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Watson victory foils tradition



Published: Sun, April 20, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.

At first, I wasn’t sure if I was happy with this year’s Masters result (Bubba Watson won his second green jacket in three years) or if there was even a “good enough” story for this week’s column.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized the answers were “yes” and “yes.”

In my opinion, Bubba winning The Masters is the perfect contradiction of tradition.

I know, “contradiction of tradition” doesn’t make any sense, but here’s what I mean.

As we hear every year by Jim Nantz and the rest of the CBS crew, The Masters is truly “a tradition unlike any other.” And it is.

In 1930, Bobby Jones, the world’s greatest golfer, won the Grand Slam of golf and retired at the age of 28 to pursue his law career. A life-time amateur, the young family man from Georgia was “bucking” golf tradition to do things his way.

Two years later, he purchased an old nursery in Augusta, Ga., collaborated with one of the games’ pre-eminent architects in Dr. Alister Mackenzie, and designed Augusta National Golf Club.

And although I could probably write an entire column just on the architecture of Augusta, the important take away is that the course was originally designed as a “strategic” course.

With wide fairways, no rough, strategically placed hazards and the most punishing and unorthodox green complexes ever built, the original intent of the course was to make each player “choose” how they wanted to play each hole.

“Imagination,” “creativity,” “angles,” strategy,” and “decision making,” were common words used when talking about the original Augusta design.

Jones was the club founder and first club president. In 1934, the first Masters Tournament was held (originally called The Augusta National Invitational) and the rest, as they say, is history.

Today, The Masters Tournament and the Augusta National Golf Club are the most prestigious tournaments and country clubs in the world. From green jackets to champions dinners to a vocabulary all its own (patrons; not fans, second cut; not rough), The Masters and Augusta National simply ooze tradition.

But over the years, technology and player development have changed the game. And along with that, the golf course (Thank you, 1997 Tiger Woods). Holes were lengthened. Trees were added. A second cut was introduced.

And while Augusta is still a “tradition unlike any other,” there’s no denying that at least some of Mr. Jones and Dr. Mackenzie’s original intent of strategy and decision making has been lost.

Now let’s get to Bubba Watson. In today’s PGA Tour world, Bubba is about as untraditional as it gets. He’s a player with a homemade swing and no swing coach. He has a crazy set-up to the ball. He hooks or slices just about every shot.

He doesn’t care about making the same swing every time. Or hitting the same ball flight shot after shot. In fact, his game is self admittedly not traditional.

His off-course persona? He bought the original General Lee from “The Dukes of Hazzard.” He wears a $500,000 watch while he golfs. And he has a hovercraft golf cart that floats over water.

I think it’s understandable that my mind doesn’t immediately pair up the “tradition unlike any other” that is Augusta National with the totally untraditional Bubba Watson.

For those of us who watched The Masters last Sunday, there was no denying that Bubba brought some of the original Augusta National intentions back into play.

When he holed that winning putt, emotion poured out of him once again.

I’d like to think Mr. Jones was smiling down from his clubhouse in the golfing heavens as he watched another young family man from Georgia “buck” golf tradition.

Jonah Karzmer is a former golf professional who writes a Sunday golf column for The Vindicator. In his spare time he sells commercial insurance for Huntington Insurance and loves getting feedback on his weekly columns via email at jonah.karzmer@huntington.com


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