Familiarity breeds contentment when it comes to the Masters. Every year, we stayed in the same house, and Peter Alliss even left his slippers there,”We stayed in the same house every year, and Peter Alliss even left his slippers there,”
The Masters remains the ultimate golf comfort food with its soothing sense of sameness, even though the abundance of syrupy schmaltz and sugar-coated deference almost contributes to gout.
Things are a bit different this year, of course. What once was the great spring rite of golf is now something of a winter warmer, as the corona virus forced the Masters to a November date.
Brown, meanwhile, will not be in attendance at all, and another piece of furniture absent from a slimmed-down major will be his eccentric, inflatable-object-laden ‘Ken On The Course’ BBC review of Augusta’s numerous nooks, crannies, hazards and pitfalls. “It will be the first time in more than 20 years that I’m not working the Masters,”It’s going to be the first time in more than 20 years that I’m not working with the masters.
In 1988, as a player, Brown only made one appearance at the Masters. Being a part of it wasn’t a bad one. It was won by Sandy Lyle. Lyle’s victory – the first by a GB&I golfer – sparked an era of pomp and prosperity for European players after Seve’s landmark victories in 1980 and 1983 that would lead to six green jackets over the next eight years.
Brown reflected on his fellow Scot’s victory: “Sandy’s win meant so much for the European Tour and especially for the British and Irish players,” “It was a real bonanza for the game, especially for the players from the islands.”
The conquest of Lyle may have been the trigger for a shake-up, but good old Sandy did not change that. “The day after he won, we both went in convoy to the next event at Hilton Head and I had to ride up front because Sandy didn’t want to get lost,” Brown said, laughing. “He was all Sandy still.
“We went out fishing when we got there. There were little alligators swimming about, and by throwing my line close to them, I teased them. All of a sudden, one jumped out and terrified us both to death. This would have been a fine headline, ‘Masters champion gets attacked by an alligator.’
Augusta fever had definitely bitten Brown. He profoundly regrets that he never played again in the Masters. “It’s sad because I loved it so much and it was so much to my liking with the chipping, the putting and all the tactics,” said the five-time Ryder Cup winner, who had won the Southern Open of the PGA Tour the year before to win a trip to Magnolia Lane.
“The top 25 were welcomed back at that point. I ended 36th. I made a major mistake on the first hole on the last day and shot six. How dumb I had been playing on the flag, I couldn’t get it out of my mind. In order to find myself again, it took me a few holes, and that cost me. But for you, that’s Augusta. If you’re bold and you get it right? Terrific. If you’re off by a percentage, you’re going to get it.
This latest edition of the Masters may have been delayed by more than six months, but the sense of anticipation remains as feverish as ever after Tiger Woods’ spectacular triumph in 2019 – “the story of all stories,” cooed Brown -.
Never count him out,” added Brown of the opportunities for Woods. “And look at Phil (Mickelson)? He is fifty, so don’t bet against him. The tale of Bryson DeChambeau is fascinating. Will he convert his power of hitting into a major advantage, and what effect would that have on golf?
“The date change is fascinating to me in that golfers have a rhythm to the season, a rhythm to their lives. With the change to November, that rhythm is gone. One of the biggest tournaments of the year is coming up and everything is out of rhythm. Instead of relaxing, there’s a huge race to win. Some may find that hard to do. The golf body clock is all askew.”
While the serious business around him was going on, the fact-finding missions of Brown on the golf course always added some hilarity to the coverage of the BBC. I kicked a football one year on the 13th to illustrate how to pull the ball,”One year I kicked a soccer on 13 to demonstrate how to pull the ball,” “The officials at Augusta were always very accommodating to my requests, but afterwards they said, ‘Next year Ken, no soccer.'”
It will be more like Ken on the couch this year than Ken on the field. I wish I had been there. It’s a nice thing.