The Masters

 

View from thirteenth fairway looking down past dogleg toward #12 green

 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.

Brandt Snedeker and Wife Mandy in Par Three Tournament

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!

Thirteenth Green at Augusta National

green jacket

 

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

The Loneliest Walk in Golf

I was attending the Zurich Classic in Avondale, Louisiana this weekend. I happened to be in the Eighteenth Green Cypress Suites and through my binoculars was watching David Toms coming up the eighteenth fairway. He was obviously looking for his tee shot near the water, on the right side of the fairway. Apparently, the ball went into the water, because shortly thereafter he began the lone walk back to the tee. I think his ball must have last passed the edge of the hazard not far from the tee. His trek to the tee seemed to take forever as he walked with what appeared to be a dejected look by his body posture. He re-teed and hit his third shot from the tee, after counting the original drive plus the stroke penalty. His caddy waited by the side of the fairway while he walked to and from the tee and I was thinking how lonely it must be taking that walk all by himself. I recalled a time that I had done a similar thing. I was playing in the Louisiana State Junior Golf Tournament when I was in high school at East Ridge Country Club in Shreveport. Before the round, I had great hopes for doing well in the tournament and marched to the first tee full of positive anticipation. I hit my first drive beautifully. It looked like it had gone far and straight. When I walked to where the ball should have been, it was nowhere to be found. I searched frantically but unsuccessfully all around the area, including in the rough, for the ball. According to the rules of golf, I had to walk back to the tee and replay the drive after taking a stroke penalty. So I was lying three from where my second drive had landed. I went on to triple bogey the hole and my game was downhill from there. I went on to have a very substandard round. Likewise, Toms triple bogied the eighteenth and finished one over par for the round. I imagine he had been trying to cut the corner on that drive because he was pressing to make an eagle, since he needed something really good to get back into contention. I felt sorry for him as I recalled my loneliest walk in golf. Bad scores are part of golf. But it shouldn’t be lonely.-rt

 

David Toms at the 2011 President’s Cup

The Americans dominated the President’s Cup at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Australia this past week/weekend to retain the cup. Fred Couple’s team was dominant. David Toms represented Louisiana golf very well by going 3-1 (3 wins and only one loss) in the four matches he played. In fact, he was so dominant that 3 of the 4 matches were won by the 14th hole. Toms’ record was matched by Phil Mickelson and only surpassed by Hunter Mahan at 4-1 and Jim Furyk at 5-0.  Both Toms and Mickelson voluntarily sat out Saturday’s four ball pairings. Therefore, Toms and Mickelson were tied for the Americans’ third best record of the twelve-member American team. Tiger Woods, who admittedly improved during the matches and got the media attention by winning the cup-winning point, had only a 2-3 record. Congratulations David!

-rt

David Toms Makes Presidents Cup and Wins Payne Stewart Award

Congratulations to David Toms for making the President’s Cup and winning the Payne Stewart Award. David earned the eighth spot on the Presidents Cup roster by his excellent golfing year on the PGA tour, with a first, a second, and two third place finshes, as well as seven top ten finishes. In all, he ranked 20th on the FedEx standings and made $3.86 million. Toms has played in three piror Presdients Cup tournaments and three Ryder Cup appearances. The Presidents Cup will be played Nov 17-20 at the Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Australia. The US team, led by Fred Couples, will be facing an international team headed by Greg Norman. See http://espn.go.com/golf/story/_/id/6990597/jim-furyk-david-toms-hunter-mahan-all-qualify-presidents-cup for more information.

 The Payne Stewart Award is an honor presented to a golfer who respects the traditions of golf and for his conduct and commitment to charitable support. Toms’ work with the David Toms Foundation in helping disadvantaged children and his work during Hurricane Katrina recovery were instrumental in his winning the award. See http://www.shreveporttimes.com/article/20110920/SPORTS/110920015/David-Toms-nabs-Payne-Stewart-Award for more information.

-rt