Straight Talk With Jake – 2014 Masters

I’m sitting here trying to process what I just witnessed in the final round of the 2014 Masters. There is no other sporting event I look forward to more than the four rounds of competition at the Masters. I completely throw myself into the coverage online and on TV. If I had it my way, I’d be able to watch every shot by every player in the field. I simply cannot get enough of it! This year, we got to see Bubba Watson basically take all the edge-of-your-seat drama out of the final round by the time he reached the 10th tee. For the next 2+ hours we watched him stay in complete control, while everyone else failed to mount a challenge. We got to see him on cruise control to finish off a three stroke victory, but was something missing?

I was completely enthralled in the action this year, but I am in the minority. If you ask around you’re going to hear a lot about how this year’s event was missing something. That something you ask? Tiger Woods. Tiger underwent back surgery recently and it was announced that he’d miss his first Masters since 1995. For nearly 20 years we’ve watched as Tiger completely changed the tournament that is hands-down the most popular event in the game of golf. In that time, Tiger has failed to reach the weekend just 1 single time (1996) and we all know what happened next. From 1997 on, Tiger rewrote the book at Augusta National multiple times over.

About two weeks before the start of this year’s tournament the announcement was made and the sulking began. The Masters will not be the same without TW they said. It will be boring they said. Ratings will be terrible they said. Talk radio was all abuzz about a Tiger-less Masters and what it would be like. Its ok, we’ve still got guys like Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Keegan Bradley, so the event will still be great and filled with tons of drama. The problem was that all of these ‘next best options’ shot a combined million over par and missed the cut! Now what?!

Going into the weekend the casual fan that catches updates on Sports Center probably couldn’t have cared less what would take place at Augusta over the weekend. No Phil, no Tiger….no desire to watch. I can’t even fathom that thought. The idea of skipping a minute of the coverage of the event I look forward to more than other sporting event just because Tiger Woods isn’t playing is crazy to me. There is no denying that Tiger moves the needle. I’ll never forget the 2010 Masters. That event showed me more than any other just how much Tiger Woods means to the sport. For those of you with short memories, the 2010 Masters was the first event Tiger played in after his 2009 Thanksgiving night disaster that would change him more than any of us thought possible. He came out without having a single tune-up, nearly won, and people were going crazy. I remember the activity on the THP forum that weekend. It was so fast and furious you could not keep up. Tiger did not win that year though. Phil Mickelson did – his 3rd green jacket thank you very much.

Going into this year’s Masters there were definitely a lot of questions. With the game’s biggest draw already out and several others nursing injuries the event seemed more wide open than ever. I loved it! Hardcore golf fans don’t care if it’s Tiger Woods (or in this case Bubba Watson) donning the green jacket on Sunday evening. We just want to see a good tournament at a course that 99% of the population can only dream of seeing in person. We got exactly what we were hoping for too. It started with the traditional Thursday morning ceremonial tee shots from the game’s greatest heroes, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. Whether Tiger was on property or not couldn’t have been further from my mind as the event I love had official begun.

The week progressed and those who still tuned in were treated with the sights and sounds we love so much. The corny music. The old dudes in green jackets. Jim Nantz’s overly dramatic, yet perfectly spoken words calling the action. Great golf by some of the game’s best players on the biggest stage. We had it all. Except Tiger. Guess what? If it wasn’t for the constant reminders by CBS and folks covering the event at the Golf Channel I wouldn’t even have known we were missing Tiger this year.

Instead we had everything we needed. 20 year old Jordan Spieth playing in his first Masters and playing in the final group on Sunday, how awesome is that? 54 year old and a close 2nd Masters favorite Freddie Couples yet again pausing the hands of time for a few rounds of stellar golf to find himself in contention at Augusta and making us all say “what if” one more time. Then of course there was Bubba, who seems to be ready to become the guy to beat every time he drives up Magnolia Lane. He flat-out put on a show this week with the way he practically brought that course to its knees. That was awesome to watch. To me everything was topped off when his young son Caleb walked toward him after he holed out his final putt on 18. Seeing Bubba, tears and all, carrying his son as he was doing a victory lap and high fiving patrons near the 18th green was awesome!

I can’t wait to see the ratings for the final round. I’m sure they’re down quite a bit from some of the times when Tiger has been in the hunt on Sunday. I get it. I really do. The guy moves the needle like nobody else has ever done in the sport of golf. But when people try to tell me the 2014 Masters was lacking something because he was gone I’m going to tell them that they are flat out wrong. The 2014 Masters had everything we could have asked for and even more. Every year I watch the final round with my dad and this year we were both rooting for Bubba. Early in the final round we were screaming at the TV trying to pull Bubba along and help him win. It was a blast. High fiving my dad after Bubba birdied the 243 yard par 3 4th hole you would never have known there was something missing. The event was everything that it’s always hyped up to be – the greatest day on the sports calendar as far as I’m concerned. Tiger or no Tiger.

The Masters does not need Tiger Woods. The PGA Tour does not need Tiger Woods. There are so many talented players and exciting story lines week-in and week-out that the game of golf will be just fine long after Tiger hangs up his spikes. Having said that, I haven’t been living under a rock for the last 20 years. I know that Tiger is the guy who gets the mailman talking golf. Tiger is the guy who gets the wives and grandmothers watching the coverage of the majors, but Tiger is not the reason that the Masters is the best sporting event in the world. Not to me. Not even close.

Dislaimer: The views expressed in this article are Jake’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of THP Media Inc or its owners.

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19 Comments

  • Jake you need to get out of my head! I could not have said it any better. Well dorm and well written article.

  • Nice article, Jake. The Masters will go on without Tiger, but it is more exciting with him there. I am more disappointed that no one made a run on the back 9 on Sunday.

  • Awesome stuff Jake, I loved it. On a side note I actually appreciated Tiger staying away from the event and stealing some of the limelight thus having the announcers speak about his absence even more. In Augusta the story is not Tiger it is The Masters and who can come out on top of a great line up of players. All 6 of the players in the final 3 groups would have made a great story had they won. What a great Masters IMO.

  • Great read Jake! Those that allow the absence of Tiger Woods at The Masters keep them away from watching some great golf coverage only did a disservice to themselves.

  • Boom, Jake with a thought provoking and damn well written piece!

    You captured many of the same thoughts that I had. Would I have enjoyed TW there and in the hunt? Yes. Did I MISS him? No

    Great golf was there before TW (hello opening tee shots on Thursday) and it will be there after TW.

    The Masters is the effin Masters and no one person is bigger than it.

  • Well done Jake. Like you said, if it weren’t for the reminders by commentators and commercials, I would have not noticed Tiger not being there. Great article buddy !

  • Wait, Tiger didn’t play this year??? Great article, Jake, and I agree with you about how awesome the Masters was this year. Bubba can flat out play some good golf.

  • That was awesome Jake. Fun read and I agree 100% I think I enjoyed this one from start to finish more than most Masters. It was fun to get to see some of the “next generation” smack it around Augusta.

  • the Masters is still the Masters without Tiger. IMO, the PGA and ESPN needs to invoke more of a “what have you done for me lately” attitude and move on from Tiger. hey, i’m a Tiger fan too…but what if Bubba has back surgery next year? a 2 time winner in 3 years? if Tiger played, they probably wouldn’t give a rip.

  • It’s a good article, but from the absolutely wrong perspective as far as the mainstream goes. We are not the ones the media and advertisers care about. They’ll have us watching the TV. What they want are our families and non-golfer friends watching with us. That is where Tiger IS bigger than golf still, and you are foolish to think otherwise. Golf has had a huge boom the last 15 years, and I dare you to accurately explain it away without using Tiger as the key component of it. You can’t do it.

    Once Tiger is done golf’s popularity will not sustain given the current landscape of professionals. It will still be healthy, WE will still follow it closely. But viewership will revert to pre-Tiger levels – aka golf addicts. There will be less revenue from advertising and sponsorships as well. We can only hope that somewhere out there is another “best ever” potential player that can captivate the general public. If not, then we will look back on the mid 90’s and 2000’s as a “Golden Age” of modern golf.

  • Well put Jake, I didn’t miss Tiger Woods at all!

  • Nice article Jake. We are pretty much in agreement on this one!

  • The Masters transcends the players and that place is so special that missing TW didn’t hurt anything, but ratings. I will admit on Sunday my interest diminished, but not because TW was not there. It was because by #10 there was not really rally being mounted to create the Sunday at Augusta drama we are used to seeing. I think if you saw Speith mount a charge and push Bubba a little more, the rating would have been right on par with last year and that incredible finish.

    Great job Jake on the piece and articulated very well!

  • Great article Jake. I too watched as much coverage as I could. It would have been nice to have TW in the field, but his absence did not define the event for me.

  • I’m really torn on this issue. Tiger atop the leaderboard is good for everyone. Make no mistake that I’ll watch the Masters no matter who’s playing. But something was missing from Bubba’s win. Jack had Arnie. Trevino had Arnie. Player had Arnie. Bubba needed Arnie (Woods) to push that win over the top. I never got the feeling that Bubba would lose to the young 20 year old Spieth. Never. Bubba needed his Arnie on Sunday and it just never happened. Love the article Jake (aka Hollywood).

  • We sort of agree on this topic. Like any sport, someone has to step up and be ‘the guy to beat’. Every sport has, or has had, that guy. Whether it be, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Barry Bonds, or numerous guys in the NFL (Tom Brady and Peyton Manning to name a couple). Golf reached a plateau in the late 90s and 00s when Tiger came into power. Phil is probably the only other guy at the moment that can really draw a fan base outside of the hardcore golf fan, or people that follow their ‘local product’.

    I semi-agree with what you say. “Golf will be fine”. At the moment it is true, the hardcore golf fans like you and myself will watch the majors and a handful of other tournaments no matter what. The average fan, however, will probably drift away from the sport if the headliners like Tiger and Phil aren’t in the mix. In my opinion, the reason the weekend of the Masters had such less appeal wasn’t because Bubba seized control, but because Phil missed the cut. With Tiger out, that’s like watching the 1993 NBA finals without Jordan and Barkley… I doubt people tune in.

    The Masters is lucky too… it doesn’t have ANY other sporting events to compete with other than spring baseball.

    “Golf will be fine”… for now. Someone needs to step up and be ‘the guy’ when Tiger and Phil are gone. Bubba can do it at Augusta (a course very friendly to long hitting lefties who play a cut) but I don’t see him being the guy. Without ‘the guy’ golf could slip to the level of tennis. Here’s to hoping spieth, scott, or someone else can become a revenue generating force.

  • great article jake! I agree with you 100%, I was just as interested to see Spieth making a run into Sunday and seeing if he could hold on. it was a great masters for sure

  • Well written my friend and I couldn’t agree with you anymore….at The Masters, Augusta National and the tradition is the show, we don’t need Tiger, Phil or anybody else.

  • Well said Jake, I couldn’t agree more.

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