By Rory Carroll
AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Rapper Snoop Dogg this week said that while the U.S. Masters may be the most prestigious tournament in golf, it suffers from a coolness deficit, something he plans to change when he brings his brand of "hip hop flavour" to the staid tournament.
While the Super Bowl, World Series and NBA Finals draw throngs of movie stars and musicians, the only celebrities at golf tournaments are the ones on the greens, he said during a press conference.
So the L.A. musician, who has sold over 35 million records worldwide, is taking it upon himself to change the game.
"Now is the time for golf to get hip," he said. "That's why I'm here."
The idea of a rapper adding his provocative voice to the effort might seem as odd as the hip-hop legend singing inside Milan's La Scala opera house, but he said it was necessary for the sport to reach its full potential.
It may be a tall task.
He is trying to do something Tiger Woods also tried to do – without a great deal of success if you look at the crowd of middle-aged white men who make up the vast majority of Masters patrons.
There will no doubt be some growing pains on both sides.
The marijuana aficionado may not find Augusta National, where smartphones are considered contraband, particularly laid back if he decides to indulge in one of his favourite pastimes while on the grounds.
"They don't allow that kind of green on the greens," he joked.
At 6-foot-5 Snoop Dog is easy to spot at Augusta National, even though most of the thousands of spectators are unlikely to have any of his songs on their playlists.
He said he respects golf, but said the game would be much improved if it reached out to minorities in U.S. cities that have little access to the game.
"If golf was pushed and promoted in the inner cities, there would be more Tiger Woods," he said.
"This sport can be mastered by anyone. And if it was taught and presented to them, there would be a lot of guys in this Masters that look like me," he said.
He cited Venus and Serena Williams, two tennis champions who learned on the courts of crime-ridden Compton, California, as an example of the transformational impact outreach to minorities can have on a sport.
"No one was pushing tennis in the hood until the Williams family made it," he said. "And now look at how many young, black woman tennis players around the world are inspired by them."
The "Gin and Juice" singer was all smiles as he walked the a course near Augusta National on a rainy day this week flanked by a handful of reporters, a team from event sponsor Tanqueray Gin, and a burly associate who held an umbrella for him.
After eventually sinking a short putt after many tries – Snoop is not a gifted golfer – he danced in triumph and demanded a worthy challenger.
"Tell Tiger to come see me!" he said to laughs.
Seema Sadekar, the former golf pro who designs stylish clothes for women to wear on the course, said Snoop Dogg's presence at the Masters represents a movement in the sport toward inclusion.
"To have Snoop Dogg here at the Masters makes people feel like they belong," she said. "It makes the game more welcoming."
(Editing by Frank Pingue)