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Robison: Magical moments define masters (Jan. 31)

By Matthew Robison | Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a 10-part series discussing the best event in sports. In this installment, Matt Robison argues for The Masters.

After his seemingly impossible hooking wedge shot out of the straw on the 10th hole the second playoff hole and a tap-in putt to seal his first major victory at the 2012 Masters Tournament, Bubba Watson sobbed in the arms of his caddy. The raw emotion of the moment overwhelmed Watson and likely millions watching at home.

It’s moments like these that make the Masters the best event in sports. As a four-day golf tournament, it may not have the two-minutes of mayhem like the Kentucky Derby, the marathon of magic like March Madness or the pageantry of the Rose Bowl. But it’s the moments – the memorable and the downright miraculous – that define the Masters.

Everyone has seen Tiger Woods’ chip-in on the 16th hole in 2005. We all dream about hitting a shot like that – a dribbling chip that broke 25 feet. The ball hung longingly on the edge of the cup before, as if by some supernatural force, it fell into the cup. The crowd erupted into a roar and Verne Lundquist nearly leapt out of his giant green TV tower as he screamed, “In your life, have you seen anything like that?”

No, Verne. We haven’t. Because the Masters is the only time shots like that happen. It’s the only time a moment in sports can make us question the very nature of inertia and gravity.
It is upon the backdrop of the 79-year-old tradition that both the famous and the notorious moments are made.

No golf fan in our generation will forget current world No. 1 Rory McIlroy’s epic collapse in 2011. After finishing each of the first three days of the tournament in the top spot on the leaderboard, McIlroy turned in the worst Sunday performance by a three-day leader in history, an eight-over 80 to finish fifth. McIlroy hit one bad shot after another, sometimes playing shots out of what looked like someone’s backyard, crumbling under the pressure of the moment.

It is where legends are made, as when Tiger completed the “Tiger Slam,” winning his fourth straight major championship by a tournament-record 12 strokes at just 21 years of age.

It is also where players suffer wounds that turn to scars that forever mark a career. Just ask Greg Norman.

In 1986, after making four straight birdies, Norman needed just a par on the 18th hole to force a playoff with Jack Nicklaus. Instead, he pushed his second shot badly and missed his par putt. In 1987, Norman lost a playoff when his opponent, Larry Mize, holed a 45-yard shot to win. In 1996, he took a six-shot lead into the final round and shot a 78 to lose by five strokes to Nick Faldo.

As far as golf courses go, Augusta is far from the toughest. Players frequently post low scores. As far as traditions go, it’s nowhere near the oldest. In fact, it’s the youngest of all the major championships. The Open Championship, commonly called the British Open, was established in 1860. The U.S. Open – 1895. The PGA Championship – 1916. But it’s the magic of the moments that make the Masters the best of them all.

Sometimes, the magic of the moment fuels something truly special. Other times, it creeps into the player’s head and causes disaster. Either way, it creates the moments that make the Masters what it is.

So when the winner has the honor of donning the legendary Green Jacket, he knows he not only outlasted the other players, he has conquered the course and the pressure of it all as well. In the end, it’s the golfer who makes the moment – and doesn’t let the moment make him – who will win.

The moments make the Masters live up to its tagline. The Masters truly is a tradition unlike any other.

It stands alone as the best event in all of sports.

Contact Matt Robison at mrobison@nd.edu
 The views expressed in this Sports Authority are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.