The cutest day in golf is just another Wednesday now.
Not just another Wednesday given the worry, the warnings and wariness that has settled over the world as we know it in the midst of this pandemic.
But this is not Masters Wednesday. There is no Par-3 Contest. There are no kids in white caddie outfits walking with their dads and hitting a few putts. The gap-toothed smiles are hidden away in this forced hibernation.
There’s no eve of the Masters excitement. No drafting of players for a friendly pool. No checking the weather, studying the early groupings or picking the winner.
It’s just Wednesday.
But there is November, seven months and a long, hot summer away, but it’s out there and maybe then we’ll get the Masters Wednesday we’re missing this week.
When the game’s leading organizations announced a revised tournament schedule on Monday, it didn’t speed the process of enduring this crisis. It was a footnote in a story that is almost unimaginably big, and, in the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter if the Masters is played this year or not.
Or maybe it does.
It’s a wish, a hope, an aspiration.
Isn’t that what we’re all looking for these days?
A target, a milepost, a psychological smile.
That’s all any kind of scheduling is these days until curves have been flattened, the grim numbers have diminished, and the doors of the world are opened again.
It’s possible the PGA Tour gets going sometime in June but it’s too early to know. The governor of California says he can’t see playing football games in his state this fall which makes the notion of playing the PGA Championship in August in San Francisco feel overly optimistic, though there are encouraging signs sprouting like new plants from the ground.
This is traditionally the week when golf smiles the most and the prospect of the Masters being played in November – when the azaleas are settling in before winter and the smell of wood smoke replaces the scent of pollen – can set minds free to imagine what might be.
At the Masters, though, fried chicken sandwiches, peach ice cream sandwiches and big white scoreboards – those things patrons are missing this week – will still be there (in November).
Moving the PGA Championship to August is putting it back where it had been for so long before shifting to May last year. Sliding the U.S. Open to September and keeping it at Winged Foot is a potential double win. Losing the Open Championship speaks to the magnitude of what the world is facing.
Putting the Masters in November will probably turn out to be spectacular. It’s the Masters. It’s Augusta National. How can it not be exceptional?
College football season (assuming there is one) will be peaking. The leaves on the hardwoods around Augusta National will likely still be holding their autumn colors. The grass will still be impossibly green.
Some radio stations will have already switched over to playing Christmas music, there will still be some Halloween candy hanging around and Thanksgiving turkeys will be on order.
At the Masters, though, fried chicken sandwiches, peach ice cream sandwiches and big white scoreboards – those things patrons are missing this week – will still be there.
Those of us who live in the Southeast will tell you October and November tend to be the best golf months of the year, even if sunset comes early. Augusta National can set its own agronomic clock but November can be gorgeous in a different way, its edges perhaps sharpened by a chilly north wind.
Initially, it may feel like taking a beach trip in January rather than July but once it gets here, it’s going to look and feel like the Masters. Who knows it might be just the thing to bring alpaca sweaters like the ones Arnie wore back in style.
The Masters is all about familiarity, which is one reason why this week feels so empty. If you’re fortunate enough to attend the Masters, you have a routine. There’s a favorite lunch, a favorite spot to watch around Amen Corner, a group of friends you may only see once a year but you see them at Augusta.
For most people, the Masters is experienced from afar but it’s a tie that binds. It’s the rare golf tournament that non-golfers pay attention to, whether it’s to see the spring flowers or just because they know it matters, the way many of us tune into horse racing once a year to watch the Kentucky Derby.
For the time being, we’re left with replays of previous Masters this week, similar in some ways to how we communicate with friends these days over internet calls. It’s better than nothing but it’s not quite the real thing.
While we go from day to day this week, missing the roars from down in the valley and whatever might have unfolded on the weekend – maybe Jordan Spieth would find his Masters magic or Jon Rahm would own the moment – it’s not too early to think about November and what could be.
Hopefully by then, we can raise a glass to everyone for what we’re enduring together – particularly the thousands who are doing the work of angels – and we can think about where we were in April. It will be different and so will we.
If we’re fortunate, the cutest day in golf is just 31 Wednesdays away.
Kevin Kisner with his daughter, Kate, during the Par-3 Contest on Wednesday before the Masters last year. Photo: Kevin C. Cox, Getty Images
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