Masters or U.S. Open best? It's a tight match

Published: Monday, Apr. 1, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 14X
Last Modified: Monday, Apr. 1, 2013 - 6:44 am

The Masters begins next week, signaling the unofficial beginning of the golf season.

The U.S. Open concludes two months later with its annual Father's Day finish.

Any golf fan fortunate enough to have attended both will tell you that the experiences are fantastic and markedly different.

Which is better from a fan's perspective? Here's a first-person emergency nine – match-play style – to determine the winner.

Venue

I can tell you exactly what every hole looks and feels like at Augusta National after seeing it on TV for so many years before seeing it in person. And the last time I was there was four years ago.

The Open is at Merion in Pennsylvania this year – I know that there's a lot of history there, but I can't tell you what one hole looks like.

The Masters is the only men's major championship that doesn't rotate its course, which wouldn't work anywhere in the world other than Augusta. Its familiarity allows for tremendous mind's-eye anticipation.

Augusta is one of the few places I know where I can say that, no matter your expectations, you won't be disappointed.

The Open has a loose rotation that includes the best classic courses in America (Pinehurst in 2014, Oakmont in 2016, Shinnecock Hills in 2018 and Pebble Beach in 2019) with all kinds of history, but also allows for introducing deserving new venues, such as Washington's Chambers Bay in 2015 and regional access to golf fans across the country.

Score: All square

Fan treatment/access

Fans are treated well at both places.

The weather is typically better in Georgia in April than at an Open venue in June, but that's not necessarily true in California.

There are key places at Augusta fans can't get near – the greens at Nos. 12 and 13, for instance – but that's quibbling.

Score: All square

Fan behavior

If I had a dollar for every time I heard "Get in the hole!" at last year's Open at the Olympic Club, I could have stayed at the St. Francis instead of near the airport. There is none of that at Augusta. Maybe gentility is passed down through the generations, as are the tickets.

Score: Masters 1 up

Tickets

It's first-come, first-served at the Open. If you really want to make a week of it, you can.

It's largely legacy at the Masters, with limited single-day tickets available via a random drawing. Georgia is a long way to travel to watch golf for one day, although I've heard from a lot of people who've done it without complaint.

Score: Back to all square

Course setup

Almost everything is closely mown at Augusta. It's usually deep rough and some shaved slopes at the Open.

Officials at both can set up their course to produce whatever winning score in relation to par they want. The Masters has found a sweet spot of 10 to 12 under par. The Open likes its winner somewhere near even.

There are more roars at the Masters and more "ooohs" and "ahhhs" at the Open, but each produces its own brand of drama.

Tom O'Toole, the vice president of the United States Golf Association, which runs the Open, has said that "trying to test the greatest players in the world might not be particularly spectator-oriented to some people."

It's a beautiful thing once a year.

Score: Open 1 up

Players/field

The Open is more inclusive, but there are always plenty of great stories and a deserving winner at each.

Score: Open still 1 up

Food and drink

Masters fans can gorge themselves on 1950s-priced sandwiches (ham, turkey, tuna, egg salad) and soda/beer for $15 a day. That might get you a hamburger and a beer at an Open.

Score: Back to all square

Media

The Masters is the only tournament that doesn't allow media members inside the rope line, but it does reserve the top row of every grandstand for them.

Open venues allow media types to play the championship course a month in advance of the championship. A select few are randomly chosen to play Augusta the Monday after the Masters. I was not among them, but I'm still not bitter. Really.

Score: Still all square

Overall feel

There are no electronic scoreboards at either place, just a sense of beauty, excitement and history.

Final score: Match halved

Call The Bee's Steve Pajak, (916) 326-5526.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Steve Pajak



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