A captivating essay on professional golfs Wimbledon--the Masters tournament held yearly at the Augusta National Golf Club. Novelist Goodwin (Kin; The Blood of Paradise, 1979) here turns a sideline (he has written for Golf magazine and on golf in the Washington Post) into a well-crafted book. The 1986 Masters was, indeed, one of the classics, with one of the most amazing final nine-hole comebacks in history (Jack Nicklaus, at 46 now ""the Olden Bear,"" took only 30 strokes for the final nine holes to wipe out a five-stroke deficit and win his 20th major title). But behind the legendary finish was a whole undercurrent of extranneous matters that Goodwin describes. There is the McEnroe-like brashness of Spaniard Seve Ballesteros, banned front other US tournaments, who keeps a running public feud going with Dean Beman, the PGA tour commissioner (Beman, says Seve, is ""a little man trying to be a big man""). Then there is the onslaught of foreigners changing the face of what was for years (despite its Scottish roots) considered the domain of Americans (after the first three rounds of this Masters, five of the eight leaders were non-Americans). And Goodwin has a winsome way of encapsulating mannerisms in concise phrases (the greens at Augusta are so fast that they ""presented roughly the same challenge as putting on the freshly waxed hood of a Porsche, attempting to stop the ball on the bumper""; Brent Musberger, interviewing Ballesteros on TV, is so bent on getting the golfer to predict a victory that ""he looked like a guppy in a feeding frenzy""). Armchair golfers, weekend duffers, and serious aficionadoes should all find Goodwin's work a pleasing pastime for a rainy afternoon.