Following the NCAA basketball season ending earlier this week, two concepts entered the front of all sports fans minds - Opening Day for baseball and The Masters.

The first major championship of the season might not be the one players want to win the most, but Masters champions seemed to be held to a loftier status than any other major winner.

Though this year's Par 3 Contest was cut short by bad weather, the crowds come to see the players in a more relaxed atmosphere that isn't replicated at the other three majors.

The featured group of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player only made it through two holes before storms halted play, but the reverence shown in the short time was remarkable.

Those three combined for 13 Masters titles, and it seemed they had an old friend on every tee box and every green.

Another annual tradition at The Masters is the champions dinner. Oh to be a fly on the wall at that dinner, listening to those stories - the greatest champions waxing poetic about the battles they waged years ago.

No one could replicate that.

Then there are the vibrant colors around Augusta National. Though the azaleas won't be in full bloom this year due to a warm winter, then lush green fairways and greens will suffice.

Of course, Augusta National is always the star of The Masters. Younger fans might not realize that television coverage of the first two rounds didn't begin until 1982 and that it was 1993 before that coverage was expanded past the final four holes at Augusta National.

The powers that be at the club only recently allowed full 18-hole television coverage.

Some of the other differences you'll hear this weekend are the announcers referring to the rough as the second cut and the fans being called patrons.

And if you are one of the lucky announcers, you better not cross club officials the wrong way, or you won't be allowed back. Just ask Gary McCord.

Then there are Masters tickets, which are like season tickets to the Green Bay Packers. They get passed down through the generations. This year, for the first time ever, tickets were available to the general public for both practice and tournament rounds.

And, if you are lucky enough to score one of those tickets, on the grounds you'll find low-priced food and drink.

I read a tweet earlier this week in which a patron stated, "I just spent $3 on lunch and $600 in the merchandise tent. #Mastersrookie"

That person will learn from having the experience of a lifetime.

Remember, The Masters doesn't really begin until the back nine on Sunday. Until then, enjoy the roars.


The LPGA is in the process of bouncing back from a few down years. New commissioner Michael Whan is adding tournaments and has gotten a new television deal.

Fans of the tour might be bothered by such things as not knowing what weeks the tour is playing, and whether an event's television coverage will be live or tape delayed.

There is one bigger thing that will drive fans crazy: SLOW PLAY.

I understand the Kraft Nabisco Championship is a major, and it's played on a difficult course, has a larger-than-normal purse and gives a five-year exemption for the victory.

But, these ladies really need to pick up the pace a little bit.

In Sunday's final round, I wrote down four times just to see what the pace of play was like. The first group finished in about 4 hours, 50 minutes.

Yep, the first group of three players took nearly five hours. And you know what happens from there? The times just get worse.

The final threesome needed approximately 2:57 to play the front nine. They played the back nine in a scorching 2:46.

The last group took 4:10 to reach the 13th green en route to a round that clocked in 5:43.

Only once did Golf Channel announcers talk about the pace of play and that was on Saturday when the final twosome was put on the clock for being out of place.

Where were the officials in the final round? There is no reason golfers should take that long to play any round of a major in near perfect weather conditions. I would understand if it had been raining and really windy, but Sunday had perfect temperatures, sun and it was breezy with winds maybe topping out at 25 miles per hour.

If fans are bothered about the inconsistency of the tour's schedule or whether or not an event will be televised, they should be apoplectic about how long these rounds are taking.

Slow play has been a problem in golf forever, but this went to another level. The LPGA is doing wonders in advancing their product, but the next point of emphasis needs to be pace of play, or they'll start losing the fans before they even get them.


* Dustin Johnson is out of The Masters with a tweaked back that he hurt while lifting a jet ski out of the water. DJ, my man, you've made some nice cash in your career. Surely, you can get somebody to do that heavy lifting for you.

* I.K. Kim missed a 10-inch putt that would have given her the title at the Kraft Nabisco Championship last weekend. She then lost a playoff to Sun Young Yoo. However, Kim stepped up and did every interview afterward. She handled the tough situation with pure class.