Billy Casper’s 106 on the opening day of the Masters’ has rekindled the debate about the lifetime exemption at Augusta.
The debate first raised its head a couple of years ago when Augusta Chairman Hootie Johnson sent a letter to the past Champions, sent letters to the older past Champions asking them to consider not appearing.
It caused an uproar and after consulting with Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, Hootie backed down. But the issue is sure to come up again.
I’m of two minds on this one.
On the one hand, I don’t think that when the lifetime exemption was put into place, the founders of the tournament envisioned guys in their eighties continuing to try to play. And they certainly didn’t envision someone stubbornly hanging on.
But, I for one enjoy having the chance to see golf’s past play with its present and future. If they cut the older players out, we won’t get that chance.
I think that the solution is for the Tournament to set up a “Past Masters” day, to be held on the Monday before the tournament. The Masters already is a sellout tournament; an extra day to see the legends of the past play would be a lot of fun. The problem is, that there probably wouldn’t be enough to man a decent field. They could extend the invitation to the older winners of other Majors.
Alternately, they could have a few groups of “Past Masters” go off the back nine on the first morning of the tournament. Then they could experience the pleasure of coming up 18 to a crowd all over again.
And fans of golf wouldn’t be denied the opportunity to see the heroes of their youth play one more time.