When you hear the name Augusta National, several things immediately come to mind. There is the long, beautiful stretch down Magnolia Lane that leads to a majestic and stately clubhouse and, behind that, the impossibly green and rolling hills of one of the world’s greatest golf courses.
Over the last month or so, I have been anxiously awaiting Masters week as it is my first time working the tournament as a member of the media. All of the normal brushing up on tournament history was done, but I also was able to find out a bit about what to expect as a member of the working press.
There was a bit of uncertainty leading into the week, but – much like the weather concerns surrounding Saturday’s round – everything worked out perfectly. (Yes, it rained, but that actually served to slow down the greens and allowed for some excellent scoring conditions.)
I knew from talking to others in the media that the press building would be amazing. That has more than lived up to its billing as I’ve had up-to-the-second updates and video feeds at my fingertips throughout the week. And the long hours involved with covering the entirety of a tournament are alleviated quite a bit when the staff on hand keeps food and drinks at the ready from open to close.
But none of that was what had me wondering. My concerns stemmed from the fact that, when on the course, even the media is expected to adhere to Augusta National’s strict prohibitions on cell phones and other electronic devices. While you need to be on the course to really experience the magic of being in the middle of Masters weekend, the downside is that you’ll only see a fraction of the shots firsthand while swelling crowds or the course’s contours leave the rest of the action to the imagination.
I honestly thought that I might not like it. Sure, I could see a shot that makes a champion out of a player. But I could also be in the middle of waiting for a group to come to the tee, only to hear a roar echoing through the trees and possibly needing an hour or more to figure out what happened while those watching on television or back in the press building would be up to speed.
Instead, the novelty of being without a constantly-updating phone heightened the experience.Sure, there were roars attached to birdies and eagles that I never saw, but that was made up for by the excitement of scoreboard watching.
Following each roar, more and more heads started to look away from the shots being played right in front of them as gazes were directed to the large manual scoreboards placed on certain holes.
The scoreboards would stay still seemingly forever, only to draw gasps and muffled cheers when new red numbers were placed on a player’s running score. By the time the new scores were up and patrons could get a refreshed look at the overall leaderboard, the flow of the foot traffic kept the information coming.
With patrons heading in myriad different directions during the middle of the day, it never took long before I ran into someone who had helped create the roars that I had missed. I got firsthand reports Saturday about Rickie Fowler’s eagle at No. 2 and of Rory McIlroy’s shot that careened off the top lip of a bunker on No. 5, bounding down the fairway and rolling close to the pin.
I may have had to do some walking and talking in order to get the story, but it only added to the gravity of the tournament experience to hear about so many big moments from patrons who may have never seen a live shot at Augusta before Saturday.
When I arrived back at my seat in the press building, my phone was sitting right where I had left it. Group texts and Twitter updates were bursting at the seams with reactions to the big moments of the day as they had happened.
But as I relived the day through those messages, the thought occurred to me that the instant gratification of seeing and sharing the action isn’t necessarily better. I could have guessed the kinds of things my friends had said about certain shots.
And while there are some audio clips that live in infamy, I also was unsurprised by the way the big moments were announced and then looked back on by the broadcast crews.
I missed those reactions, but gained the perspective of dozens of patrons – all of whom had a different view to the shot or perspective about how something had gone down.
A recliner and a television definitely wouldn’t have been a bad option for watching the action on an overcast, chilly and slightly rainy Saturday. That said, walking the course on moving day gives you a unique kind of broadcast that you just can’t get anywhere else.