Golf, But Worse
By Kyle Koster
The Masters has a way of making time stand still. A no cell phone policy forces patrons to be present in the moment, which is colored by the approaching golden hour of Sunday along with golf's past and future. Augusta National has yet to deliver a final act lacking either the requisite drama or reverent spectacle.
Yesterday was no different as a trio of LIV loyalists turned back the clock to varying degrees. Patrick Reed made a late charge to a smattering of applause and apprehension as he tried to chase down the ultimately victorious Jon Rahm. Brooks Koepka waited impatiently in vain for birdies that dried up as soon as the weather turned wet. And 52-year-old Phil Mickelson somehow almost stole the show with a spellbinding 65 to emerge as the clubhouse leader and threaten an upstart party on the 18th green.
For all the criticism levied in the Roman numeral enthusiasts' direction from this website since its founding, equal time and fairness is required. Because make no mistake, it was tremendous to remember some guys we haven't seen tee it up in awhile. To remember that there are worthy major champions playing on the CW and their skills have not atrophied to any stage of irrelevance when the lights are brightest.
Their presence made things richer and better. Those who have earned the right to participate in the most prestigious weekends of the year deserve to be there. A decision made easier with a third party that knows it should stay neutral as the sport's Civil War rages in the interest of a greater bottom line.
It was an Easter surprise to find myself, a noted PGA Tour shill, not so much rooting against Brooks or Phil or Patrick but instead accepting that the result was out of my hands, dictated by a greater power or the culmination of par saves. Whoever won would have earned it and one doesn't need to be thrilled by the results to accept them.
And acceptance is a funny, inequitable thing. LIVers can play in some majors and not in others. They are embraced with uneven warmness depending on how they left and the existing legacies they left. Mickelson was not Tiger but he was not a pariah. Same with Reed. As for Brooks, well, he cemented his status as the One That Got Away.
Everything has gotten more complicated, even if tensions seem to be in a cooling-off period. For four days golf was at its best while in the back of our minds existed the knowledge that soon they'd be worse.
LIV may ultimately succeed on its own terms. Mickelson is not wrong in taking credit for making the Tour better for the masses and audiences. His problem is that he's bet big on a zero-sum game that finds him always scrambling, even if few have ever been better at finding a creative solution.
The joy of having an unrivaled field is bittersweet. It makes a person wish it could always be like this. Like getting along with an ex for a weekend and wondering why there was a breakup in the first place. You miss the positives and briefly forget why it didn't work and perhaps could never work.
It leads to an odd place on the afterglow of Monday morning. A global schism has robbed those who just want to mind their own business and watch the best players go head-to-head year-round. Things are worse because the Cameron Smiths and Joaquin Niemanns of the world are not pushing the Jordan Spieths and Patrick Cantlays as the Sunday scaries set in. That's something everyone on this polarized and political spectrum can agree on.
The Masters is precious due to its rarity and an expanded tent will only make it more so. It's a restaurant made even more memorable because the portions are so small. Scarcity works here more than anywhere else. But it's a damn shame golf fans have to be this hungry.