It’s here. Well, it’s almost here. The 81st Masters is on deck, and I am ready. This is the second event I’m covering in person and eighth overall. I’m no Dan Jenkins (he’s been to 67 in a row), but I’ve collected a few favorites about this place and this tournament over the years (because who hasn’t?).
Without further ado, here are 18 things I love about the Masters and Augusta National.
1. Everybody has a favorite spot: Ask any long-timer and he or she will have a preferred nook on the course. It could be anywhere, but those spots where folks have been coming for years and know all the people around them who have also been coming for years. It is a neighborhood of sorts. It makes a massive event feel intimate.
2. The press building: Let’s talk about it. I’m not sure how much I’m supposed to talk about it, but my goodness. Thinkwith all the pimiento cheese (and much more) you can possibly eat.
3. The merchandise tent: You can put a logo on anything. But you can’t put an iconic logo on everything as well as the Masters does. Just make sure you put a ceiling on your checking account or things can go south in a hurry.
4. The size of the event: Rarely can a golf event overshadow its top stars. Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Co. make pretty much every tournament what it is. If they show up, even the Singapore Open can be a big deal. This is one of the few (maybe the only one) that’s different.
5. The pimiento cheese sandwich: Like white belts and Bradley Beal, the pimiento cheese has become so overrated that it is now somehow underrated. I’m a pimiento cheese apologist. It’s not the greatest thing in the world, but it is unique and a delight. Just don’t have more than one a day.
6. The tee times and field size: I am a small field fiend, so I obviously love this tournament, which tries to keep its capacity in the double digits. This allows them to put everybody off from the first tee every day, and that makes for a better overall experience for everyone.
7. The unique test: Augusta National is such a unique course in that it is eternally inviting with little trouble to get in off the tee, but you can still make double bogey on every hole because of poor choices, bad distance or mis-hit shots. It gives and takes away, and it often does a lot of both in the same round. That makes for a thrilling, compelling 72-hole event.
8. The par 5s: I love how gettable they are. I love how they can flip the tournament. I love thinking about Dustin Johnson stalking the hill on No. 15 on Sunday seeking a 46 long jacket.
9. The 16th hole on Sunday: It is a cauldron. It is your last best chance to knock one more off the score. And credit to the good folks who set up the course for putting that pin in the most exciting place possible for the final 18 holes. It is not always where the tournament is decided (just ask Jordan Spieth), but it is often where it is calcified.
10. Phil Mickelson’s pressers: It is Mickelson’s annual opportunity to give a State of the Lefty. He rarely disappoints.
11. The extra awards: I love that the event recognizes low amateur, low round, any eagle, double eagle or ace and the runner up with crystal bowls and trophies. Golf has become too much about who wins week in and week out, and I like that Augusta National goes against that.
12. The wonder: Professional golfers tire of the grind. They travel all over the world, which sounds great until you do it every week. They make a lot of money, but not all of them are rich. In fact, most of them are not. And the lifestyle gets tiresome. It wears you down. But this is the one place that melts them into children again. It’s a joy to watch.
Want to treat your buddies to a round of golf? Enter now to win a dream day at your favorite course care of CBS Sports and GolfBook!
13. The smell: I’ve got an idea for you, Yankee Candle. Figure out how to meld and bottle pine straw, beer and north Georgia grass. You’ll make billions.
14. The familiarity: Most golf fans can barely describe the closing three holes at any regular PGA Tour course, but they can tell you about every yard of every hole on the second nine at Augusta National. Familiarity might breed contempt, but here it does the opposite. We are all naturally drawn to that with which we’re most comfortable and familiar, and the closing holes at the Masters are like an old friend.
15. The Champions Dinner: If only for the outstanding (both intentional and unintentional) photo that always emerges.
16. Jordan Spieth’s record: We are somehow (still) underrating what he’s accomplished here.
Spieth's position after every round at Augusta: T12, T3, T1, T2, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, T2.— Eric Buenning (@ericbuenning) April 3, 2017
17. Thursday morning: The usually-crisp Thursday morning is almost always sliced open by the sun and the sound of the ceremonial tee shots. This year’s version will be a bit somber with Arnold Palmer’s absence, but the aura that hangs from the loblollys lingers on into the weekend. There is little (if anything) like it.
18. Sunday afternoon: There is nothing like it in sports. The Ryder Cup is golf’s best event, but nothing is comparable to how compressed the intensity is on Sunday in the middle of the heat. For two hours, if and when the stars align, it is the greatest, loudest and most fun viewing experience in golf.