Masters magic is in the air

Philip Rossman-Reich

A simple bridge can transform a simple creek.

Set against the backdrop of a difficult Par 3 on a private golf course about 150 miles from Atlanta, Hogan Bridge is more than just a pathway spanning Rae’s Creek.

The two are part of the stadium that makes up the middle hole of Amen Corner at Augusta National Golf Club. It is one of those places that transcend all the competitors and becomes a spectacle on its own.

It is what makes the Masters Tournament one of the most anticipated sporting events every year.

Tiger Woods entered this week as the clear favorite. His dominance of golf over the past six months has been close to unreal, winning eight of his last 10 tournaments and finishing second and fifth in the other two.

Experts and fans talked of Tiger completing a calendar-year grand slam. But as he continued to struggle throughout the weekend, Tiger was a part of the story, but not the entire story.

Augusta is bigger than Tiger.

The winner does not have to be a big name for the event to be special. The Masters still entrances sports fans regardless of their interest in golf.

Zach Johnson had one PGA Tour victory before conquering Tiger and Augusta in 2007, showing that if you stick to your game plan, you can succeed.

Phil Mickelson went from “The Best Player Never To Have Won A Major” to Masters champion in 2004 after sinking a birdie putt on the 18th hole. Lefty has since captured two more major championships, including a second Masters in 2006.

Mike Weir won a green jacket in 2003, gaining the adoration of fans from his home in Canada. Even though he has struggled with injuries since that victory, Weir’s victory still resonates in the minds of Canadian sports fans.

And, of course, Tiger burst dramatically onto the scene with a 12-stroke victory in 1997, his first major on a long road to Jack Nicklaus’ 18.

These are only recent examples of how a Masters win raises its champion.

Unlike many of the great sports championships, the Masters is played at the same course every year. It does not rotate sites like the other three golf majors.

Yet each year Augusta offers something new.

Johnson won with a one-over-par 289 last year – tying the highest four-day total for a champion in tournament history – on the same course Woods shot 18-under 10 years before.

Despite the course’s

familiarity, every Masters is a completely different experience, offering a true challenge.

A part of the tournament’s story each year is the beauty of the course itself. By the time April rolls around, the magnolias and azaleas are in bloom, creating a magnificent natural setting to surround the players and signaling to all the beginning of spring.

It is an honor to play Augusta. But many would be content just to walk the course and soak in its history and beauty.

The Masters is always its own story, no matter who the favorite is. It harkens back to a simpler time in sports.

The telecast has limited commercial breaks. The event is about the competition and the sport itself. And its organizers have no intention of changing this; it is Augusta National Golf Club and nothing else.

Even non-golf fans cannot help but follow what goes on at this tournament.

Augusta has a power over golf and the sports world that very few competitions have. Time seems to stand still for four days every April.

Whether it is to watch Tiger or the next champion, every Masters provides a memory for all.

So you see, Hogan Bridge is much more than a bridge spanning Rae’s Creek. It is a step into history. It is a step into the future. It is the next step to greatness.

Now, Trevor Immelman has taken that step from the present into history.

Assistant sports editor Phil Rossman Reich is a Medill sophomore. He can be reached at [email protected]