The Masters just isn't the same

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The essence of sport is competition. There was a day when The Masters was as compelling a golfing event as one could imagine. Those were the days of Nicklaus and Palmer, Weiskopf and Cook, Snead and Hogan. For many years, several golfers would share the top rank of the sport, almost guaranteeing that one of them would have to drill a 30' putt or stick an 8 iron to pull away for a one-stroke victory.

Now, however, Tiger Woods has drawn so far beyond the pack that such drama has become an infrequent thing. All too often, Tiger has events in his bag midway through the back nine, and his minions scramble for second-place money. The consequence is that golf as a spectator sport has been diminished.

The television ratings reflect the problem. When Tiger plays, viewership jumps like a duffer sinking an eagle. When he doesn't, it drops like one of my drives over a water hazard. Ask the average viewer to name more than one golfer, and he'll likely come up with a name from a previous generation, a Fuzzy Zoeller or Ben Crenshaw.

Even Tiger could an arch enemy this weekend at Augusta, someone to push him harder, someone to add spice to events like the Masters. Perhaps he won't win in a cakewalk, but the odds are heavily in his favor. Oh, for the days of Jack and Gary Player, or Seve and the Shark.

At least the Azaleas remain glorious.
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