Unofficially, golf season really starts with the Masters.
And the season began with fireworks at Augusta.
Adam Scott beat Angel Cabrera in a playoff to cap what had been a Sunday of ordinary golf but a tournament with different story lines not only every day but seemingly at every meal of each day.
"The Masters gets people excited about playing golf again," Moccasin Bend head pro Devere Keller said Monday. "The courses are getting better, the weather is getting better and the Masters brings it all together to kick it off."
The lasting image of the 2013 Masters will be one of Scott celebrating — after his tying putt in regulation, raising his hands skyward when he won or at some point while wearing the green jacket.
The lasting discussions, from now until at least the U.S. Open, are rooted in a little book called "The Rules of Golf." Its contents impacted the biggest name in the game, Tiger Woods, and the most popular amateur of the week in Augusta, Tianlang Guan.
Masters rulings have been talked about around water coolers across the country while dominating sport-talk radio stations. Even a DJ on an R&B station in Atlanta brought them up at about 1:30 Monday morning.
"This is the biggest stage in all of golf, and I think it's good for golf in terms of teaching people who don't necessarily know the rules, but I think it's unfortunate that some of the rulings happened," said Michael Thompson, who tied for 25th. "When the most popular player in the world gets a ruling, people are going to talk about it. If I had a ruling, people probably wouldn't talk about it. That's the way it goes."
The by-the-book discussion started Friday when rules official John Paramor gave Guan, a 14-year-old amateur from China, a one-stroke penalty for slow play.
It's the first time any player in the Masters had been given such a penalty, which raised several discussion points, ranging from why at all to why him instead of others in the field? If the Masters is willing to dole out a slow-play penalty, it sets a precedent that any tournament should be willing to do the same, from the PGA Tour down to weekend four-balls.
"Those who think that they take too long, not just [Guan], are glad they did it," Council Fire assistant pro Tad Holley said of the chatter he heard on the East Brainerd property. "Those who were more sympathetic felt sorry for the kid."
The topic changed to a ruling involving Woods on Friday night, and over bacon, eggs, grits and Bloody Marys in Augusta on Saturday morning.
The Masters gave Woods a two-stroke penalty for playing from the wrong spot following an improper drop on Friday, after his ball hit the No. 15 flagstick and ricocheted in to the water.
Some said the world's No. 1 player should have been disqualified. Others argued there should have been no penalty at all. Others, especially after hearing from chairman of the competition committee Fred Ridley, agreed that the tournament made the proper decisions.
"Those who don't like Tiger thought he should have been DQ'd, and those who tolerate him think it was handled as well as it could be," Holley said. "There was a lot of discussion on Saturday about that one rule."
All of the talk generated this past weekend could be good for improving pace of play and growing the game because of the 14-year-old and increased interest in learning the rules that applied to Woods' situation.
The discussions could also be detrimental because they spotlight the difficulty of knowing, understanding and applying the rules as they are written. And it points out that the rule book is also accompanied by a three-inch book titled, "Decisions on the Rules of Golf."
Reading them can be more painful and boring than thumbing through a book on tax codes.
"If this weekend inspires people to read 'The Rules of Golf,' it's good," Keller said. "I would hope people would decide that they need to learn the rules because the guys on tour have a tough time understanding them, so maybe I should know more before I go out and play."
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...