Why a rescheduled Masters is such a positive sign (and it has little to do with golf)

April 6, 2020

Ed. note: This week, in honor of Tiger’s now-postponed defense of his 2019 Masters title, Bamberger, Briefly will comprise what are, at least in spirit, outtakes from his new book, The Second Life of Tiger Woods. For much more on the book, listen to Bamberger on the latest episode of The Drop Zone.

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This is the best news in weeks: Fred Ridley, the chairman of the Augusta National Golf Club, said on Monday that the club hopes to hold the Masters in November, concluding on Sunday, Nov. 15. Thanksgiving is 11 days later.

Thanksgiving is today.

Not because it would be such a wonderful thing to have a Masters at all this year, though it certainly would be.

Not because we all need something to look forward to, although we surely need that.

Not because the Masters is important because, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not, even though it contributes immense pleasure to millions of us.

The news is welcome because of the source, and the message behind the message.

The Augusta National Golf Club is an immense depository of accumulated wisdom, intelligence, inside information (of the legal kind). The club is cautious by nature. Ridley would never have made the statement he made, that the club “intends” to have the Masters in November, if he didn’t think it could happen.

Consider some of his resources, just within the membership. Bill Gates. Warren Buffet. Condoleezza Rice and Rex Tillerson. Roger Goodell. Various members from Atlanta, where the Centers for Disease Control is based. Jack Nicklaus, Sam Nunn, Ginni Rometty.

No matter what your opinion is of any of these people, think of the reach they have. Consider their deliberative nature, and the people they know. Augusta National, as an organization, is exceedingly careful and calculating. Of course the club has made missteps over the past nearly 90 years. But it gets most things right. It would be easy to have more faith in the decision-making ability of the Augusta National Golf Club than the federal government.

The club gets most things right (not, by any means, everything) on the basis of careful consideration. By applying intelligence and money and forethought to any issue it faces. Plus, an intense review process, too.

The club’s statement today is the opposite of slapdash. It’s the opposite of wishful thinking. It’s not intended to boost your spirits. It’s based on what Ridley, in his wisdom, figured is a pretty good bet: that the club will be in position to host a golf tournament in mid-November. If that happens, it will only happen if the country and the world is in a much better place than it is now. Can he know that will be the case? Of course not. But millions of us could stand on 12 at Augusta National and know we have a pretty good chance of clearing the creek. What is sure in life? Nearly nothing.

It’s odd and interesting: among major sports, golf has been the slowest to postpone and cancel events. And now it is the first major sport to announce even the prospect of a return to action. That is in keeping with golf’s nature, both in terms of its administration and in actual play. The game doesn’t reward getting too high or too low.

This has been said before: the qualities that draw a person to golf are the same qualities that will help us get through this awful, painful and deadly virus and the slowdown it has wrought. Those qualities of course are patience and optimism, tempered by realism and experience. You keep at it. You don’t quit. There’s daylight ahead. You play out and then you play home.

Michael Bamberger may be reached at Michael_Bamberger@Golf.