AUGUSTA – Sunday mornings at Augusta National are usually pretty slow.
The final group doesn’t tee off until around 2 p.m., sometimes much later, so as members of the media, we have to hang tight and find a way to pass the time.
As I was nestling into my customary spot on the back row of the gigantic press building, I quickly determined my Ethernet connection wasn’t working (the wireless network here crashed days ago, but that’s another story).
I sought help from the friendly ladies at the front desk, who directed me to the “Internet room,” as small enclave deep inside the massive building, farther down the side hallway than I’d ever ventured before.
I rounded the corner and stood in the doorway, asking if I was in the right place.
And there he was.
With his curly brown hair - too wild to be contained by his ball cap - actor/comedian Will Ferrell was hanging out in the “Internet room” of all places Sunday morning at the Masters.
I immediately started laughing. He’s got that goofy look that just makes you giggle.
I introduced myself, we shook hands and I told him I couldn’t even look at him without laughing.
“That’s a good thing,” he answered, spoken like a man who makes a living making people laugh.
I quickly picked up my new Ethernet cord and turned back down the cavernous hallway, walking alongside Ferrell the whole way.
And I couldn’t help but ask.
“Will you say one thing for me?” I said to the towering jokester. “Please just say, ‘sweet baby Jesus in your golden fleece diapers,’” recalling a hilarious line from one of my favorite scenes of Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Ferrell’s 2006 comedy in which he plays a NASCAR driver who will only pray to infant Jesus.
“You’ve got to pay me,” he answered.
“You’ve already got enough money!” I responded, an answer that obviously worked. He leaned down and, in full character, whispered the line into my ear as we strolled down the hallway.
“But still omnipotent,” I said, finishing the quote as we shared a hearty laugh.
At that moment we separated as he turned left in the direction of the course and I headed right, back towards my station.
I thought bumping into Ferrell was a pretty awesome start to the morning until my good friend Mike Brown and I headed to the veranda on the second floor of the Augusta National clubhouse for lunch – one of the many perks media members have at this hallowed course.
You see, the folks in charge at Augusta National are smart enough to realize the importance of catering to the hundreds of media that flock here each April. Along with premium parking and an affable staff, the media have several unique privileges, including access to the clubhouse and its two restaurants.
Honesty, I had a pretty good feeling Tiger Woods was having lunch in the Champions Locker Room, which is to the left of the veranda once you ascend the stairs. Woods’ caddy was standing just outside the back door to the clubhouse, and a security guard was protecting the entrance to the Champions Locker Room as though God himself was inside.
And just when I thought I was having a good day at Augusta National, things got exponentially better.
I happened to be standing in the mostly deserted short hallway between the Champions Locker Room and the veranda when the wooden doorway to the revered room opened and Woods strolled out, less than a foot in front of me.
“Good luck today, Tiger,” I said.
“Thank you,” he answered, flashing his sincere million-dollar smile as he turned to head down the stairs and begin his pursuit of his fifth green jacket.
Alex Pellegrino can be reached at (912) 489-9413.