Greeson: Masters brings memorable moments, traditions to treasure, players to watch

AP file photo by Charlie Riedel / The iconic Masters logo and the colors of the landscape are familiar sights at Augusta National Golf Club.

As if the Masters needed more hype.

More buzz. More appeal.

The news that swept the sports world this week was that Tiger Woods said he's planning on playing. And because of that, Tiger is the headline. Heck, if it was the exact other thing, Tiger would have been the headline, because honestly, Tiger gave the opposite of a nondenial denial, he gave the nonpositive affirmative, and it's got everything related to Augusta National in a beaucoup buzz.

As if the Masters needed it, right? It's the Masters. I'm sure the Zurich Classic is thinking, "Hey, El Tigre? What about us?"

Heck, Tiger now has the most wagers and the most money wagered on him at almost every sportsbook to win the year's first major by at least three-fold.

And yes, I know Tiger said he feels like he can win, and yes, I'd never, ever bet any meaningful amount of money against Tiger during winning time, but c'mon. If dude makes the cut - he's minus-115, which is roughly even money to make the weekend - after all he's been through, that's a success. For all of us.

But it's the Masters. And it's Tiger.

And everything is right with the sports world.

My top five favorite Masters moments I saw in person:

1. Tiger's Nike commercial chip on 16 in 2005; arguably golf's greatest shot and the worst high-five since Balboa-Creed in "Rocky III."

2. Louis Oosthuizen's 2 on 2 in 2012, which curled around the massive green and in for albatross.

3. Phil from the pine straw on 13 in 2010, which was stupid and brilliant, so it was quintessential Mickelson.

4. Jack Nicklaus' first drive as an honorary starter with Arnold Palmer in 2010. Talk about two kings in their ultimate court.

5. Bubba Watson's miraculous wedge shot that traveled 155 yards in the air and hooked 40 yards toward the playoff hole of his 2012 victory.

photo AP photo by Matt Slocum / Louis Oosthuizen, right, and caddie Wynand Stander celebrate after Oosthuizen's double-eagle 2 on the par-5 second hole at Augusta National Golf Club during the final round of the Masters on April 8, 2012.

As for the traditions that make this the tradition unlike any other, here's my top five:

1. Patrons come first. Yes, 51 weeks out of the year, the 300 or so Augusta National members are likely to be titans of industry or cutthroat lawyers willing to swing briefcases for an extra buck. This week, though, the green jacket crew is not overly concerned with the greenbacks. They will cut short commercials if needed. They will allow dads to have lunch and a beer for $6 - try that at Chili's, never mind any other professional sporting event. They are kid-friendly and customer-oriented. The golf is amazing. The grounds are impeccable. But the interaction is humanity on its best behavior.

2. The grounds. Friends, they spare no expense to make this look like God's home course, and the colors and magic and mystery are as real in person as they are on your flatscreen. In fact, the two things that can never be conveyed through the coverage are the never-ending undulations and the God-awful smell of fertilizer that is spread everywhere off the fairways if the rain comes.

3. The competition. Major championship golf is fun. It brings out the best in the best. But Augusta National is every bit the star of this event, unless Jack or Tiger are looking to put on another coat. You know this course better than your own club. You remember Louis' 2 on 2, and Phil from the pine straw on 13 and Tiger - sweet buckets, Tiger - on 16 with the Nike commercial chip of all time. Plus, the Masters is the lone major that its champions must go get. It's not about the U.S. Open's demands to remind the globe that par is a good score or the British Open's overarching arrogance, which is only superseded by cosmos reminding them every year that you don't mess with Mother Nature.

4. The green jacket. Admit it, it's the coolest trophy in sports. Sure Lord Stanley's Cup is awesome, and an Olympic gold medal would be boss. But you could be the 25th player on an NHL championship team or the backup sweeper on a winning curling outfit and get those. A green jacket makes you legendary. Yes, even you, Trevor Immelman.

5. The logo. Think this is a reach? Think again. If you have been, when you see someone wearing the unmistakable America outline with the flag planted over Augusta and the identifiable font of Masters on an article of clothing or a visor, you can't help but exchange a knowing nod. If you haven't been, you become envious when you see the logo and mumble, "Man, I'd love to go." And if you ever give a Masters souvenir away, well, that will be the best gift that person received that Christmas.

photo AP photo by Elise Amendola / Tiger Woods celebrates with caddie Steve Williams after a chip-in birdie on the 16th hole during the final round of his win at the 2005 Masters.

The five we all should be rooting for this week (the five guys we want to win this thing; no, this is not the same list as the five guys we think will win):

1. Tiger. Of course, it's Tiger. Heck, even the biggest Tiger haters - morning, Spy - have to love the Hoganesque car crash symmetry and the return to glory. Heck, I now have my doubts he'll play and I definitely do not think he will make the weekend if he does give it the ol' college try. But man, if he does? Yes, please.

2. Luke List. You bet this is a homer pick, and since Harris English had to withdraw with an injured hip, List is the lone Baylor School alum in the field. Plus, List now lives in Augusta and will have a slew of support from the patrons. Man, this would be an amazing story.

3. Rory McIlroy. Yes, he's one of my favorites, and yes, he has elite-level game. But vanquishing the demons here would be ever so meaningful. And, oh yeah, there's that career grand slam thing, too. Yeah, that'd be pretty boss.

4. Cam Smith. Dang right we're siding with the Mullet Masters champ. C'mon, other than this week, a mulleted male like Smith is a heck of a lot more commonplace around Augusta proper than the rest of these cats. (Well, with the exception of Brooks Koepka's platinum dye job, which looks equal parts professional wrestler, backup boy band singer and slowpitch softball star.)

5. Phil. Kidding, kidding. Seriously, though, if five months ago someone had tried to tell me that Lefty would be sitting out Augusta this week and Tiger would be putting a peg in the ground, I'd likely have Will Smithed them.

Contact Jay Greeson at and read columns like this every Monday through Friday in the 5-at-10 at