AUGUSTA, Ga. — There is only one place where I would sleep on the floor to attend a sporting event.
You saw where it is in the dateline above.
Monday, I had a chance to attend a practice round at The Masters with my brother Jeff (a Masters first-timer) after having last covered it six years ago. We won $50 tickets in the lottery (OK, Jeff won them, which is why I had to let him come), and he scored us a pair of choice air mattresses in the living room of a house two blocks from Magnolia Lane (no joke).
I know, it’s practice. How rhapsodic can you wax about practice? But the place is simply inspiring, which is why I simply couldn’t leave my notebook in the car.
Here, are a few notes on a Monday at The Masters:
It’s 8:05 a.m., through the main gate just moments after it opens ... First stop, the new practice facility. This is where the media used to park. Now you can’t tell this wasn’t always here. ... A quick glance at the course then into the sea of humanity inside the main gift shop. Drop about $120 on a flag, a hat, a shirt, a new putter cover, a couple of this year’s lapel pins, birthday gift for dad. ... Augusta National is a cathedral of sport. It’s also like an Ivy League school. The hardest part is getting in. After that, they have thousands of free parking spaces, a check stand for the stuff you bought, and cheap eats (more on that later). ... The Par-3 course. Nothing happening here, but arranged around two ponds behind the Butler and Eisenhower cabins, it’s the prettiest spot on the property. ... To the big course now. Near No. 1 green, stand at the spot in the gallery where Charl Schwartzel chipped in on Sunday last year en route to the title. ... An early lunch: pimento cheese sandwich (a must), Coke, bottled water and two cookies comes to $6.50. The most expensive thing on the menu is imported beer: $3.75. ... Only disappointment is most of the azaleas and dogwoods have bloomed in the early spring. There’s still lots of color, just mostly shades of green. Immaculate green. ... Talk to a marshal at No. 4. He volunteers every year. His payment: he gets to play the course in May. Sounds fair. ... Mastersspeak: bleachers are observation stands, sand traps are bunkers, fans are patrons, rough is the second cut. ... Now sitting in stands at 14. No action (just missed David Toms), just about 100 people soaking it in. Never have so many paid so much to come so far to see so little and be so happy about it. ... Finally reach Amen Corner. The typical colors are absent on the hillside behind 12 green, but the fickle winds are in full bloom. In 10-minute span, see flag straight out at 11 while still at 12, then flap at 12 while still at 11, then back again. Hit and hope, fellas. Sunlight pokes through the pines. Amen, indeed. ... Catch Schwartzel on 13 green. He pitches to 6 feet, level putt, misses seven straight times, finally gives up. ... Over to Nos. 15 and 16 now. Two-time champ Bernhard Langer holes out a wedge from the fairway on 15. Then to 16, par-3 with long pond in front. “Skip it! Skip it!” they cry. They oblige. Heard roar earlier when Martin Kaymer skipped one off the pond for a hole in one. ... No cell phones, but free long distance near 18th fairway. ... Golden twilight bathes the hills. Time to grab checked loot and go. Dave Loggins’ song haunts me: “Augusta. It’s you that I love. It’s you that I miss, when I’m gone.”