Saturday, April 09, 2005

The Past Masters

The US Masters is a great sporting event. Even if you don't like golf, it can be extremely exciting and build tension up over a long time. The reason for this is that the course at Augusta National is perfect for championship golf of high quality - if you play well, you can get birdies on just about every hole, but if you play badly you will drop shots. A good run at a good time can really swing the momentum your way when previously success had seemed unlikely.

The problem, however, is that the invitational system - whilst a unique and traditional feature that lends the Masters some of its aura - keeps inviting back past Masters champions as long as they are still alive. Thus the field gets clogged up with players like Billy Casper and Gary Player, who were great in their prime, but now can do nothing but shoot scores 20 shots higher than the rest of the field. It is actually an insult to the professionals denied invitations, but who could actually compete for the green jacket, to have geriatrics who add nothing to the game playing.

My solution for this is simple - invite, every year, old champions to choose between playing in the full competition and a special 18-hole competition called the "Past Masters". It can be held the Wednesday before the competition proper starts, and the tee distances can be shortened, with easier pin positions on the green. Everyone would think it was wonderful to see the old pros competing against each other, and it would allow more genuine competitors into the main competition. Create a new tradition, and we can strengthen the old one.