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Watching the Masters is a Duffy family ritual. My dad would forgo his own golf game, or makes sure he’s finished by Noon, so he can be home and on the couch for the TV broadcast. For us, our love is as much about the scenery as it is about the golf. Whether it’s a shot of Hogan’s Bridge or the azalea-lined Rae’s Creek, I believe August National to be one of the five most beautiful places on Earth.
But why do so many people, even ones who don’t play golf themselves or follow it religiously, pay attention to the Masters?
I think it has to do with Augusta National’s aura – a combination of the natural mystique and the outright controlling ways of the membership – that makes the Masters a compelling viewing experience.
For just a second, let’s put golf aside. Every year for a week, Augusta National puts on the most understated sports show in the world. ESPN and CBS pipe in dozens of hours of coverage into your home, but really, the only advertising you see leading up to and during Augusta’s week in the sunshine are the television promos. You know, like Jim Nantz’ famous “a tradition unlike any other” line.
And the corporate sponsorships are few and far between. With their share of controversy over the years – including their failure to invite a woman to join their elite (some would say elitist) club – the Augusta National membership has called on three corporate partners to float their television and marketing success. AT&T, Exxon Mobil and IBM have used their affiliation with the Masters tournament to showcase their brands and products certainly, but also corporate social responsibility campaigns.
Perhaps people follow golf, and specifically the Masters, because the sponsorships and broadcasts still take on a gentile air that’s neither in-your-face nor does it interrupt the viewing experience. Sure, there are commercials, but when Exxon is plugging its National Math and Science Initiative, the annoyance is not nearly as bold as the constant cut-ins or anchor-read advertisements that you see on so many NBA, NFL or MLB broadcasts.
Despite a 22 percent decrease in ratings from last year and feel-good win by unlikely hero Bubba Watson, the Masters is one of the last independently run sporting events in the world that truly has a say in how their venue and their sport is displayed to its fan base across the world. Augusta’s control-freak ways are neatly documented – down to the blooming of the azaleas during tournament week – and sometimes criticized, but no one can deny their influence.
When you own (golf) heaven on Earth, and the mystique that goes along with it, I guess that’s the power you wield.
Did you tune into the “Super Bowl” of golf last weekend? Let me know what makes golf so compelling for you in the comment section below.