I spent my Easter a little differently this year. I was given a free ticket to the Masters. The final round. The deciding round of the most prestigious tournament of the year with Tiger Woods in the final group. It was awesome.
Even just walking around Augusta National Golf Club was an experience in itself, completely apart from the tournament being played. It is, after all, the most exclusive, most famous, most pristine, most beautiful golf club in the world. Most of the second nine holes I recognized from seeing them on TV. The first nine I'm not so familiar with.
We started by walking past the clubhouse and magnolia lane. Then we headed to the practice green, where Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson were taking some putting practice before starting their rounds. Then we watched a few groups tee off on the first, including Craig Stadler, "The Walrus." Then I wanted to see more of the course, so we walked down to number 16, the famous par 3 over water. We watched Ben Crenshaw play the hole, and I noted the spot where Tiger chipped in from in 2005, when his Nike ball teetered ever so slightly on the edge of the hole before dropping in. After Crenshaw played we walked over to 13, where we watched Fred Couples play the hole.
At that point the doctor friend who invited me and I split up to watch on our own. He wanted to stay in the bleachers at 13 for a while, I wanted to go see Amen Corner. For those non-golf fans out there, Amen Corner is the second half of 11, 12 and the beginning of 13. Its a corner of the course where patrons (fans) are not allowed too close to the action, so the players get a little reprieve.
I decided to get some lunch, which was a pleasant suprise. Apparently one Masters tradition is that they don't raise the price of concessions. So I got an egg salad sandwhich, chips and a soda for $3.50. I got my lunch and staked out a spot in the bleachers over-looking Amen Corner. I was positively giddy! I was eating an egg salad sandwhich at Amen Corner. As I came around the corner of the bleachers and saw the 12th green for the first time, I felt exactly like I felt the first time I visited Wrigley Field as a kid, when we walked through the gates into the seats, and saw the playing field for the first time. What a feeling. This beautiful, pristine green, on the far side of Rae's Creek, a bunker in the front and in the back, just in from of Azaleas and Dogwoods in bloom. Hogan's bridge just off to the side. I was truly in awe. The grass at Augusta is always impeccable. And not just on the golf course either, every blade of grass, from the 18th green, to the sidewalk to the bathrooms was perfect. I sat there at Amen Corner eating lunch and watched Jose Maria Olozabal come through.
As the afternoon progressed I watched all the leaders come through the 10th green. Tiger's approach shot landed in the right bunker, and I had a prime seat to watch him play out. After he and Appleby passed I went over to 16 and watched all the leaders go by. We saw Zach Johnson sink his birdie putt and pump his fist Tiger-style:
I was a little off to the left, so you can't see me in the photo. After this I walked over to the 18th green, but the crowd was so enormous that even I, at 6-foot-3, couldn't see anything. So I milled around for a while looking for famous people, then I started to leave. Although on my way out I nearly bumped right into Tiger Woods. He and his entourage were walking from the scoring tent to the clubhouse. He got promptly mobbed by cameras for an interview, and boy was he Mr. GrumpyPants. As though 2nd place just wasn't good enough!
They have a strict no-cameras rule, which was downright criminal, with so many things to take pictures of, so sadly I don't have more pics to post. But all told it was a pretty incredible day. I can't wait for the next time someone gives me a free ticket to the Masters! On Sunday. With Tiger in the lead.