April 4th, 2016 03:07PM
Out of all the major championships, The Masters is the one that the sports world looks forward to the most. It’s a golfer’s rite of spring passage, a symbol of transformation from winter to spring, and a chance to stop and smell the flowers, or azaleas in this case.
Golfers love the Masters, and no other major has impacted golfers more passionately than the tournament at Augusta National, the perfect creation by Alistair Mackenzie and Bobby Jones, which serves as the most dramatic stage for the best golfers in the world year after year in Augusta, Georgia.
This was clearly evident to me 30 years ago when the greatest player in the game, after being told he was washed up, came home in 30 strokes on the back nine Sunday afternoon and provided us the greatest golf tournament this generation has ever witnessed.
What Jack Nicklaus did that day in winning his sixth green jacket was one of the most impactful events in the history of golf and in sports. It impacted generations. Grandparents who passed the game along to their kids, who then passed it on to their kids, gathered together and were connected by a passion for the game that only golfers can understand. Watching that Masters with my father is what propelled me to take up the game at a serious level.
This year’s Masters is setting up with similar parallels to 1986. We have one of the greatest players of our generation, Phil Mickelson, well into his mid-40’s, along with the largest crop of young standout players the game has seen in years – Spieth, McIlroy, Day, and Scott – all playing at the top of their games.
In 1986 Nicklaus was also battling a brash group of the top players in the world including Seve Ballesteros, Greg Norman, Tom Kite, Nick Price, and Tom Watson. No one was giving Nicklaus a chance, especially with Seve and the Shark playing at the top of their games. Nicklaus proved everybody wrong with his finish, which remains the greatest back nine in Masters’ history.
This year Mickelson is striking the ball better than he has in years and his putter has been treating him decently. Also, the fact that he has come close, but hasn’t won yet this year, puts him in great position to make history. As Nicklaus showed us all in ‘86, the Masters is more about course knowledge, especially on the greens, and no one in the field has more than Phil.
My bold prediction is that this Masters will be a trip down memory lane with Mickelson, like Nicklaus in ’86, taking down the young guns with a heroic back nine.
It will be his fourth green jacket. Gather your sons and daughters and make sure to watch.