Seely: Smart People Up There at Augusta National

What should we make of the Masters?

First, we have to commit a sacrilege and admit that it’s the most overhyped event this side of the Super Bowl. The main players — fans who attend, players and media — treat it as a Second Coming, though it comes each year at the same time.

Second, we have to commit a sacrilege and admit that we spend five or so hours to see what we see every week. It’s a golf tournament, one of 40 or so.

Third, we have to commit a sacrilege and admit the TV broadcast is a shill, with the producers and announcers overlooking any non-expected event (remember the guy blowing the sand off the 16th green on the final day, and the cameras stayed on the tee?)

Lastly, we have to admit that we really don’t watch what happens in the Butler Cabin after the thing is over. There is no more stilted half-hour on TV, and that includes whatever Larry King is hawking these days.

All that being said, let’s give this one a C+. No real excitement, an unloveable winner and an unsatisfying finish after it appeared Jordan Speith would save the whole thing.

What saves the Masters is TV. You may never have been there but you know every hole. You can’t identify with the greens, because TV tends to flatten the out, and that’s too bad because the greens are really neat.

But, if you go there, you don’t think you’re in heaven. Everything is perfect, but isn’t everything perfect at all top-flight clubs?

The view really isn’t much from the top of the hill, as you look down over a big chasm (the original range) between the 9th and 18th holes. And you’re swamped by the masses; if you want to follow a player, it better be whoever won the Asian Amateur because everyone else will be covered in people.

A friend of mine once said that McDonald’s is not a hamburger company. It’s a marketing company.

That’s Augusta. The concessions are reasonable, the merchandise classy. But they play a numbers game.

Let’s take what should be the least attractive day of the week:


There are 40,000 people there. 40,000! If each spends $50 on merchandise and concessions — and that’s surely a low figure — that’s $2 million. It’s easy to suspect that the club somehow has put lots of tickets in secondary markets; a friend of mine paid $440 per ticket.

The hospitality opportunities are plentiful and designed to fit any Arab chieftan’s budget. You can go home and brag that you met Condoleezza Rice, but everyone knows you spent $3,000 to do it.

They roll the chumps and get lauded for it. Everyone goes home and tells their pals, and the last line is always: “Why can’t the (fill in the blank) do it that way?”

You can fill in the blank with what you wish: Gators, Jaguars, Jumbo Shrimp or whatever.

Smart people up there at Augusta National. They know it’s not the golf, it’s the marketing.

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