Golf

Major pressure at the Masters

Ray Floyd slipped on a Green Jacket in 1976 with a then record-setting 17-under total, beating Ben Crenshaw by eight shots.

In an interview on Golf Channel, the three-time runner-up was asked about the pressure at The Masters. "There's pressure in every major. It's what separates players," said Floyd.

Golfers who compete examine themselves daily searching for the guts that define major champions. Fans love one-and-done, island greens and playoffs, the cauldrons that conjure pressure like no other. Beginning on No 1 Tee, maybe even between the sheets the night before, The Masters slow-cooks tension and anxiety like no other golf tournament in the world.

Jim Herman, who received the last invitation, wasn't nervous until he walked from the putting green to the first tee on Thursday. He won the Shell Houston Open last week.

Herman never was comfortable on the greens that are mowed to 1/8 inch.

Ask Ed Sneed, Scott Hoch or Greg Norman, three golfers whose Green Jackets unraveled with astonishing finishes. Ed Sneed bogeyed Holes 16, 17 and 18 to lose. Hoch missed a putt not much longer than his foot in a playoff with Nick Faldo. If you haven't seen Norman's collapse, you must be under a rock in Rae's Creek.

The Masters offers a lifetime invitation, a seat at the Champions Dinner and, oh yeah, a tailor-made Green Jacket. On the back nine on Sunday, every golfer is aware, whether they admit it or not, of those privileges, and these lifelong honors stir the pot.

Jordan Spieth seems to relish the 100-compression intensity in Augusta, Ga., and everywhere else in the world. The former Longhorn was a couple dimples away from the Grand Slam last year in St Andrews, Scotland and Wisconsin. If he wins this week, he will have three majors by the age of 22. Guess who didn't do that?

The greatest players in the world are not afraid to win, not frightened when failure stares them in the face. Masters champions stand on 3/8 inch fairways and throw 180-yard golf shots at greens that repel bashful flights, and they fire without hesitation. As the 20-mph winds of pressure rage in Augusta and send scores as high as the Georgia Pines, Spieth thumps pressure with a brain, heart and putter that just might have fans saying, "Tiger who?"

Tommy Snell, golf coach at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, writes a column for the Sun Herald.

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