It took several seconds for the surprise to register when I started up Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 on Saturday. The music is so familiar, I expect it on my television when I'm watching golf at this time of year.
And then I realized I was hearing "Augusta," one of the most famous themes in sports broadcasting, in a video game.
Last January, when the Tiger Woods PGA Tour series announced it would bring The Masters Tournament and Augusta National's golf course to American consoles for the first time, I made the assumption that Dave Loggins' lilting piano ballad would be a part of the game. It wasn't. A publicist emailed me to quickly correct that "a variation" on "Augusta"—part of every Masters broadcast since 1980—would be used in the game. Ultimately, no such song was included.
For whatever reasons—licensing, money, exclusivity, tradition, CBS, whatever—the one song everyone expected didn't make it into last year's game. That was going to change this year, said Sean Wilson, the game's lead producer.
"The team really wanted it, as always, because we are big fans," Wilson told me. "But I'd say Augusta (National) was the main impetus behind it making it in this year. We got permission this year to use the song and they really wanted to make it a part of the collector's edition, as the song is obviously very special to them."
This song is only heard if you bought the collector's edition (or the controversial content upgrade for it.) What's strange is that, in starting up the game during my review, with the collector's content, from Thursday to Saturday, I never once heard it. I could have been out of the room or had the TV muted as I did other work, but the game will occasionally open without "Augusta."
In fact, I accidentally left video capture on for a full hour as the game sat in a menu. It didn't play once during that span. You may get "Augusta" as the introductory song, but if it doesn't play then, it won't at all. Then, when you play The Masters in your created golfer's career mode, it will be a part of the broadcast presentation.
And that's it. "Augusta" is listed in the EA TRAX menu but you cannot force the game to play the song. Wilson said this was a design choice of the EA Sports Tiburon team.
"You don't get it in Play Now (mode) because we wanted the Career Mode to feel like you were actually there," Wilson said.
The discretion with which this song is used—and it was not once promoted as a feature of the Collector's Edition, to my knowledge—matches the decorum of the song's famously conservative namesake. As hard as I have been on the game's DLC practices, I concede that most serious golf fans find the song essential for their own trip to The Masters, and they'll probably suck it up and pay the freight.
For me, I like not being able to play that song whenever I want to—such as when I'm playing another golf course, say Kiawah Island, for example. (You may turn menu music on as you play on a course) It should be special, and it should be saved for a single place and event. We're going to hear "Augusta" enough between now and Sunday in the broadcasts of the real tournament, anyway, so to subject it to overplaying in a video game would be a disservice to a special song and the man who composed it.
"Getting this song in the game meant a ton to me," Wilson said. "The Masters is the one tournament that is played on the same course every year, and that song always told you it was Augusta week, and the Masters had arrived. For those of us in their 30s and 40s, we grew up with that song. It brings me back to some of my earliest memories of golf, and to somewhat my youth. I almost feel like a teenager again."