As The Masters begins, Drew Williamson, in the first of three reports, gives us his perspective on the most famous golf course in America.
Jill and I spent about seven hours out on the grounds on Wednesday. Walked every inch of the course. Ran into Paul McDonald (yes, the All-American QB who led the USC Trojans to the national title in 1978) at the concession stand off of the 2nd fairway, and Scott Van Pelt and Lynn Swann (what a class act) at T-Bonz Steakhouse.
Also spent some quality time at the Tennessee Cottage, which is conveniently perched above the 7th green on the Par 3 Course. Really a sight to behold, not to mention that, as I was quaffing an ice-cold Coors Light on the deck, I looked 100 feet to my right to the California Cottage and saw The King (who’s staying there this week) walk out onto its deck to take in a little bit of the action—wearing his green jacket—before he teed off himself. Surreal.
A few observations:
1. It is impossible to put into words how truly immaculate the course is. Of course, it’s always immaculate, but this year even the most particular and harshest of critics have gone on record saying that the course is in the best shape they’ve ever seen it. Phil Mickelson noted that the spots that are often a little thin—like the 12th green and 13th fairway, because they don’t get as much sun—are literally perfect.
2. There is absolutely no rough—anywhere—and there is no “bad lie” anywhere on the course; not a one.
3. It is shocking how hilly the course is. 1—which is a truly evil opening hole—and 18 are particularly so. And so are almost all of the others. I thought Georgia was flat. It isn’t.
4. The phalanx of lawn mowers—16, in all—that descended upon the fairways around 4:00 p.m. EDT are a sight to behold in and of themselves. And they mowed every fairway back towards the tee, a deliberate move that, most pundits say, will cost the players an average of 10-15 yards off of their drives. Because when the course is playing 7,345 yards, that’s necessary. . .
5. Having now stood on the spot in the pine straw (way) off to the right of the 10th fairway from which Bubba hit that ridiculous duck-hook in the playoff last year to win his jacket, I am reasonably confident that it was one of the three or four best golf shots—if not the best golf shot—of all time. Defies any and all reason when you stand there.
6. The tee shots on 11 and 18 are debilitatingly intimidating. 11 is the worst: a 235-yard carry to the fairway through a ridiculously tight, tree-lined chute. Insane.
7. 1, 6 and 9 greens are diabolical. In his practice round, Bernhard Langer hit an absolutely perfect downhill putt from the back of the green to the (mid-back) hole on 6, only to watch the ball roll clear off the green and back down onto the fairway. Just wrong.
8. Speaking of lawn mowers, they shaved the fronts of 11, 12, 13 and 15 greens all the way down to the water. There is no way that a short shot on any of those holes can possibly stay up.
9. The pimento and cheese ($1.50) and egg salad ($1.50) sandwiches are the absolute bomb. I will have dozens of both over the course of the next few days.
10. They serve two kinds of beer at Augusta: domestic ($3.00) and imported ($4.00). When I asked the concessionaire what beers those were, they answered “They’re Masters beers. You’ll love them.” (Absolutely no commercial shilling of any kind whatsoever for anything non-Masters is permitted.) And I did—many of them, in fact. Undeterred, I snuck into a holding area behind the concession stand to the left of the 14th fairway and stole a glimpse of some empty kegs—and their labels—and I can now tell you this: “domestic beer” = Miller High Life and “imported beer” = Peroni. Shhhhh. . .
11. Larry Mize won’t make the cut.
12. Tiger looks good.
13. Bubba looks nervous.