A very short list of what the Masters doesn’t do right

Patrons watch play on 16th green during the practice round of the 2024 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club, Tuesday, April 9, 2024, in Augusta. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)



Patrons watch play on 16th green during the practice round of the 2024 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club, Tuesday, April 9, 2024, in Augusta. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

AUGUSTA — Let’s start the day with a smidge of sacrilege, shall we?

The Masters isn’t perfect. (Insert audible gasp).

Nothing is. Except maybe a cold beer on a warm beach.

No one comes to Masters week looking for faults. But I thought I’d try. I love a challenge.

After all, isn’t all we want here is to be carried away on the gentle piano plinkings of a CBS promo while indulging in the myth of one place in this world where beauty and order rule?

But, surely, with enough effort, one can find a couple pimples even on this, golf’s most stunning and unquestioned supermodel. This is but one man’s strained attempt:

The first cut is hardly the deepest

They can’t even say the word “rough” here. That bit of adolescent chin hair just off the fairway is known locally as “the second cut.”

I always wondered what would happen if they grew some real rough around this place. Not U.S. Open hay, mind you. Just enough to impose some small fine for the big drive that drifts.

Just another layer of defense, because Rae’s Creek and greens that pitch and yaw like a Boeing plane in a gale shouldn’t be expected to do all the protective work.

There are some golf people whose opinion I trust who suggest just the opposite. They say it would be better to eliminate the second cut and return the fairways to the uniformity of pre-1999. They say all that little bit of extra grass accomplishes is to slow down wayward drives, keeping the ball from rolling into the pines.

Either way, maybe there are patches of grass here that aren’t perfectly designed?

Maybe join this century, and get cellular?

The one place to still find phone booths (whole stations of phones, actually) is on the Augusta National grounds during Masters week. The next step backward will be a Western Union telegraph office at the turn.

Cell phones, you see, are the ultimate no-no at the Masters. Even as every other golf tournament has come to peace with the idea of cordless communication, the Masters stubbornly resists. Get caught with a cell and prepare to be treated like someone who just took a spade to the 18th green.

They seem really dug in on the no-cellphone policy around here. Some might consider that charming. Some see it as a last noble stand, marking these grounds as the one place on earth where every eye isn’t trained on a phone screen. That’s a real solid argument.

But charm doesn’t keep you in convenient contact with the real world. Maybe they could let up just a little bit, if only during the practice rounds.

Because it’s just so hard to find a Pony Express rider at the Masters when an urgent message needs delivering.

Loosen up just a little bit, maybe

At heart, this is still the place that 30 years ago banned Gary McCord from the CBS booth for daring to say that someone took bikini wax to the greens. Still the place where a member once ordered Rickie Fowler to turn his cap bill back around to the front before addressing the media. Still the place that even when it does something right — like open itself to Black and female membership — it is so caught up in its veil of secrecy that it refuses to give any specifics. They give a golf club the sanctity of the confessional booth.

Yeah, they take themselves a little seriously at The National.

One of the highlights of every Masters week is the Augusta National chairman’s press conference, in which he finds ever more inventive ways to reveal absolutely nothing about the running of America’s most popular golf tournament.

Still waiting, after more than 30 years of those gatherings, for my first good laugh.

Picking a nit, here and there

* It always struck me as a little odd that one of the most famous stages on this course — the par 3 12th green and 13th tee box — are also the least accessible to the on-site audience. So far back are the badge-holders that they need Google Earth to pick up the happenings there.

* So what kind of fancy country club is this where there’s no swimming pool, pickleball courts or gaudy plaques touting the winners of the annual member-guest scramble?

* They’re not patrons, as Augusta National insists. Patrons use opera glasses to watch Madam Butterfly. Patrons build museums. Patrons have at least three Kennedys on their phone contact list and are on the board of at least one international food bank. These are golf fans lucky enough to gain entry into a special place. You don’t have to call them patrons.

* I’m sorry, but the Masters pimento cheese sandwich is overrated. It is, in fact, yellow wallpaper paste compared to the ambrosia of a proper batch whipped up by any given Charleston grandmother.

That’s all I got. Yes, it was all a reach. Now back to the regularly scheduled fawning.