Sunday, OCTOBER 26, 1986, SPORTS
Copyright 1986/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY
Golf’s Most Revered Course Can Be Downright Devilish
AUGUSTA, Ga. — All right, all you tour two-putts, take the A game out of the bag. Put the eight-iron in a vise and see if you can get grooves that will make a ball stop on glass.
This is the Masters, Sonny. This isn’t some amusement park four-ball. This isn’t a romp through the cactus and tumbleweed in Arizona; they have trees here. This isn’t a telephone company pro-am. If there are any “arms” here, they won the U.S. Amateur or the medal on the Walker Cup team. It’s not the Kmart Greater Tuscaloosa Classic or the chocolate company invitational. It’s golf, not pool.
Bring the two-iron. Sleep with your putter. Get some old films of Hogan and Snead. Check your throat because the pressure will get to be about what it is 50 fathoms down in the Mariana Trench. You’ll get the bends just driving into this place.
This is the Vatican of golf. The most magnificent 250 acres in the game. The azaleas, the towering pines, the ponds would move a poet to rhapsody — but if the ball goes in them, don’t expect hymns. Just curses. You can’t one-putt these greens. But you could ski them.
It’s hallowed ground. Hogan won here. So did Snead, Nelson, Sarazen, Palmer. Nicklaus won six times.
The foreigners have all but taken it over with six victories in the last decade.
But don’t expect an upset. “Unknown Wins Open” is a familiar headline. But “Unknown Wins Masters” is as far out as “Republican Captures Massachusetts.” Hackers don’t make it in this field. God wears a green coat. And carries a one-iron. Winning the Masters is almost a religious experience. The winner is the Pope of golf.
A lot of people consider the Masters stuffy. It simply has a reverence for the past. What’s wrong with that? Golf never was meant to be stickball in the street. You wipe your feet and take off your hat when you come to the Masters. You whisper here. No “You the man!” countenanced at the Masters. After all, this was founded by the honorable Bobby Jones, Esq., himself. It’s a cathedral of golf courses. Enemy bombers would spare it in a war.
Outside its lordly magnolias, the surrounding countryside is Tobacco Road. But inside, you can almost smell the incense. It’s not a course, it’s a shrine.
They name the holes after flowers here. No. 1 is the “Tea Olive,” for example. No. 2 is “Pink Dogwood,” No. 3 “Flowering Peach.” And so on.
But if you play it, you may have a different view. It may look more like 7,000 yards of hay fever to you. Walter Hagen told his partners to be sure to smell the flowers along the way. But the Haig made birdies. It’s harder to smell them through the bogeys. They’re just weeds to the guy who hits into them. He doesn’t want to smell them, he wants to pull them.
So, romantic as they sound, I have to think the holes are misnamed. I have to think no golfer cards a 6 and walks off thinking, “Aren’t the azaleas pretty?” I think the holes should be identified with the sounds you hear on these 18 public enemies masquerading as flower girls. For instance,
No. 1 — is not the “Tea Olive.” This is “Oh, God, not over there!”
No. 2 — “Pink Dogwood?” Uh-uh. This is “Anybody see where that went?”
No. 3 — “Oh, hit another one. I was breathing on your backswing.”
No. 4 — “I think that’s out. Got another ball?”
No. 5 — “What’d I do wrong?”
No. 6 — “Fore on the right!”
No. 7 — “I don’t understand. I got there with a four-iron yesterday.”
No. 8 — “What in the world did they put a sand trap there for? I hit that good?”
No. 9 — “How could anybody putt this green? It’s not a golf green, it’s a hockey rink! Next time, hand me a puck. Or let Gretzky make it for me.”
No. 10 — “What do you think the cut’s going to be? Do you think 11 over will make it?”
No. 11 — “What have they got water over there for? What is this, a golf course or a hatchery?”
No. 12 — “Where’s that going? Come down! Bite! Bite!”
No. 13 — “Sarazen made a double-eagle here? Well, let me tell you something: That’s the only way the ball would go in the hole on that green. With a four-wood. You can’t do it with a putter. As he would have found out. If it doesn’t go in, he makes 6.”
No. 14 — “Where are the ‘breather’ holes around here? Even Notre Dame has a patsy now and then. And the 1927 Yankees had a couple of .200 hitters. This is the real Murderers’ Row. Every hole is Babe Ruth.”
No. 15 — “Who designed this hole — Dracula? They should call this hole ‘Silent Screaming.’ What’d they do with the wolves?”
No. 16 — “What is that out there — Lake Erie? Never mind the golf clubs. Get me a canoe and a ukulele. It looks like a U-boat pen. You don’t know whether to swim it or play it. Maybe they thought this was a regatta.”
No. 17 — “They should call this hole ‘Help!’ ‘The Nandina?’ Don’t make me laugh! Hah! ‘The KGB’ would be more like it. It’s ruined more careers than Stalin. At night, you can hear the ghosts of guys moaning, ‘I was sure it broke left.’ Johnny Miller had its number. ‘You hit three perfect shots — and you still have a 25-foot putt left.’”
No. 18 — “The only good thing about this hole is, it’s the last. You can go home and cut your wrists. You play it with a driver, an eight-iron — and a priest. You get a green straitjacket if you get above the hole. Which you will.”
And when someone comes up and burbles, “the Masters is beautiful this time of year!” the golfer can look him (or her) straight in the eye and say “Yeah? So is Devil’s Island.”
Reprinted with the permission of the Los Angeles Times
Jim Murray Memorial Foundation P.O. Box 661532, Arcadia, CA 91066