At the Masters, Champions Past, Present and Future

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Seventy-five years ago this past week, Sam Snead won the Masters Tournament and became the first champion to receive one of Augusta National Golf Club’s green jackets.

Until he died in 2002, the jacket was his to wear every time he returned to Augusta. These days, it is a sartorial symbol of how, beyond a freighted history and marvelous azaleas and golf’s geopolitical machinations and gallery roars that ripple from Amen Corner to the clubhouse, Augusta National is more enchanted by champions than most places.

Since the start of the month, Lottie Woad has captured the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. Eight children were named champions of a junior golf competition after playing at Augusta. More than 30 past Masters winners gathered for dinner to honor Jon Rahm, last year’s champion, and Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tom Watson hit tee shots to start this year’s tournament. Many of their brethren played afterward, because they are allowed to for life. On Sunday, someone — perhaps someone new, perhaps someone already admitted to the locker room reserved for past champions — will win the 88th Masters.

There may be no place in men’s golf where hope, dazzle and ambition are as abundant as Augusta.

But this past week, all of the possibilities seemed to be on greater display than usual. There was the solar eclipse on Monday, when fans peered skyward, just as Ben Crenshaw and Nick Faldo did here, too. Later on, Tiger Woods, 48 years old and two years removed from the last time he finished a major tournament, made his record 24th consecutive Masters cut. But he faded on Saturday.

Higher up the leaderboard during the third round, players like Ludvig Aberg, Nicolai Hojgaard, Max Homa and Xander Schauffele hunted for their debut major title, while Bryson DeChambeau, Collin Morikawa and Cameron Smith looked to build on the magic that had made them champions elsewhere not all that long ago. Scottie Scheffler occasionally stumbled but was still at once contending for another Masters victory and wondering if he could lock it down before the birth of his first child.

Golf enthusiasts often regard a trip to the Masters as the stuff of dreams. It certainly is for players. The Masters represents a shot at becoming one of those champions written into history, with the green jackets and the possibility of forever enchanting Augusta.



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