Masters opinion: Months of waiting… to see frustratingly little

The first day of the Masters is always a slow burner – but we never learn to manage our expectations

As with many of the things in life that we most look forward to, the reality of the first day of the Masters can be something of a disappointment.

It’s said that mothers are programmed quickly to forget the pain of giving birth otherwise there would be a lot of only children; so it is that sports fans have little memory of the previous year’s experience when Masters Thursday finally arrives again.

All that anticipation, across the duration of the seemingly never-ending winter, leads to coverage finally beginning over six hours after play started (and bear in mind the Masters has a much smaller field than the other Majors) and with half the field already back in the clubhouse.

Still, mustn’t grumble, we’ll get straight to the action. But of course, we don’t. We have to sit through an hour of chat and reminiscence.

Even though you know that Sky would dearly love to be showing live action and have not made an editorial judgement that the best way to cover the opening day of the Masters is to begin the show halfway through the day and then spend an hour looking back at how Jack Nicklaus won the fourth of his six Green Jackets back in the 70s, you can’t help but get angry with them.

By the time we finally got going, all that was left of the early starters’ round were re-runs of Justin Rose holing a long birdie putt and Rory’s post-round interview.

"All that anticipation, across the duration of the seemingly never-ending winter, leads to coverage finally beginning over six hours after play started."
As for the likes of the defending champion, Bubba Watson, past winners Adam Scott and Charl Schwartzel and the much-fancied Dustin Johnson, we know no more than Ceefax could have told us all those years ago. I don’t even know what colour Bubba’s buttoned-up polo was.

Really, the first day’s coverage comprises little beyond a shot-by-shot view of the final two groups of the day plus the occasional look at a few surprise early front-runners, in this case Ernie Els and Ryan Palmer.

Oh, and lots of lingering scrolls through the entire leaderboard. Which are handy, if nothing else, to locate your pre-tournament picks, who can be found lanuishing at +2 in a tie for 58th place, which you convince yourself might look a little better at the close of play because there must be at least 15 afternoon starters who will fall away before the end of the day. A quick start tomorrow and they will be back in it, etc.

By the end of the day, everything is as it should be, and always is, with all the usual suspects nicely in position and nobody especially notable having played themselves out of the event. There’s always a touch of nostalgia, normally involving Freddie Couples, but with Els deputising this time.

The only vaguely sensible reason anyone can come up with as to why the Men of the Masters limit coverage for the first two days is to leave us wanting more.

Well, if that’s the case then mission accomplished. Roll on the weekend.

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