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.