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The big no-no at the Masters is "sunbathing," which is a euphemism for lying down on the grass, and so a system is all worked out, like a dress code. You can lean back and rest on your elbows, but you cannot go down all the way so that your shoulders are on the ground. But suppose one of these Mary Elizabeths puts her shoulders down on the Masters grass? Well, there is an old, kindly Pinkerton standing nearby, looking a little like Walter Brennan. He is the captain of the sunbathing squad, and what he does is sort of flirt with any errant buds in a May-September fashion until they giggle and wiggle up to at least elbow level. The black riot guards stand back, more or less at attention, more or less invisible. This is not their enforcement level.
With so many distracting elements available, it could become easy to overlook the central event, the golf tournament. Also it is sometimes tempting to do so because a golf tournament can be a difficult and unsatisfactory thing to watch. This is not peculiar to the Masters, where management has gone to great pains to make its tournament observable. The scoreboard, communication system and spectator arrangements at Augusta are unrivaled in the sport. The trouble is with the game itself.
The action is spread out over a couple of hundred acres, and except on the final two days when the leaders tend to be grouped it is hopelessly fragmented. No other sport is so cursed. The movement of a quarterback, for example, affects the movement of 21 other players. A horse runs in relation to other horses, a tennis player returns a ball hit at him by another player. But what Arnold Palmer does at 11 is geographically unrelated to Bill Casper at 15, and both have nothing to do with Bert Yancey or Bob Charles at 6 and 12, respectively. A golf tournament is a hundred or so men roaming about large fields, each doing his own thing, isolated by space and concentration from all the other competitors.
There are various philosophies among spectators at the Masters as to how these problems may be overcome. Under normal conditions a sitting, stay-in-one-spot-see-them-all-come-past galleryite gets to watch about 5% of a day's play (an approach, two putts and a drive by each player). In practice the percentage may be reduced by trees, hills, guards and other golf fans, or in the case of Augusta it may be enhanced by a felicitous choice of vantage points. For instance, around The Beach it is possible to watch all the play on two holes (16 and 6) with just a little neck straining.
A nomadic spectator, on the other hand—one who follows his favorite for a full round, or a series of favorites for a few holes apiece—watches about 3% of what is going on, i.e., all the shots of two or three players. The walking galleryite has, however, a distinction that may partly compensate for his many frustrations. He knows he has had a workout. A fan who trudges 18 holes with Arnie's Army is perhaps the only spectator in sport who gets more exercise than the man playing the game. Palmer is followed by a caddie lugging all his gear and is able to walk unencumbered down an open fairway, more or less in a straight line between his shots. A loyal trooper must, because of ropes and marshals, go the long way around, dodging thickets, low branches and knots of sitting fans while lugging his folding stool, field glasses and score sheets. There is a well-staffed, well-equipped first-aid station at the Masters. Late in the afternoon it is busy, not treating athletes but caring for sunburned, blistered, exhausted spectators.
Given the difficulties of golf spectating, the working press seldom strays far from the clubhouse and press building. Reports on play are quickly relayed by scoreboards and television, giving the professional observers as good a mathematical idea as anybody as to what is taking place. And if they miss out on some of the drama, they can always catch it later at the player debriefings.
When the dust has settled after a round, the more prominent players are convoyed into the press building to give their version of what has occurred. Each player describes his round, shot by shot, for the assembled scribes. "On one, I was left of the bunker, hit a six, 35 feet, two putts. Two, good drive...." etc., for 18 holes. But this does not provide news of sufficient quantity or quality to serve the needs of the 1,200 media people who turn up each year, so many of them amplify this fare with private interviews later.
"O.K., Tommy," asks a reporter of Tommy Aaron. "You had a great round today. What was the key shot?" The writer is feeling around for a few paragraphs or maybe even an entire "crucial play" story.
"Well, I don't know exactly," says Aaron.