But first, a metaphor update: My initial response was “Oh you’ve got to be kidding me” when I saw a photo of John Boehner putting left-handed in the NY Times on Sunday. Turns out he only putts left-handed. He’s a rightie otherwise. Another intact metaphor (whew!).
The Masters and the Open, our two favorite domestic majors, epitomize the two faces of golf. The Masters with the impossible perfection of its grooming is the golf we want to play. It’s like golf porn: every undulation is just perfect and the course looks air brushed and bikini waxed (tip of the cap to Gary McCord) . The Masters is the daring shot that you’re tempted to try and then pull off. Think of Phil in 2010 off the pine straw in the trees on the 13th. The US Open with its punishing rough and slick greens is more like the golf we actually play: time and again the challenge is to find a way to get up and down for par. And par for that matter is no longer something to disdain, but something to which you aspire. The Masters is the exclusive side of golf, the side where rich old white guys get to decide what other rich old white guys get to play with them. The US Open is the public side where everybody’s welcome just as long as they pay and obey the rules. You have to be invited to the Masters. You can qualify for the Open. The Masters is about articles of attire that you wouldn’t wear anywhere else. (Really, where else have you ever seen green blazers like that?) The Open is about wearing whatever is comfortable given the elements. (Compare and contrast: the wardrobes last year on Sunday at Pebble with what they’ll be wearing this coming Sunday at Congressional).
The Masters, with its blooming azaleas, is the fresh start that we anticipate every year and that awaits us at every first tee. The US Open is meeting the challenge of what the course throws at you and overcoming the predicaments you create for yourself. It’s figuring how to right the ship after a couple ugly holes at the start of the back nine. If you’re a golf fan you have probably watched more golf being played at Augusta National than any other place except your home course. And so the Masters represents everything that is familiar about a game where we spend so much time at the same place with the same people. The US Open is more like vacation golf. You go, you play and then you go somewhere else next year.
Of course there is much that the tournaments have in common. There is great history at both and a new chapter is written every year. Each has been the stage for horrible collapses and brilliant surges, for clutch shots and stabbed short putts. But that’s why we watch.