Alternate Shot: Masters on Monday?
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- If Sunday at Augusta National is like a sacred holiday, then the following statement could very well be sacrilegious: The Masters could end on Monday.
For the second straight day, heavy rain and lightning forced suspension of play well before the round was over. With a smaller field than most PGA Tour events, tournament officials will have a better chance of completing everything by Sunday evening ... but that doesn't mean it will actually happen.
ESPN.com's Jason Sobel and Golf World's Ron Sirak debate whether we'll still be watching golf from Augusta this Monday.
Well, since a Monday finish at The Masters would essentially kill the television viewing pleasures of golf fans around the world, we should treat this topic as if it's on trial.
That said, the prosecution would like to present Exhibit A to the court: the 2005 PGA Tour schedule. In case you haven't seen it, the list of cities the tour has visited reads like a Who's Who of storm warnings, flash floods and other climatic aberrations. The Nissan Open was shortened to 36 holes, the Players Championship was finished late on a Monday and the BellSouth Classic ... wait a minute, did they ever finish that thing? The point is, a precedent has been set. Mother Nature doesn't like her golf to end on Sundays.
Which brings us to Exhibit B: Hootie and the greencoats who run Augusta National. Now, don't get us wrong, we love the course and they serve up a mean pimento cheese sandwich, but at least a few hours were wasted on Friday morning. Players continued their first rounds at 9:45 a.m., rather late considering there were nearly three hours of sunlight earlier in the day. Same thing will happen Saturday, when the second round doesn't continue until 8:30 a.m. If the tournament can't end on Sunday, officials can point to these lost morning hours as reason why.
And, finally, Exhibit C: the players. There are too many good golfers near the top of the leaderboard. That makes us nervous about the dreaded "P" word; dreaded, that is, if you can't sit around watching a playoff on Monday, because that's just when this Masters may end.
Ladies and gentlemen, the prosecution rests.
If you are planning on playing hooky on Monday, make a tee time. You don't have to worry about being in front of the tube to watch the conclusion of The Masters. That will happen Sunday evening, when it always does.
There are two reasons why the green-jacket ceremony won't be pushed back to the first day of the work week. Primary among those reasons is the fact that among the many quaint traditions of The Masters is the fact that it has such a small field. With only 92 competitors here, now that Billy Casper has taken his 105 and gone home, tournament officials have every opportunity to bring this rain and lightning-delayed mess to an on-time conclusion. After the cut, there will be fewer than 50 survivors compared to the more than 70 at a regular PGA Tour event.
Here's the way I'm thinking things will play out. By the end of daylight on Saturday, 45 holes will be in the record book. That means they will need to play 27 holes on Sunday. The traditional tee time for the final group on the final day is shortly before 3 p.m. If the leaders finish the third round by 1:30, there will be no problem. As long as we don't have a sudden-death playoff (and I can't even believe I've raised that possibility), Phil Mickelson will be slipping the green jacket on the new champion in the fading light of Sunday evening.
Now the other reason I think play will definitely end on time here is that I'm guessing the members of Augusta National Golf Club have a card up their sleeve we don't know about. Nothing -- neither rain nor snow nor Martha Burk -- stops this tournament. I'm thinking they have something like some giant fans hidden away they will bring out to blow the clouds away. Or maybe they've installed a dome and just haven't opted to use it yet. There still are no females in this club and Mother Nature is not going to become an honorary member this week.
We're ending on Sunday because that's the way Augusta National wants it.
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