Many of the changes are subtle. Augusta still sells its iced tea, beer and pimento cheese sandwiches at prices last seen a generation back. It has volunteers putting up the scores the old-fashioned way on ancient scoreboards. There are still attendants in the washrooms and the caddies still wear those white coveralls. But there is also a state-of-the-art digital world inside Augusta that is as current on the World Wide Web and in broadcast facilities as can be found.
The behaviour is also charmingly old-fashioned. In 1967, “president in perpetuity” Bobby Jones penned a message to patrons stating, “In golf, customs of etiquette and decorum are just as important as rules governing play.” There should be only appreciative applause; there should be no “excessive demonstrations” by players; and there are none.
Cellphones are strictly forbidden, as is running. Patrons can leave their fold-up seats and return hours later to find them neither moved nor occupied. Elderly men holding thin white ropes are able to exercise total control over flowing rivers of patrons hoping to cross over to sit at “Amen Corner” or watch the drama on the 18th hole.
“You do feel like you are walking on eggshells, scared to break a rule,” former U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland told BBC before the tournament. “You feel like the boss could walk ‘round the corner and all of a sudden your invite disappears the following year. Not that it would happen – but it feels that way.”
No matter: The players, the patrons and the television audience love it all.
“I’ve never been to heaven,” 1979 champion Fuzzy Zoeller said, “and thinking back on my life, I probably won’t get a chance to go. I guess winning the Masters is as close as I’m going to get.”
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