A greenside seat at the Masters is a rare thrill, says Tavish Scott
EVERYTHING is green at the Masters: the buildings, including the restrooms, the cola cups, and, of course, the course. Augusta National is simply the best manicured course I have ever walked across. The fairways are better than most golf course greens.
I have watched the Masters on TV since Seve Ballesteros, Ian Woosnam and Bernhard Langer were winning in their heyday, and I have dreamed of walking the course since Sandy Lyle struck that incredible 7 iron out of the bunker on 18 to birdie and win.
TV flattens mounds and hills and disguises the huge swings putters face on Augusta’s greens. Watching a leading American four-putt the short 16th, I began to understand that golf can be a different experience at Augusta.
The course undulates, but that fails to convey the drop from the tenth tee to the bottom of the valley. That is not the only hole which dramatically alters the perception by the change in altitude. So for the spectator it is a walk and a half. Except that, unlike the Open, you do not have to wear so many clothing layers and a rain suit.
This weekend at Augusta the sun shone and the temperature was nearly as high as Aboyne a couple of weeks ago. Shorts and polo shirt suffices.
The Masters concession shops take $30 million in a week. That is a lot of shirts, hats and umbrellas. I have never been in a shop with so many men wishing to spend so much money. It will never catch on in Scotland. The golfers are wardrobes on legs. Spain’s Sergio Garcia was in vibrant blue and the USA’s Ricky Fowler wore lime green trousers and matching shoes. Not something I have ever seen at Shetland Golf Club.
The most famous Augusta holes are at “Amen Corner”. The spectacular short 12th and the magnificent par 5 13th envelops thousands of golfing fans. Fans are patrons at Augusta. There are fewer grandstands than at the Open at Muirfield or Turnberry. Augusta has so many mounds and natural viewing points that stands are not needed to the same extent.
Augusta’s patrons start to queue at 5am to gain the best vantage points. People take small director style chairs and place them beside tees and greens for the best view of the putts to come later in the day. Once the chair is in place with name attached, people leave it alone. It is somewhat akin to the much maligned beach towel next to the pool syndrome at the Mediterranean. But it guarantees the best seats in the house for those prepared to get up in the middle of the night.
Yesterday, with the 18th being the place to be, I had a seat courtesy of a friend who had put my chair in place when the course gates opened many hours before the winner walked up the last fairway.
It is hard to convey the sheer excitement of the weekend at a golfing major unless golf is your sport. Augusta pumps with adrenalin and cheers on Saturday which is “moving” day to position for Sunday which is winning day. Roars reverberate between the towering pines as the best players in the world compete on one of the greatest golf courses I have been privileged to walk across. Now the challenge is to play it!