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AUGUSTA, Ga. — Never underestimate the power of personality.
Snoop Dogg was slated to headline “Augusta Jam” Wednesday night at a nightclub within a mile of Augusta National Golf Club. General admission tickets went for $150 on the event’s website Wednesday afternoon. The VIP tickets were sold out.
There may be other hip-hop artists across our fruited plains just as talented as Mr. Dogg. But can they move $150 tickets? Star power is in the eye of the beholder-izzle.
You could also apply that to the Masters that begins Thursday at Augusta National in conditions expected to include winds strong enough to blow the players’ minds.
For the abundance of phenomenal talent currently playing pro golf, the game temporarily lacks a lightning rod. Speaking of which, no, Tiger Woods isn’t playing at the Masters this year. It’s the third he’s missed in the last four years.
Woods is the only player since 1953 to win four straight PGA Tour-sanctioned events. Dustin Johnson comes here with three victories in a row. He won at Riviera in Los Angeles. He won a World Golf Championships tourney in Mexico.
But Johnson’s hopes of winning his fourth-straight tourney and first Masters were seriously affected Wednesday afternoon when he took a fall coming down stairs in his rental home here and hurt his lower back.
“He has been advised to remain immobile and begin a regimen of anti-inflammatory medication and icing, with the hope of being able to play tomorrow,” said Johnson’s agent, David Winkle, in a prepared statement.
Wow. Monday, star Tour player Rickie Fowler called Johnson “a freak of nature,” meaning that as a complete compliment. Wednesday, the freak of nature was plagued by a freak accident.
Johnson, the world’s No. 1-ranked player, is scheduled to begin play Thursday at 2:03 p.m., Eastern time.
Two weeks ago, he won the WGC’s 64-player match play event in Austin, Texas. There, he won all six of his head-to-head matches, including one against Cedar Rapids’ Zach Johnson in the round of 16.
Here’s what Zach said about Dustin recently: “He’s probably playing as good as anybody has ever played in the last month.”
Zach Johnson doesn’t casually toss around hyperbole. So that’s quite a statement from someone with a good idea about what he’s talking about.
After coming painfully close to winning previous majors in 2010 and 2015, Dustin Johnson got his first win in one last year when he took the U.S. Open by three shots. Until then, he was perhaps known as much for being model Paulina Gretzky’s boyfriend (now fiancÚ) as for being an elite golfer.
If he wins here this weekend — which sure sounded a lot more likely Wednesday morning than Wednesday night — maybe Johnson will become a full-fledged star in the minds of more than just golf people. But it’s not like he obsesses about getting enough attention.
Johnson isn’t a self-promoter. He isn’t glib. He isn’t a full buffet of emotions on a golf course. He just hits a ton of great shots and cashes checks with a lot of digits on them.
Tuesday, he was asked when it became real to him that he believed he could be the best player in the world.
“When Tiger stopped playing,” he replied, earning a room-full of laughs from the reporters.
Oddsmakers had made Johnson the favorite to win here, but the odds themselves said he wouldn’t. The world’s top-ranked player at the time hasn’t won a Masters since 2005. That was Woods, with his fourth and most-recent victory here.
None other than Snoop Dogg said this last November when asked about Woods’ then-upcoming return to competitive golf, which turned out to be brief because of physical issues:
“I’m real close with the Tiger, so it’s a beautiful thing that Tiger Woods is coming back, man. The sport of golf is garbage without him. Nobody watches it. The ratings went down. It ain’t fly as it used to be. You understand me?
“He was the flavor, he was the seasoning salt. “(Golf’s) just like some Shake ‘n Bake chicken now. You understand me?”
Yet, I have it on good authority the Masters will proceed as scheduled Thursday morning, will be watched on television globally by an enormous number of viewers, and will remain one of the toughest tickets to get in sports or anything else, even “Augusta Jam.”
All sorts of people think the Masters is as fly as ever. You understand me?
By the way, it rained here Wednesday. Rained hard. But that didn’t stop Snoop from playing golf in the rain elsewhere in Augusta, as this tweet shows.