AUGUSTA – It’s like a frat party on Easter for adults. With the camaraderie and booze of a college soiree combined with the reverence of a religious holiday, The Masters is true to its billing as ‘a place like no other’.
For both the players and the patrons, Augusta National is the epitome of what Happy Gilmore calls his ‘happy place’. The players treasure this course, in part because, unlike the U.S. Open, no one is allowed between the ropes. They walk the fairways freely; the same fairways Hogan, Palmer and Nicklaus walked before them. It’s a true test of golf, with difficult pin placements, protective bunkers and quick, wavy greens guarding the history of years past.
I remember Phil Mickelson telling me that what separated The Masters from the other majors is that ‘history is made here every year,’ he said. Mickelson himself is in position to make history Sunday, one stroke back of leader Lee Westwood heading into Sunday’s final round.
Some would say that The Masters was made for the springtime, but I’m beginning to believe that spring was made for The Masters. Hundred-year-old pines tower over the course, protective yet not intrusive. Wide magnolias lurk and provide protection from the Georgia sun. And the azaleas – those beautiful pink azaleas in full bloom burst vibrant color amidst the exquisite Augusta greenery, creating a constant panoramic portrait everywhere your eyes turn.
Patrons only add to the scene. Wearing shirts and hats colored with greens, yellows, reds, oranges, pinks and whites, from a distance a large gathering can look like the contents of a gumball machine. If you get closer and look at the faces, you’ll see billionaire executives, superstar athletes and influential politicians walking the ropes side-by-side everyday people. Everyone is in awe. No one is immune to this beauty.
The rules of Augusta National seem strict from the outside world – no cell phones or cameras, yelling or running. But when you’re here, you don’t want to do those things. You want to respect the history and the natural atmosphere that this scene creates. Unlike venturing to a mall, a movie or even another sporting event, at Augusta National, you don’t hear people complain. I’m certain that it’s not that their lives don’t have problems, but simply that their lives don’t have problems here. And you wondered why Tiger choose Augusta for his return.
Practically every scene of every day I spend on this course is an extraordinary dreamlike sequence with a spiritual quality that I will carry for a lifetime, but when the hills start rumbling and the pines begin waving from the roars of the weekend crowd, it transforms into something even more.
On Saturday, back nine magic by Mickelson and Fred Couples gave us a taste of what this place can become.
Thinking about Sunday sends chills up my spine.
‘A place like no other – The Masters.’
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