Brian Gallagher, Columnist

“A tradition unlike any other.” This phrase is uttered countless times in commercials with soft piano music and pictures of luscious greens in the background leading up to and during the Masters Tournament. With those images dancing in one’s head, it’s hard to fight the urge to grab the clubs, head out for a round and “finish that paper later” on these beautiful spring days. Procrastination aside, the Masters is often regarded as the most venerable of all the major championships. It is the only one that does not change location each year and has the smallest field of competitors, making it extremely exclusive. However, it is not the oldest championship, the easiest or the most loved by players. It did not even let women into the club until recently. So what makes The Master’s so special? That’s easy. One simple article of clothing: the green jacket.

The green jacket was first given out by the Masters tournament in 1949 to the great Sam Snead. Since then, the jacket has been synonymous with golfing greatness. Players with nicknames so cool they had to be good have won it, including “The Golden Bear” (Jack Nicklaus), “The Black Knight” (Gary Player) and of course “Tiger,” among many others. Thousands more have aspired to win the coveted jacket. Carl Spackler, as played by Bill Murray in Caddyshack, had dreams of rising from a greenskeeper to the Masters champion to be a “Cinderella story, with tears in his eyes.”

However, the one downside of the green jacket is that it can only be worn when the former champions return to Augusta. The reigning champion is allowed to keep it for a year and wear it whenever he likes. Personally I would wear the jacket at any occasion during that time period. Like a tuxedo t-shirt, the green jacket shows you’re serious, but you like to party.

This year’s Masters tournament was not finished in time for publication and the green jacket was still up for grabs. While it remains to be seen if Tiger Woods will channel his inner Shooter McGavin and steal the jacket if he does not win, someone will be walking away not only as a major tournament champion, but also dressed very stylishly. Rory McIlroy, the leader going into the final day, was poised to win his first major championship and would walk home as a proud Irishmen sporting the unofficial colors of his country. McIlroy would be the second youngest player to win the Masters, the first being the aformentioned Tiger Woods, and in doing so would begin to start his own legacy. Tiger, along with Phil Mickelson, who have a combined seven green jackets hanging in their closets at Augusta, are quietly being removed from their perch atop the golfing world by the young guns. But Tiger was still in contention heading into the last round and even after all he’s been through, nobody wants to be stalked by Tiger when he’s wearing red.

So by the time you read this, Tiger might have added to his collection of championships, McIlroy might be crowned the “next Tiger,” or a former greenskeeper may now be the Masters champion. Either way, keep your eyes on that green jacket, because it is truly a tradition that is unlike any other.

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