The 81st edition of the Masters begins Thursday at Augusta National, which is cause for celebration for golf fans everywhere. All four majors are important, but the Masters is a cut above – and not simply because it’s played at the same course every year.
No, it’s because it’s played at Augusta National.
“Augusta National is unique in its own right,” golf legend Greg Norman said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “There’s no billboards. It’s just pure golf. It’s quintessential, what every professional golfer wants to play in. When you walk towards that first tee, you just see the pureness of Mother Nature and how great the golf course is. It’s changed over time, the golf course, but the essence of the golf course is still there, and quite honestly, the culture of the club is unique in its own fashion. There’s a lot of mystique around it, and the Masters brand is a very powerful brand in its own right. So it’s a tournament every professional wants to play in, and it’s a tournament that, if you do get in it, you hope that you can be the one to put the green jacket on at some time in your career.”
Norman hopes that the 2017 Masters unfolds without a hitch – and without fan interference. Lexi Thompson lost the ANA Inspiration tournament Sunday after a television viewer informed the LPGA Tour that Thompson did not properly mark her ball on the 17th green Saturday. Thompson, 22, received a two-stroke penalty for the blunder and another two-stroke penalty for signing an incorrect scoreboard, ultimately losing in a playoff to South Korea’s So Yeon Ryu.
“Well, I’m not a big fan of it, to tell you the truth,” Norman said of fan interference. “We’re scrutinized in the game of golf because there’s TV cameras everywhere, and from what I’m hearing, every golf shot is recorded somewhere in some van. But I don’t like it when the fans call in. I like the fan support of the game, there’s no question about it. But in a situation like this where it has such a dramatic effect on it, it’s tough for me to be in favor of it.”
Norman, 62, also discussed his wild path to golf. The Australian native fell in love with the sport at an early age, despite shooting a 108 in his first round. He went on to win two majors and finish runner-up in seven others.
“Well, I loved the individual challenge of it,” Norman said. “I did a lot of team sports as a kid growing up. Typical Australian stuff: cricket, rugby, Australian rules. But I never did an individual sport. I never played tennis. So when I got my hands on a golf club, I thought, ‘Wow, this is such a challenging (sport) – not only physically, but mentally.’ So the more I improved, the better shots I started to hit, the more better shots I wanted to hit. So to me, it was pushing myself every time I went out there. The more I poured into it, the more I got out of it. So it was very, very rewarding for my personality.”