When Steve Stricker announced his Captain’s picks on Tuesday, it seemed like there had finally been a changing of the guard for Team USA.
For a nation long enchanted by The Masters, this week’s event looms as another compelling instalment.
Adam Scott’s breakthrough 2013 green jacket win may have marked the end of Australia’s unrequited love affair with this tournament, but not so the near-mythical status The Masters enjoys in this country.
Of course so much of this owes to the infamous travails of Greg Norman, whose biblical near misses in Georgia still draw a wince from generations of Australians.
There is also the dream-like quality of Augusta National – resplendent in early spring bloom – viewed through pre-dawn Australian eyes that has always lent a sense of otherworldliness to The Masters.
As a child woken from slumber by a father gripped by sporting occasion, this was a cocktail so potent that it remains seared into my consciousness.
Age dictates that memories of Norman’s approach on 18 scattering the green-side gallery in 1986 and Larry Mize’s iconic chip the following year are hazy.
Yet, watching grainy replays again, the feeling of tragedy is palpable some thirty years on.
Norman’s final round capitulation in 1996 – complete with him collapsing to his knees in anguish on 15 – and images of the villainous Nick Faldo’s seemingly mocking grin remain a deep crack in an otherwise relatively smooth national sporting veneer.
No surprise then at the emotional outpouring triggered in this country by Adam Scott rolling in that 15-foot drought breaker amidst the Augusta drizzle some 17 years later.
The measure of a great sporting moment is often the level of recklessness it imbues in the fan vis-a-vis life’s commitments. On that Monday morning in Australia, you would have been hard-pressed to accuse a country of being late for work when it was collectively huddled under The Eisenhower Tree urging its flag-bearer on to immortality.
While Scott’s eventual triumph may have broken this country’s duck at The Masters, the many years spent in the Georgian wilderness means Australia is far from sated.
That Australian headline acts, Scott and Jason Day – who themselves were epically outduelled at this event by an inspired Charl Schwartzel in 2011 – are such proven commodities at the uniquely challenging Augusta only heightens local anticipation.
As previously written about in this column, there is a feeling that Day in particular stands on the verge of a superstar turn. Needless to say, The Masters provides the perfect stage.
Yet, all this is dwarfed by arguably the biggest story in world sports (apologies to Smith, Warner and Bancroft, and their South African DIY job), the comeback of one Eldrick Tont Woods.
It’s just over 20 years since Tiger began etching himself in golfing lore by becoming the youngest ever Masters champion.
Of course, what has transpired since – including his troublesome back that has made this latest comeback so improbable – is a story well told.
Fumbling for comparisons, only Michael Jordan’s NBA return following his minor league baseball hiatus seems anywhere near apt.
Suffice to say, golf desperately needs Tiger, fallen or otherwise, and one suspects the reverse is true, perhaps even more desperately.
The question swirling – like the dreaded wind around Amen Corner – is whether the golfing world will be seeing red again on Masters Sunday.