When I was younger I had two favourite videos that I used to watch repeatedly, in the way only children can do. The first was a film called “Ski Patrol” – a terrible 80s comedy about the shenanigans of ski instructors, holiday-makers and an evil property developer in a US ski resort.
I saw a bit of it again a couple of years ago on an obscure Sky movie channel – it was pretty terrible. The other was a recording I’d made of the final round of the 1993 Masters, won by Germany’s Bernhard Langer. Nothing made me want to get out and play golf more than just half an hour of the impossibly green fairways, pink azaleas and pine straw.
Langer won by four shots from Chip Beck and, as I recall, John Daly and Steve Elkington were involved too. As an aside, something interesting about that tournament was that it was the last Major to be won by a man using a wooden-headen driver. Langer used a Wood Brothers’ – Texan.
Anyway, that video was like a shot in the arm of pure golf for me. That’s how I’ve always viewed the Masters – like a golfing electric shock that kick-starts the season. After it the fairways of the UK will be full of hopeful golfers looking to emulate Phil Mickelson or, with a bit of luck, Lee Westwood or Luke Donald.
For the last few weeks I’ve seen the adverts on the BBC (and now Sky – about every six minutes) for the year’s first Major and each one has made the hairs on the back of my neck stand to attention. They’ve been standing particularly straight this year as, for the first time, I’m travelling to Augusta to catch the action first-hand.
Since I started working for Golf Monthly six years ago, this has been the assignment I’ve really wanted. It’s a toss-up for me between The Masters and the Open Championship as to which is the most exciting tournament in golf. But, going to the Open is relatively straightforward, even if you don’t work in the golf industry.
Getting to the Masters would be a little more challenging and a lot more expensive. As I write this I’m sitting in Gatwick’s South Terminal waiting to get on a flight to Charlotte, then on to Augusta. It’s 7.30am in the morning and I’ve been awake for hours. I stayed last night in the Airport Hilton. I say stayed rather than slept. I felt like a kid on Christmas Eve, checking my watch every hour or so to see how much more unbearable writhing around and brain whirring I’d have to endure.
Well, I’m nearly on my way now and I just can’t wait. I’ll keep you updated on this blog with how things are going and Bill Elliott, who I’m staying with, will be giving his thoughts too.