People used to say that the main golf shop at Augusta National was always overcrowded during the Masters week and that despite the uniqueness of the merchandise and the deep Southern courtesy with which the sales assistants guide patrons, one felt that one was in a standing-room-only railway carriage.
So, they decided to virtually triple the size of the shop and allowed for much better movement of people and had several more checkout counters. Guess what? This much bigger shop feels exactly the same as earlier. The crowds have increased, the merchandise (now marked up another few per cent) is flying off the shelves and the little satellite shops scattered across the course hardly take the pressure off.
Great stores such as Macy’s and others would give their eye teeth to have this kind of culture at their stores: the prices are never discounted, there is no advertising and no promotions (only a rather unprepossessing sign that says ‘golf shop’), sales persons are not on commissions, the merchandising is designed so that customers handle mainly samples and not the real merchandise, no pushing of sales is allowed by sales persons, no permanent staff, no internet or on line sales (you have to be there to buy... real bricks and mortar stuff that many retailers are unable to manage), an unreported massive bottom line that only becomes the base for next year, and the shop is only open for about two weeks in the year.
The whole enterprise of the Masters is the ultimate in branding. They have rules that many think are unconventional and unnecessary, they treat badly behaved patrons (spectators) on the course with extreme prejudice, the barriers to entry restrict access by numbers to the facilities to create exclusivity for these ten days (whereas access to all other golf events is unrestricted), and yet this is the most coveted golf event on the planet ever and creates more wealth for the enterprise and the community than any other event. It’s unmatchable. This does not happen automatically or by accident; it requires acute attention to detail, members of the club who think similarly, and the ability to elect committees and officials who not only are highly competent but are also able to contribute their time virtually 24/7.
Tiger Woods also appears to be unmatchable in appeal, even when he does not play well as at this year’s Masters. Certainly, the most recognised name in the world (not only as an athlete but also as an act of god), Pawan Munjal has sponsored him, and might well do it again after the present contract is over, to help brand his motorcycles and scooters around the world, wherever the impact of Tiger is felt.
Pawan not only sponsors Tiger but also golf and golfers like no other corporate. When golf takes off in a major way, the corporates and governments will come tumbling after, but it is in the nascent stages that the sport and the players need the support. He, and a notable few, are there for that.
Shubhankar Sharma, the 21-year old special invitee to the Masters (more on that in a subsequent article), acknowledged the various influences in the development of his golfing prowess and this, he was happy to say, included the effect of the Junior Training Program sponsored by Usha/Mawana. While he did not make the cut, he was cheerful about it, in his rather humble and inimitable way, saying that he had learned much and his efforts in the coming year would be to qualify for playing here.
Anything can happen (as Jordan said on Friday), and it did. He doubled the first, dropped another on the birdieable second and turned the corner at +4. It was remarkable to see him steady the leaky ship in quite windy conditions and pull a couple back to stay well within the mix. Jordan’s two shots into the drink at Rae’s Creek two years ago were markedly different from Sergio’s history making 13 on the 15th this year. Jordan’s were just two very bad shots with his arms flying out like chicken wings; Sergio’s first shot, had it travelled just another two feet would have left him with a tap in eagle, and were it one foot shorter it would not have spun back into the water. He hit the perfect shot but one that would get him wet. His subsequent four shots were all brilliant and they all landed level or above the pin to spin back into the water. He said that he did not know what happened or what he could have done, at that point, differently. That’s the Masters... last year’s winner is this year’s laggard, coming last. But, for sure, Sergio is down but not out.
Friday the wind was blowing, all over the place. Some holes there were two or three winds in the space of one shot; one as you struck the ball, another as the direction turned a 180 degrees, and a third when the wind suddenly stopped, causing a sort of wind shear (often fatal in the early years of aviation) that could drop your ball into water, or bunkers or carry them over greens into appreciative crowds. All this was evident on Saturday and basically all players were effected except a handful who were fortunate to play their shots when conditions had momentarily subsided. These things happen. Thus a sort of Snakes and Ladders (the interesting lesson of life game we used to play as children where someone rapidly climbing a ladder could be bitten or swallowed by a snake to suffer small or very large losses, only to begin the race again) game began as the leaders slipped or, after gyrating up and down, stayed where they were, while a slew of others steadily climbed the ladder. Marc Leishman has been most consistent over the last two days and should this form continue over the weekend, he will be the one to beat. Even so, it’s only half way now and “anything can happen”! Anyone making the cut can win and Tiger has just squeaked through to make the cut.... had he missed, so would have several patrons and of course the TV ratings. With Sunday’s predicted wet conditions and Sunday’s dry and warm weather, the change of weather might well predicate a change of fortunes for many players. Who knows? The reversal of leadership positions indicates the addition of further warp to the weft of the fabric being woven on which will be written the third of four acts on Saturday. Watch out, as the tension builds.