Ah, the Masters. Where do I begin!
Let me start by saying the Augusta National Golf Club is all you expect and so much more. It's a truly beautiful golf course and, while television can do justice to its beauty, it can never truly reflect its difficulty and steepness.
The fairways, the notable exception being No18, are surprisingly wide and there is little trouble to be found under the massive pruned pines guarding their borders. The fun begins and the numbers mount, however, when it comes to keeping the ball on the sloping fairways and trying to putt on the massive rolling greens. A four-putt would be a moral victory for most. And let's not even go to Amen Corner, devilishly difficult dirt if I've ever seen some.
I was never very good at counting sheep so didn't bother estimating numbers but it felt like there were 20,000 following the dream pairing of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson on Sunday. I will eternally count myself blessed to have been included in the seething throng.
Some other Masters magic moments and observations:
- Passing by chance the practice putting green when five of the world's top 10 golfers were within touching distance. Up close and personal Mickelson is a big man, Sergio Garcia and Anthony Kim are tiny, Padraig Harrington appears to be a happy Irishman and Jim Furyk is gawky and gangly.
- Maybe it's because Augusta is in the heart of the south, but the overwhelmingly-white crowd appeared to warm to Mickelson more than Woods. Tiger was intense and almost surly, whereas Big Phil seemed to take more time to acknowledge the gallery's rapturous applause.
- Their respective caddies talked freely. Woods and Mickelson did not. Suffice to say Steve Williams and Big Phil did not exchange pleasantries.
- Tiger might be the best athlete in the field but the three guys (Cabrera, Perry and Campbell) who made the playoff all had one more chin than him.
No talk of double chins would be complete without mention of Long John Daly (above). He has been red-carded from the PGA tour until May but that never stopped him hawking memorabilia outside the gates at Augusta from his large touring bus. It's kind of sad a great golfing talent had to resort to that to make a buck, but my sympathy didn't stop me paying the obligatory $20 for a signed cap and a personal photo with the portly power-hitter. I reckon that one will go straight to the pool room.
I, too, will be overweight coming home with all the Masters memorabilia I have bought for my many new-found friends (including Nathan Burdon, who shamelessly demanded a towel). And a week of Budweiser has left me overweight for the Boston Marathon.
Here's hoping I survive to tell the tale next week, plus I've got a great yarn to spin about a real redneck bar in Georgia and an electricity-free Amish family in Kentucky.