There's plenty of overblown sentimentality around the Masters, which sometimes, often, foists the importance of its traditions on the rest of the world. But I'll always think one of the things that makes Masters week cool is all the former champions that return to the grounds. I grew up with Sarazen, Snead, and Nelson as the elder statesmen hitting that ceremonial tee shoot at No. 1 on Thursday, and that role has been assumed by Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Gary Player for several years now.
They're the three kings of Augusta, and on Tuesday, the Augusta Chronicle snapped an amazing candid of them out strolling the grounds in their green jackets. It's down in Amen Corner, set perfectly in the gloaming with one of the classic Masters leaderboards in the frame.
There will come a time, hopefully not soon, when one of these guys will be unable to make the trip. It makes this week -- the nostalgia waterfall at the press conferences on Tuesday, the appearances and swings at the par-3 on Wednesday, and the ceremonial shot on Thursday morning -- that much more valuable. It's one of the annual highlights of their public life, when they're in view and usually the only time all year we see them together.
I have no problem mocking much of cloying coverage emanating from Augusta, but I found myself just staring at this photo last night for several minutes. Nicklaus relating some explanatory anecdote, Player jovially walking with a grin, Palmer casually and cooly sauntering; all three in their natural states. It just struck me and is the runaway best picture of the week.
Here's a second one of the three coming back across Hogan bridge from the 12th green. I much prefer the first candid from afar, but this is still worth passing along.
And the Augusta Chronicle has many more over at its site.