Welcome back to the No Laying Up mailbag! It’s a special Masters edition, which means we split it into two parts. This is Part 2. If you missed Part 1, you can find it here.
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TheKid33: Which Masters traditions/customs are the most underrated, overrated and properly rated?
A good question that is almost certain to cause some controversy, but let me start out by saying I think the Champion’s Dinner is a little overrated. It’s a little weird to me how much we obsess over a bunch of rich guys having dinner together, anticipating what kind of meal the winner from the previous year might serve. It would be one thing if Scottie Scheffler was actually in the kitchen whipping up Texas ribeyes and blackened redfish. But all he’s really doing is putting together a menu, and the previous champions don’t even have to eat it if they don’t want to. I like the aspect of past champions feeling like they’re still welcome in that room decades after they won, but I’m not sure why those of us who will never be invited treat what’s going to be served like such an important matter. It did, however, inspire one of my first Twitter threads, about Rory McIlroy and carrot cake if you’re so inclined.
Properly rated? I think skipping shots across the pond on 16 during practice rounds – a relatively new tradition – is properly rated. It’s a delight, and every few years when a player makes a hole-in-one like Jon Rahm did in 2020, it only adds to the joy of the tradition. Everyone should try it.
Underrated? The unspoken agreement is that you can set up your folding chair in just about any spot on the course as long as you get there first, but if you aren’t occupying it, it’s communal property. Anyone can sit there. That idea doesn’t really exist in other American sports. If you are at an NBA game and you get up to walk around and someone takes your sets for a few minutes, most fans are going to be annoyed when they return, as if something has been taken from them. There is a gentleman’s agreement at the Masters that this is not the way to behave. The people who violate that agreement and act huffy do not grasp the good elements of southern hospitality that are supposedly part of the tournament’s ethos. Thankfully, they are few and far between.
CKaneb: KVV, If you played in a match from the Master’s Tees in your current state vs 87 year old Gary Player from the Member’s tees do you think you would win the match?
I’m going to be brutally honest and say I think Gary would beat me handily. And it would be humiliating, but I’m fairly certain he’d clean my clock. It’s important to remember that, even though Gary Player is 87 years old and his antics have become comedy fodder for people like me who were not around for his prime, he really is one of the greatest players ever. The fact that it’s impossible to parody the man because some of his takes are so absurd shouldn’t diminish the fact that nothing about a match with me, a 10-handicap, would make him even a little nervous.
When I see how far back the Masters tees are on some holes compared to the Members’ tees, it makes me even more skeptical of my chances in this scenario.
Let’s say Gary hits the ball 200 yards. There are going to be holes where, even if I hit it 270, I’m going to be well behind him. He’s one of the greatest short game and bunker players of all time. On the flip side, there are a couple holes (No. 7 and No. 9 come to mind) where I’d be better off trying to hit my approach into a bunker than trying to hold the green because at least then the ball wouldn’t roll 100 yards away when I missed.
In summary, he’d destroy me. He would whip me even if we flipped tees.
I promise you, however, I would talk massive amounts of shit just to try and make it interesting. I would distract him by telling him Chambers Bay is my favorite U.S. Open course. (A lie, but I could sell it.) I would mention that it’s a shame his son couldn’t join us because of his lifetime ban. I would go down fighting, which I think Gary would respect. But I’d be lucky to shoot 100 from the Masters tees. He’d be sprinting up the hill on No. 8 while I huffed and puffed, and he’d let me know I make Harry Higgs look like Joaquin Neimann.
Waver82: How does (or does it) the no one behind the ropes rule help/hurt how you shape your stories/writing at Augusta?
It definitely forces you to get creative, because you don’t get to hear conversations between caddie and player, and it’s harder to see facial expressions or overheard comments you think will enhance your story. When I’m inside the ropes at a PGA Tour event or a major, there are plenty of times when McIlroy or Max Homa will see me and say hello, and they often seem to appreciate that you’re willing to march along with them to watch their golf and then ask questions about it as opposed to just camping out in the media center. So you don’t have that intimacy at the Masters. But it’s also refreshing in some ways because you get to feel the energy of the crowd more. And you never know who you’re going to end up standing next to. In 2016, Kyle Porter and I were right next to Jordan Spieth’s parents when he hit two balls in the water on No. 12. They didn’t say anything, and we weren’t going to ask them anything, but it looked like they’d seen a ghost. It helped me understand, immediately, how big a moment it was.
Tdulmage: Does Augusta allowing past champions to “compete” well past their prime (Sandy Lyle, Larry Mize, Olazabal etc) lessen the tournament in any way? For a major with a sub 100 person field, having multiple guys in their 60’s struggling to break 80 out there every single year just seems unnecessary for what is supposed to be “the best golf tournament of the year.”
One thing that’s important to remember here is the Masters doesn’t have a set number that it has to hit to fill out its field. Lyle and Mize and Olazabal aren’t taking a spot from someone, they’re merely exercising a lifetime exemption into the tournament that they earned. Personally, I love seeing the old guys grind and try to turn back time. When Larry Mize beats Bryson DeChambeau, despite being 70 yards shorter off the tee, it’s a great reminder that brawn can still be felled by brains in golf. Part of what makes Augusta National a great golf course is it punishes those who try to overpower it unless they also apply strategy. Let’s also not forget that Jack Nicklaus had a legitimate chance to win the tournament in 1998 at age 58, a year after a 21-year-old named Tiger Woods set the Masters scoring record.
Therealmarkymark: You alluded to it on the preview pod but what do you think the Masters will “be” in the next 10-15 years? Seeing them embrace video games with the event this year and letting Dude Perfect film an all sports battle with Bryson last year on 13, what do you think ANGC is trying to accomplish in the coming years?
I think Augusta’s leadership has begun to understand that the warm feelings a lot of people have about their golf tournament aren’t guaranteed to carry over to future generations. The Masters, for a long time, reveled in its insularity. These days, they are trying to look 30-50 years into the future and imagine what their appeal will be to my eventual grandkids, kids who won't have fuzzy memories of Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods to draw upon. The Open Championship has, for a century and a half, been the beacon that every golfer who grew up outside the United States felt drawn to. Its brand has always been global, whereas, for a long time, the Masters attitude and approach to everything they did was regional. (It’s wild to think about the fact that, when Tiger Woods won the Masters in 1997, they were still refusing to let CBS broadcast the front nine.) A lot has changed in the last 10 years. The Masters has lapped the other three majors in terms of its digital innovation, and now you can watch every shot, on every hole, whether you live in Athens, GA or Auckland, New Zealand. Can the Masters maintain its identity, and its soul, as it grows into a global brand? That’s the delicate balance that’s going to be hard to maintain.
Tchap80: If you had to par a single hole at ANGC with your life riding on the line, which hole would you pick?
I think the clear answer would be No. 2. For starters, the fairway is huge as long as you miss the right bunker. I think you have to pick a Par 5 because if you hit a bad drive, you still have a chance to recover with your second shot. Dan Jenkins used to say if you hit left into the woods on No. 2, you were in the Delta Counter because you might as well call Delta to change your flight, you weren’t making the cut. But I rarely hit the ball left so I think I’m good there. I’d have no chance to hit the green in two, but I could imagine skulling a long iron down to a flat spot where I might be able to wedge my way onto the green and two-putt. It’s no sure thing, but it probably gives me my best chance to survive.
I’m fairly certain I could play the 9th hole a dozen times and never once make a par, and the same feels true of the 7th.
MikeRevak: What would you say are some of the oddest details or Truman Show-like aspects of being on the grounds at Augusta? Things that may strike you as innocuous at first but begin to truly become unsettling after repeat visits.
The lack of squirrels on the property. I’m not even kidding. It’s an enormous piece of land, filled with majestic trees, and yet in four Masters trips, I’ve seen exactly one squirrel, and I’m one of the only writers who can attest to seeing one. It was sprinting through the flower beds near the clubhouse, then suddenly it was gone.
Now, do I think they are rounding up squirrels and taking them to a squirrel sanctuary during Masters week? Dear reader, I cannot make that allegation. But wherever the squirrels are, I wish them well. Gary Player knows what it’s like to feel unwelcome here too.
Kevin Van Valkenburg is the Editorial Director of No Laying Up.
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