crisis.

Really? There are smaller hotels than the Woods estate, and he doesn’t have to worry about whether he has enough milk or toilet paper – or anything else, for that matter.

As a commentator, Woods makes me long for Bobby Clampett. He sat there with his arms folded, taking this – and himself – way too seriously. A smile, Tiger. Just one.

It matters not that we know how each of these Masters turns out as we’re watching the highlights or the re-broadcast. We still need the connection, however artificial it might seem. And we need it especially now.

If the Masters is indeed conducted during the second weekend in November, we’ll love it, maybe not as much as if had been played last week. But when it commences, we should be able to know that once again, the world is right where it should be.

Sign up to receive the Morning Read newsletter, along with Where To Golf Next and The Equipment Insider.