I am thankful for the Masters. It is my, as well as most golfers’, favorite golf tournament for several reasons: 1) the beauty of the golf course; 2) the tradition; and 3) the difficulty of the golf course which seems to separate the winner from the also-rans. It is simply an amazing golf course. Designed by the famed Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie, two great names in golf, this is the only Major which is played at the same golf course each year. During Masters’ week, I stay glued to the TV, or if on those years when I’ve been lucky enough…(read on)
Getting a ticket to the practice rounds on Monday-Wednesday is not that difficult. Anybody can register for a chance at their random drawing. I think I have won the ticket lottery three times and attended twice. The practice rounds are fun for a photographer because they allow unlimited photography on those days. But on the days of the actual tournament, only credentialed photographers are allowed on the course with their cameras. And don’t even think about bringing a cell phone! The first time I attended a practice round I was in heaven. Imagine how I really thought I had died and gone to the inner chambers of heaven when Jeannette, a relative from Augusta who was working as a chaufeur for patrons, got hold of a ticket to the actual tournament for me. I, of course, postponed my return home to walk those hallowed grounds during the actual tournament. It was simply incredible and the fulfillment of a lifelong dream of mine. Another dream is to be able to play the course one day – although I’m sure I would have difficulty shooting a good score. But to walk those fairways, hitting golf balls in the footprints of Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Sam Snead, and Arnold Palmer…just an incredible thought!
Everyone can see the perfect fairways and greens at Augusta National on TV but it is hard to visualize the steep hilly terrain the course sits upon unless you walk those holes. Just walking them must take a lot out of the golfers and probably adds another dimension to the difficulty of the course. And you have never seen greens like these. First of all, the greens have different tiers with severe slopes and optimal play requires hitting to the proper location on the green, and that spot changes daily with pin location. The greens putt so fast and break so much. I’ve seen professional golfers putting from below the hole on number 6 (par three) who end up putting up to the hole, not quite getting there, and then their balls roll down the green past the golfer and off the green. And the balls don’t stop there. They just keep going and going! So instead of a putt of a few feet, the golfer stares at a chip of about 50 yards. Hitting into those greens and then putting them has to take nerves of steel and a surgeon’s touch.
My favorite golfer, David Toms, is still tied for the record with Mark Carlcavecchia for the lowest 9 hole score of 29, which he shot on the second nine of the fourth round in 1998. He finished sixth that year and has recorded a total of three top ten finishes in the Masters during his career. The course was lengthened in 2002 and again in 2006, bringing the length from 6985 to 7435 yards. This makes it more difficult for golfers such as David, who is not long by comparison, but he always has a chance because of his accuracy off the tee, his deft iron play, and his smooth putting stroke. The course length argues against Toms winning a green jacket, but you never know. As a matter of fact, two of his top ten finishes occurred after the lengthening of the course in 2003 and 2007. Other short hitting golfers, such as Zach Johnson, have won the tournament since 2006.
The practice rounds are fun. They have things like golfers trying to skip balls off the water and onto the sixteenth green, not an easy accomplishment. And then there’s the par 3 tournament, which is played on an entirely different course on the same property. And it is just as manicured as the lush fairways and greens of the regular course are. And some of the holes are even prettier, if you can imagine that. It’s fun because the golfers have their kids, wives, and/or girlfriends caddy for them. And there is a lot of clowning around. But it all turns serious on Thursday.
I took the photos for today’s blog during my last trip to Augusta in 2009. The top photo is of my favorite hole on the course, the par five 13th. It is from a different vantage point than is usually shown on TV because it is looking from the fairway near the landing area back toward the tee, which is to the right around the dog leg. In the background of the photo is the twelth green. The drive must avoid Rae’s Creek, seen to the right in the photo, which snakes around the left side of the fairway. The fairway slopes toward Rae’s Creek and rises up midhole to a plateau and then descends toward the green. Rae’s Creek follows the fairway the entire way and then passes across the fairway directly in front of the green and meanders around the right side of the green, which slopes up toward four pristine white sand bunkers, two directly behind the green, two to the left, and a sea of shades of pink, purple, orange, and white azaleas planted around the trees on the rising ground behind the green. Just a beautiful setting! This is a hole where the gambling golfer can pick up one or two shots or more, or lose as many or more strokes after mis-hitting a shot or two. It is the site where many a green jacket is won or lost. The drama on the thirteenth on the last day of the competition is spectacular!
wish i had a green jacket
it would really have a nice feel
to wear on special occasions
such as the master’s champion’s meal
but the golf game is not there
chances for the jacket are blown
i suppose i’ll just have to
buy a green jacket of my own.
© rt tulley