11 °CFew clouds
Masters 2012 - What was it like?
|Sport||Mon, 30 Apr 2012||Tweet|
What better way for the 2012 Masters to end than a playoff duel between Bubba Watson and Louis Oosthuizen? It was only a matter of time before the very talented Watson pieced together four good rounds to win a major. With the wet Augusta National unexpectedly playing longer and softer than usual, Bubba’s massive length played to his advantage, and without too many errant drives in the woods, it was a good week for him to win. Even though my call of Tiger winning failed hopelessly, I still stand by my previous post. Any of the eventual 96 players in the field could have played well and won (bar the amateurs and old-timers...). This was exemplified with the massive number of players who held the lead or were within a handful of strokes at various points in the tournament.
The purpose of this article is not to re-cap the competition or explain the layout. Instead, I am writing to describe my visit to the 2012 Masters. I want you to feel as if you’re in my shoes, experiencing the best event in the world of golf.
We entered Augusta National on Thursday through the main security gate. Metal detectors and guards made sure we weren’t carrying any phones, cameras, or other contraband. We had a game plan: 1) Watch the ceremonial tee off by Palmer, Nicklaus, and Player; 2) Walk the entire course while it was relatively empty and open; and 3) See as much golf as possible in the remaining time.
After we passed through the gates, the practice facilities, recently redone and considered some of the best in the world, appeared on the left- hand side. Short game areas with full size, real speed greens, dot the area and replicate shots found on the actual course. Sticking to our game plan, we proceeded to the right, passing “Masters green” permanent buildings for merchandise and food. Funneling past the buildings, the trees cleared and opened to the first, vast view of Augusta National.
Once through this dark portal, it was an uphill left to the clubhouse, oak tree, and first tee. The small, simple clubhouse looked elegant and was full of members and their friends relaxing on the warm day. We didn’t have clubhouse passes, and we envied the patrons and members relaxing under the shade of the famous oak tree and lounging on the porch wrapping around the white, square clubhouse.
The size of the place is massive, and everywhere you look, there is strikingly dark, lush green grass. All of the typical sayings associated with Augusta National ring true: “Try to find a weed... bet you can’t!” or “There’s not a single blade of grass out of place!” Every bit of the course was in perfect condition. It is hard to imagine the amount of work that goes into preparing the course for its magnum opus: The Masters. The only disappointment this year was unexpectedly warm temperatures, which led to a premature blooming of all the bushes, trees, and flowers that line nearly every hole of the course. Instead of the beautiful colors normally observed during Masters week, we had dark, healthy, green. I wasn’t complaining.
The “hilliness” or elevation changes at Augusta National are also striking. Many of the holes require blind shots to elevated greens. The greens are extremely undulating. These features don’t fully come across on the television.
It was surreal seeing holes that I had studied for years previously on the TV. I soon realized after reviewing the first few holes, Augusta National is a different kind of penal to other great courses. The rough is cut short, the bunkers are massive, but shallow, and the course isn’t unbelievably long. The course instead shows its bite in fast undulating greens, and a large premium must be put on local knowledge. Knowing where to miss is just as important as knowing where to hit. Six inches on either side of a ridge could be the difference between a fifty-foot putt and a two footer.
At an interesting point in the day, we took a look left while making our way down the left side of number ten. Sitting with his family, within earshot, was Jack Nicklaus, enjoying the porch of one of Augusta National’s white cabins. He was taking in the nice afternoon with hundreds of people passing him, too busy to notice the golfing icon. Ironically, these were the same cabins that provided the backdrop for Rory McIlroy’s massive hook on the tenth hole and his eventual collapse in the 2011 Masters.
I have been lucky enough to attend both the 2011 US Open at Congressional and the 2011 Open Championship at Royal St Georges. The Masters was completely different. The numbers of people are much smaller at the Masters. The people in attendance aren’t fans; they are “patrons.” Patrons’ personal green Masters chairs dot the course and line the greens. Once a chair is placed, nobody other than the owner can sit in it or move it. There is an unspoken honor code upheld by nearly everyone. This is simply not found at other golfing events.
Where the US Open and the Open Championship offered overpriced and bad food, the Masters has its famous sandwiches and drinks. $2.00 for a pimento cheese sandwich (among other kinds), $1.00 for chips, and $1.50 for a drink. There may be few options, but everything is fresh, tasty, and very inexpensive. They simply want to provide the patrons with food and drink for the day instead of seeing another area in which to make money.
The overarching factor that sets the Masters apart is simply Augusta National’s aura. It is the “x factor” that no other course can replicate. It is the perfection of the course, the secrecy of the club, the traditions, the history, the members circulating in their green jackets, and it all adds up to create something unlike anything else. You pass through those gates into another world.
Photos © Masters.com; Graylyn; telegraph.co.uk