The silence is deafening. The pressure is real.
© AP photo
Graham DeLaet, of Canada, tees off on the second hole during the final round of the Travelers Championship golf tournament in Cromwell, Conn., Sunday, June 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Fred Beckham)
Then you hear it. It’s the sound of a putt being stroked.
With heightened anticipation, the patrons rise — in unison.
Then, they explode.
It’s Sunday afternoon at Augusta National Golf Club, but it’s not just any Sunday afternoon amongst the towering Georgia pines and the blooming azaleas.
It’s Masters Sunday.
Often referred to as a rite of passage, the first major championship of the year on the golfing calendar is the class of the sport. In fact, many consider the battle for the coveted green jacket as the week the golf season truly begins.
That week is here and on Thursday, 97 players will tee it up looking to capture golf’s ultimate individual prize.
Among those 97 players is first-time participant Graham DeLaet. The Weyburn product, originally from Moose Jaw, is one of 24 players making their Masters debuts this week at Augusta’s hallowed grounds.
He’s also the first Saskatchewan-born player to ever get an invite to the Masters.
He’s also still in search of his first PGA Tour win.
If you think that’s going to happen at his first Masters, you probably don’t know your Masters history. So let me enlighten you.
Fuzzy Zoeller is the last player to win the Masters in his debut. That was back in 1979.
Before him Gene Sarazen won his maiden Masters appearance in 1935 and Horton Smith did the same the prior year — the first year the tournament was held.
With a record number of first-time participants at this year’s Masters, including a pair of players who have won three times since last summer, many analysts believe this could be another one of those years.
However, I’m not privy to the idea that Masters rookies DeLaet, Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed, or any of the other first-time competitors will drive out of Magnolia Lane wearing a green jacket.
I believe experience is the key to winning at Augusta National, and that DeLaet will miss the cut this week.
Personally, I believe Bubba Watson will win this year’s Masters, which would mark the sixth time a left-hander has won the Masters since Canadian Mike Weir was the first to do so in 2003.
Watson, like other former champions Arnold Palmer, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Seve Ballesteros is an artist.
These Augusta legends are part of the lore that make the Masters not only golf’s premiere sporting event, but the most glamorous and respected sports event.
There is no other event where so much pressure is contained within such a shroud of silence. There is no other event that encapsulates such drama with every shot and is remembered not only for the heartache, but the jubilation.
If I could only watch one day of sports each year, that day would be Masters Sunday. Although it’s often said the Masters truly doesn’t begin until the back nine on Sunday, I will be parked on the couch for the duration of the tournament eagerly anticipating another classic Masters conclusion.
And one day I hope to find myself amongst Augusta National’s patrons, its Georgia pines and the blooming azaleas and experience my first Masters — hopefully as a scribe.
There is nothing in sports like the Masters.
Nothing compares to each and every one of its traditions.
Nathan Liewicki can be found on Twitter @liewicks