Sunday, 26 April 2009

Gidday from Atlanta USA, home of Coca-Cola, CNN, Delta Airlines, the Atlanta Braves and venue of the 1996 Olympic Games.

It's also just a couple of hours drive from Augusta, Georgia, home of the Augusta National Golf Club and the 73rd Masters. As far as sporting pilgrimages go, I'm about to live the dream!

The Masters is the toughest ticket in sport and as I sit in my hotel room on a Thursday night pondering this column's contents, I have to continually pinch myself to remind me I'm actually going to be there at the weekend. I'm just hoping Danny Lee will be there as well, as a group of us are intending to walk the 18 holes of majestic Masters with him, should young Dan make the cut.

Our tour group is an eclectic, diverse and interesting bunch but we all have a great passion for golf. Some of us aren't so flash at playing the game but that never stopped us enjoying three great rounds of golf in Las Vegas en route.

The first round was at the Wynn Resort course, probably the most expensive piece of golfing real estate in the world. Those of you who have been fortunate enough (or unfortunate, if you detest mindless gambling and smoking) to go to Vegas will know the Wynn Golf Club as the only piece of green, as opposed to greenback, on the "Strip". Before the recession hit, it was reckoned to be worth $15 million per acre, which made the 137 acre course worth over $2 billion. Which means after the economy comes right they're going to turn it into more casinos and more hotels for more mindless gambling and smoking.

The second course, Wolf Creek, was truly spectacular. Carved out of the canyons of the Nevada desert it takes over a million gallons of water a day to keep the fairways and greens watered. As for the rough don't go there quite literally! It's snake season and you venture to look for wayward drives at your peril.

Our tour leader, three handicapper Grant Fox, hits a golf ball almost as sweetly as he used to kick goals. His son Ryan (who plays off a plus three handicap) was to have been on the tour also but had to forsake his dream of watching Tiger at the Masters when he was selected for the New Zealand amateur golf team.

It's been interesting getting to know Fox senior. We are of similar vintages, the only difference being he was picked for the All Blacks and I wasn't. Foxy's body these days bears testament to his outstanding service to his country. An impending knee replacement means he can hardly walk while I'm off to have a crack at the Boston Marathon. Who says a lack of commitment on the rugby paddock doesn't pay in the "long run".

Tell you all about the Masters next week ...


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