Republican Disney-Pomp, anyone?

The scene in our house as the Masters approaches its climax is, I imagine, not hugely uncommon. A slightly worrying degree of domestic chaos; animals lying about indifferent; unnameable family members similarly either uncaring or worse to the progress of Westwood and co. Tense negotiations awaiting their moment. Sure those actual players may be ‘feeling the heat’ but back here in the real world of unwashed plates and unwalked dogs the machinations of sports-sponsored pressure are no less significant. It’s just that none of you buggers care if I get to watch the golf, or Homeland wins out.

As I write, under the quiet threat of carpet-hoiked disappointment, the Midlander Plus (likeable Lee/leaner now but still stout-as-an-oak Lee) is on his metaphorical bike. Riding with some power and cadence and authority in fact, like some Yellow Jersey hunting down the impudent breakaway through a cheering Pyrenean market town. Westwood’s pretty much tearing up the course but then forgetting to putt ; like he does, actually. Only this time – in this Major – he really is giving the impression that he might make up his current 2 shot deficit and grab a tie before storming to victory, thus liberating us all from that suspicion that he must forever remain Desperate Dan-shaped … and maybe chinned… and heroically willing but underachieving.

That’s at this second; but the rolling, non-factual, immediately nonsensed strokes ticks and crosses on that mazy line of progress billboarded so blandly but violently on the leaderboards doinked around Augusta are already providing counter-truths. Because Oosthuizen’s nerve keeps holding. Because actually Lee, you had to make eagle not birdie. Etcetera. So #nocowpie.

But I have jolted accidentally forwards(?) into something approximating proper reportage. Forgive me.

I wrote previously of the unreality of being presented in my innocence with the absurdly groomed and colored indulgence-fest that is Masters Coverage, US style; when nonchalantly turning my telly on. How that lurch into the coiffured bristles of the course felt like a challenge to taste … and to the world of Non-America/commies/women/subtlety itself. A defiance, a bulwark against (even) blokes like me, who respect the game but question its gaudy, beer-bellied conservatisms was being built, or scripted, line by NBC graphic. Proposing Augusta; symbolising Republican Disney-Pomp. But my response – that instinct to turn down the colour control – dims inevitably with absorption into the drama. Of which there has been and still is plenty.

Before we know it, almost midnight and a play-off looms. No Brits or Europeans. Weirdly, a tall dark and medium handsome American dressed head to toe in shiningly sportswear-affected glam-white will face a less image-conscious Afrikaaner. Bubba versus Oosthuizen. If we were to fall into the trap of reducing it to TV-friendly brushstrokes (and why not?) – Brash American v Dour Farmer. As we wait for the thing to re-settle for tee-shots on the 18th, we might be temporarily be further diverted along the path of psycho-cobblers if we accept the invitation to contemplate the entire Mickelson family similarly dressed in white, hugging ‘pop’ and perfectly projecting the American brand. (This could, of course be a cynical Brit-centric view of a contest suddenly denied Brits.) Oooh … good drives!

Then a fine second from Oosthuizen bettered by a brilliant arrow from Watson. But two missed putts. A hole played well to no avail. Then on the 10th, the lanky yanky leftie heaves one way left… but is followed, hypnotised by the South African, who, owing to a fortunate rebound has a direct line to the green. He can’t get there, however, falling short by some thirty yards. Bubba strikes an extraordinary and brilliant lofted, corkscrewed draw from within the pine-needled suburbs to about eight feet. Sensational… and decisive. He wins and manfully cries his heart out in enormous girlie sobs.

So, after our lot acquitted themselves with a hearty mix of serenity and style and grit – Poulter and Westwood and Garcia and Harrington and Rose amongst a clutch deserving special mention – we then get this sickeningly(?) wholesome fireside ‘interview’ in a lodge with Another Bloody American sliding into that green jacket. The presentation may indeed have been, on the credit side, one of the few occasions where The Lord failed to interject into ceremonial proceedings in North America – my god it felt he surely would! – but the trademark schmaltzy sub-religious allusions to blessed family life tripped out from the interviewer predictably enough.

Bubba however– genuinely moved by the emotion of the moment from the second his winning putt sank – seemed likeably transformed during the trip from green to homely hutch from slightly swaggeringly pristine local into proper lovely human. And given that he possesses an undeniably eccentric ‘technique’, consisting essentially of disconcertingly wild and inconsistent thrashes at the general location of the ball, we must surely both congratulate him and welcome him as one of our own.

For it turns out that I am wrong on most counts. Wrong to suspect that Westwood (around the 15th) had ‘that look about him’ – meaning that he would contradict the brutal realities of competitive sport itself by being good-but-not-extra-special(?) whilst winning something massive. Wrong to so predictably thumb my nose at the apparent clichés of American Life – because Brother Blubber Bubba is too engagingly an individual to be labelled too crassly, for one thing. And wrong to be suspicious of white stuff; I think.

No; maybe I reserve judgement on that last one.

The Osmonds? Get out of it!!

Zapping the telly on just after the Masters has started, having heard that Tiger (as I swear I thought he might!) has twonked one way left at the first is an unusually ripening experience. In the first second or two, when eyes and screen go swiftly but abstractedly through those kaleido-rituals. When or as that weirdly velvet-green green of the Green announces itself in contrast to that sub-astro-turf green of the Fairway Margin.  And the line – the sumptuously, fulsomely High Definition laceration into the screen of life/line/interface between the bunker/non-bunker universe makes itself clear and present and more coherently impressive than any line ever ever in the history of mere lines – we know (don’t we?) that we’re in America? And then when the lame focus that is our utterly inadequate Vision actually kicks in, the landscape will seem and yup… now is seeming almost completely unreal; so much so that we may wonder what we did to deserve it. Or if it is actually there?

Georgia. For those of you who hate golf/don’t follow/are frankly in the minority that miraculously (bless you) has failed to hear some wholesomely deep made-for-American TV voice intone the phrase ‘Augusta Georgia’, that’s… unmistakably where we are. All of us together – all of us white blokes, anyway – enjoying a show on earth so great the bunkers’ teeth apparently attended out of respectful necessity the Osmond’s dentist; at heinous expense.

What IS this all about? This mania for groomed perfection? This extraordinary un-ironic top-end Americana experience, with its uber-fruitiness and fecundity-with-visors. Can we get past all that to actually enjoy some sport? Or is this like a minority view, me being some Euro-cynic smart-arse seeing only the too much mascara thing when I should just relax, get over myself and enjoy the lush beauty of it all.

Once my eyes get accustomed, I do. Because despite my discomfort with the reactionary political hinterland/gauche majesty of the Augusta experience there is proper sport to be had.

Whilst there is unavoidably an argument that this golf club needs its ample bottie smacking or even flaying publicly for its ludicrous and simply unethical ‘position’ on basic human rights (actually), the bigness and the specialness of The Masters is undeniable. Maybe it does kindof drip with everything from history to ’emotion’ in a way that sticks in our throats; maybe the US coverage epitomises something so schmaltzily alien to our post-modernist island-realism that it becomes a particularly ‘good one to win’. (Because our lot – in this case actually probably any European, or even any non-American? – can strike some poorly articulated but non-the-less fully understood blow for realness and right by going there and beating the bastards on their own patch.) BUT… the tension and the drama and the critical stretching of talent – the response with instinctive brilliance to superlative challenge – is truly there.

In fact it’s maybe particularly there, because uber-groomed or not, this hilly and hyper-scrutinised chunk of Georgia Real Estate is geared up to ask some sizeable questions of the competitors. Like, ‘How’s your nerve, dude?” for starters, water being what we might call lappingly or ploppingly present in the minds of the participants. (Fascinatingly increasingly present in the minds of those actually in the hunt for victory, it seems.)  And the fans… are they not more of a factor here, where the natural amphitheatres that are certain holes conspire to gong-bath the response to stone-dead irons or woods from home favourites? That noise does seem, for want of a better word, special.

As I conclude, a check of the scoreboard encouragingly contradicts, in the presence of one Lee Westwood, the aromatically and expressionistically-enhanced nature of my spoilt walk. (Lee being a salt-of-the-earth Yorkie.) Back in the real world, the chances of this unstarry bloke ultimately winning are, I fear, remote.