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In this edition, we take a break from basketball and join up with Nick Ciattei of Mid Atlantic Golf Getaways and preview golf’s first “major,” the 2023 Masters, as the world’s top golfers get ready to tee it up from famed Augusta National. Who will don the green jacket this Sunday? Enjoy the witty banter! (and Nick’s golf attire!)
Greetings from The Booth!
It was great to see lots of Shenandoah University fans, athletes, coaches, and dignitaries this past Saturday in Winchester, braving a brisk 40-degree morning to be a part of the ribbon cutting of the renovated baseball and softball fields at Jim Barnett Park. The ceremony was culmination of creative thinking from SU and the City to give the Hornet softball and baseball programs a home field they can call their own, and also provide local teams like the Winchester Royals upgraded facilities they can be proud of. Speakers included emotional Hornet baseball coach Kevin Anderson, and Shenandoah President Dr. Tracy Fitzsimmons, who called the project a “win-win.” It was a great morning, one that I’m sure many thought would never come because of the challenges posed by COVID.
Well, it’s Masters Week, with golf’s first “major” set for this weekend at beautiful Augusta National. I’ll admit that for me, this was going to be a boring Masters. Many of the game’s top players are not on top of their game right now. New names we don’t really know have been winning golf tournaments in 2022. A name we do know, Phil Mickelson, has fallen from grace because of his controversial comments about the Saudis, and has self-isolated. He will not be a part of the 2022 Masters. I felt no “buzz” heading into this week.
Then came the appearance of Tiger Woods at Augusta. His early-week practice round drew large crowds, and there was much anticipation that he would give it a go on Thursday morning. Tiger confirmed the rumors on Tuesday, and the Masters was given the storyline it needed.
Tiger Woods believes he can win another green jacket this week, and said as much. He wouldn’t play otherwise. His competitive fires still burn. The issue this week, aside from making the cut (which would be an amazing story in it’s own right) is one of endurance. Tiger hasn’t played competitive golf since late 2020, three months before the car crash that almost took his leg, and could very well have taken his life. It remains to be seen if Woods can walk 4 consecutive days around a hilly Augusta National.
There’s also the fact that the top golfers in the world are also vying for one of golf’s top prizes. To beat the Masters field when you have your “A” game is tough enough, let alone when you are returning after 14 months. Win or lose, Tiger just playing at the 2022 Masters is the sport’s version of the Alex Smith story. Winning would be almost incomprehensible, and would certainly trump his win at Augusta in 2019.
But don’t count him out. Tiger Woods has a flair for the moment. He is well aware that another green jacket would give him six, which would tie him with the great Jack Nicklaus, a man Tiger still thinks he can catch in the race for all-time majors (18). Tiger is also well aware that winning the Masters would be arguably the greatest comeback story in sports history.
Reason enough to hope Tiger is prowling the back nine at Augusta National late Sunday afternoon.
Until the next visit from The Booth…enjoy the golf, and GO HORNETS!
Greetings from The Booth!
Vacation looms, as I get ready for my annual trip to Deep Creek Lake, Md. next week, thanks to the BBILE (Best Brother-In-Law Ever).I’m looking forward to a week in a beautiful lake house for a little R&R&R…Rest, Relaxation, and Recharging! Not to mention a giant hot tub, some adult beverages, and a John Grisham novel.
This week, Major League Baseball takes it’s annual All-Star Break, which brings back great memories for me. As a kid who loved baseball, I would always keep a scoresheet for the Mid-Summer Classic (“that’s 4-to-3 if you’re scoring at home”) and there were always some great All-Star Games back in the day. Who could forget Reggie Jackson’s mammoth blast that hit the light standard in the 1971 All Star game. And how about Pete Rose’s violent collision with Ray Fosse on July 14th, 1970. And, unlike today, players who were invited actually showed up and played.
This week also marks the 149th playing of The Open Championship, golf’s final “major” of the year, at the Royal St. George’s Golf Course in the UK. On this side of the pond it’s called “The British Open,” because we Americans don’t want to give it more importance than our own “US Open.”
The British Open is most often played at seaside “links” courses, and is alien to the style of golf played here in the States. Weather is almost always a factor (you’ll see sweaters being worn by some golfers this week), with wind, rain, and cold one day, followed by sunny and mild (by British standards) the next. In addition, the finicky golf gods can leave terrible lies even on shots in the fairway.
These are just a few of the reasons why at one time the British Open was a tournament that most American golfers didn’t care much about. In addition to the style of golf and the weather, it cost too much to go “across the pond” and play in The Open Championship. With no exemptions and low prize money, many golfers would lose money by playing in the British, even if they qualified.
Then came Arnold Palmer, who in 1960, was one of only 4 Americans to play in The Open Championship at St. Andrews (“the home of golf”), and one of only 2 Yanks to make the cut. Palmer was trying to complete the Big Three that year, already having won The Masters and US Open, something Ben Hogan had done in 1953.
Palmer would lose by a stroke, but gave legitimacy to a tournament that very well could have faded from the “major” ranks. Arnie paved the way for great American moments at The British, like Jack Nicklaus’ 3 victories, John Daly’s unlikely second major win, and 59 year-old Tom Watson almost winning The Open Championship in 2009. And let’s not forget Watson’s 5 British Open Claret jugs.
“Old Toom,” as he is called across the water, and is one of the greatest links players of all time, embraced the Open Championship, and the British people embraced him back. Watson has an incredible love for the birthplace and traditions of the game, and that is not lost on the Brits, Scots, Irish, and Welsh.
But this love affair with Watson and The Open Championship would not have been possible without the great Arnold Palmer, who revived American interest in the British Open in July of 1960.
Until the next visit from the Booth, FORE, and GO HORNETS!