Chock up another one for the records… shortest visit to the Masters. Ever. We were on the Augusta National grounds for a grand total of about an hour. A little background might be helpful.
If you are not one of the +/- 300 members of Augusta National Golf Club, a winner of one of five particular PGA tournaments, a tour invitee, holder of a ticket (tickets to the Masters have been sold out since 1972), or somehow associated with an organization that has access to tickets, as a mere mortal your only chance to see the Masters in person is to win the Masters “lottery”.
I actually won tickets in the 2019 lottery, for the 2020 Masters. I think we all know what happened that year (thank you Covid). Since no spectators were allowed that year, the tickets could then be exchanged for the 2021 Masters. But in 2021, the Masters only allowed a very limited number of spectators to attend because Covid was still a significant issue. Soooo, my tickets were then applied to the 2022 Masters, and here we go, three years later.
Having received tickets to the Tuesday practice round, I invited some friends to join me. We made a few days of it, played golf, told stories, had a few cocktails, and ate some great food (thanks to my bride). We had a fabulous time, weather was great leading up to the Masters, comradery was flowing. Stars were aligned.
Meanwhile, we were watching the Augusta weather for Tuesday, with weather reports indicating a 100% chance of rain and estimates of between 2 – 2.5 inches of rain. Depending on your perspective, those are pretty good odds, and that is a fair amount of rain.
Early Tuesday morning we loaded up in our steed and headed to Augusta. While dark for the first two hours of driving, the sun appeared like a huge burning orb and the skies were clear – not a cloud to be seen! Keep in mind we are driving east, and the weather comes in from the west. But we are thinking we caught a break!
We get into Augusta at a little before 8am – we are right on time and things are going swimmingly. Then we hit the wall of Masters traffic. For the next 1 ½ hours, we are literally sitting in traffic before finding a parking place. By the time we get onto the grounds at Augusta National, it is now a little after 10am.
And we knew weather was approaching – dark, ominous clouds replaced the earlier clear skies, so we opted to immediately go out to the putting green, driving range, get out onto the course, and see some of the players. Even though we were on the grounds for a very short time, we saw J.J. Spaun, Brooks Koepka, Vijay Singh, Lee Westwood, Jason Kokrak, Cameron Champ, Tiger Woods, Billy Horschel, Justin Rose, Justin Thomas (and his caddy Bones Mackay), Mike Weir, Aaron Jarvis (amateur), Cameron Champ, Tatumi Kanaya, and Christiaan Bezuidenhout, among others. Not so bad!
And, of course, there is the 800-pound gorilla in the room… Tiger Woods.
I would be remiss to not mention the condition of the grounds at Augusta National. I don’t think there is a weed on the grounds, and not a blade of grass out of place anywhere on the course. If you have not experienced it, there is simply no comparison to any other place. As a foursome, we have collectively played Pinehurst, Pebble Beach, Valderrama, Kernwood, Torrey Pines, Gainey Ranch, and countless other great golf courses, and none hold a candle to Augusta National. “This is a hybrid. This is a cross, ah, of Bluegrass, Kentucky Bluegrass, Featherbed Bent, and Northern California Sensemilia.”
Mind you we have now been on the Masters grounds for all of about about 30-40 minutes. We are up near the green of the first hole and tee box for #9, when the storm sirens go off due to thunder, lightning, high winds and rain in the area. We are instructed that play has been suspended, all services are instantly suspended (including the golf shop), and everyone is told to immediately leave the premises. What? We just got here! Keep in mind that there are approximately 50,000 spectators that are being asked to clear the grounds.
Being the rules followers that we are, we determine that those sirens and instructions are meant for others, not us. We have a higher purpose in life, and at a minimum we need to see Amen Corner. So off we trudge, going against the direction of 50,000 other spectators.
Amen Corner, if you are not familiar, makes up the 11th, 12th and 13th holes on the course, is one of the most spectacular views as a spectator, and one of the most troublesome areas as a player. The approach to the 12th green is tricky, with water (Rae’s Creek), bunkers, and a small and sloping green. It is also famous for the scenic Ben Hogan Bridge that takes golfers across the creek and over to the 13th tee box, and on departing the 13th tee, they cross over the Byron Nelson Bridge.
By the time we were leaving the grounds, about an hour after we had arrived, the skies opened up and we were drenched in torrential rains and wind. It reminded me of the scene from Caddyshack – “I’d keep playing. I don’t think the heavy stuff is going to come down for quite a while”.
Hopefully there will be good weather for the remainder of the Masters Tournament.
As I write this on Thursday, Tiger Woods is bouncing around the leader board at one under, which with all he has gone through, the fact that he is even playing is unbelievable. We shall see what this year’s Masters produces, but it should be entertaining!