For golf aficionados (of which I am one), the “official” start of the golf season commences today, with the first round of the Masters tournament at Augusta. One of four Majors (the British Open, the US Open and the PGA Championship being the other three), this herald of Spring features the world’s best golfers at one of America’s premiere golf courses. Phil Mickelson seeks to defend his title against a field laden with incredible talent and fierce competitors.
Along with an unexpected last-minute contender.
Teeing off at 8:18 AM, with Ben Crenshaw, Brent Snedecker and Kevin Na is none other than…
…President Barack Obama.
In what is undoubtedly the surprise sports story of the decade, President Obama worked out a deal with Chairman Billy Payne to participate in this year’s tourney, despite the fact he is not a professional golfer.
At an impromptu press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Payne explained how the decision came about.
“On Monday, I received a call from the White House – it was the president. He said he was a big fan of the game, and wanted to come down. At first I thought he just wanted to attend and watch the tournament; but when he started asking if he could get an exemption and actually play…I figured, what the heck. With Tiger playing so badly, I was worried about tv ratings. Having President Obama play will attract a lot of viewers and spark even greater interest.”
With the president joining the field, additional security measures have been added, as well as a few modifications to the rules:
- Obama gets two mulligans per nine holes
- He’s permitted to tee off from the forward tees (formerly called the “ladies’ tees”)
- He gets to use a specially constructed bullet proof golf cart
- Any putt under a foot from the cup is in the “circle of friendship”, and will be considered a “gimme”.
- Obama is permitted to carry a “foot wedge” in his bag.
- Teleprompters will be allowed on the course for the first time in the tournament’s 77 year history.
“Purists might be upset with these concessions,” Payne said at his news conference, “but since he’s given the PGA a waiver on Obamacare, I felt it’s only fair we give him a waiver on some of the rules.”
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was barraged with questions from the press late Wednesday over this development. “Yes, we’re fighting three kinetic military actions. Yes, the government might shut down on Saturday. Yes, gas prices are rocketing. Yes, filming “Jersey Shore” in Italy has been delayed a month. The President is fully aware of all these issues, and believe me, he is so brilliant at multi-tasking, I’m confident that despite all this that’s going on, he’ll still maintain a cool, collected attitude and will not be deterred from going for the green in two on hole 13. You guys are making too big a deal out of this. Just take it easy, okay?”
At which point, the press corps started making their travel arrangements for Georgia.
President Obama took a few moments Wednesday evening to answer some questions before boarding Air Force One; one reporter asked if there was a political angle to his playing the tournament.
“There may be some who will label this a political maneuver, seeing as how I just announced that I will seeking a second term as President. Let me be clear – the thought of turning the Masters into a four-day unpaid political ad to further my political career never, ever crossed my mind.”
And when asked why he wants to do this – risk embarrassment or perhaps not make the cut for the final two rounds, Obama answered, “Why am I doing this? I think that green jacket will look nice next to my Nobel Peace Prize. And don’t worry – I’ll make the cut. I’m feeling good about my game.”
When asked if he had chosen a caddy yet, Obama responded, “It’s either going to be Matt Lauer or George Stephanopolous. Who knows – maybe both. Just to tweak CBS.”
Most of the golfers seem non-plussed about Obama’s inclusion. Ben Crenshaw, who’s playing with the president for the first round, took the change in stride.
“I mean, come on – he’s the President of the United States,” he said. “I think it will be good for the game. Think about it – if the Masters says ‘no’ to the president, then what? Let the nation think we’re a bunch of racists? No way. Obama playing this weekend will be a big inspiration for all those kids of indeterminate origin growing up in Hawaii, and I think that’s a good thing.”
Chairman Payne thinks it’s a good thing too. “CBS is happy, the golfers are happy, I’m happy. If President Obama can take time out of his schedule to grace us with his presence, and play a few rounds of golf, then who am I to complain? Maybe things really aren’t all as bad as some try to make it out to be, if he’s here in Augusta. I mean, he wouldn’t do this if there were really serious problems, would he?”