This is one of my favorite weeks in sports. The only event more exciting to me than the Masters would be the Mets in the World Series (and I won't hold my breath on that). Super Bowl week is great, but to fill the two week layoff we are fed overblown analysis and storylines about the third string tight end's fourth cousin. MLB has decided to make the World Series a two and a half week event with some games ending in the wee hours of the morning.
The Masters remains the one event where tradition and enthusiasm are not over-hyped during this whirlwind time of year in sports. The Final Four and Opening Day generate an enthusiasm level which peaks (for me at least) around mid-afternoon on Masters Sunday as the leaders navigate Amen Corner.
I have been very fortunate to have attended NLCS games, the final game of the Yankees-Mets World Series in 2000, NBA Finals, Sundays at the US Open and PGA Championships, and Big East Tournaments. But the Sunday I spent at Augusta in 2009 with my college roommate rivaled any of those events in electricity and energy.
I must be joking, right? You mean all those old, white guys can generate the same kind of electricity as Game 5 of the 2000 World Series? For every patron (they are not considered fans at Augusta) attending his 25th Masters, there is a guy like me who knows this may be his first and last time at Augusta National. These patrons are not Augusta regulars and they generate enormous energy as they try to soak up every square inch of the course.
The gallery roars, especially on number sixteen (my favorite hole), are deafening as each patron tries to make his voice heard on the "hallowed grounds." Whether it was asking Butch Harmon (Phil Mickelson's swing coach) for some free lessons on the par 3 fourth hole, watching Phil and Tiger make a run on the front nine (only to fall short on the back), or trying the famous pimento and cheese sandwich (not a fan), Augusta brought me memories I'll treasure for a lifetime.
As we get ready for the 2011 Masters I think back to last year's remarkable finish when Phil Mickelson and his band of followers (of which I am included) had reason to celebrate as "Lefty" earned his third green jacket. Whether it was the incredible eagle on the par four 14th on Saturday or his second shot on the thirteenth from behind the trees to within six feet on Sunday, we witnessed some of the more memorable shots in Masters' history.
Many feel that Opening Day is the official start of spring in the sports world. But as long as Opening Day continues to be pushed up into March and snow is still falling in parts of the Northeast, I'll consider Masters weekend to be my kickoff to the spring season. The warm weather has begun its trip north, Augusta's azaleas are in bloom and golf is in full swing. Lazy days on the East End beaches and lobster at Gosman's seem within reach. I can even tolerate hearing Jim Nantz sprinkle his now famous "Hello, friends" throughout the weekend.
When Palmer and Nicklaus tee it up tomorrow as honorary starters, let's enjoy this four day event in Augusta, GA, where something special seems to happen each year. In 2011 we should expect nothing different. By the way, not that I am, but for those of you who are counting, Phil Mickelson won the Shell Houston Open this past weekend.
Pete is a lifelong Montauk resident and former sports talk host at 88.7FM WEER. He can be reached via email at Peterfmundo@gmail.com.