View From The Augusta Fairways
Golfshake's Derek Clements ushers in the Masters with his View From The Augusta Fairways...
How is it that when I top a shot all I feel is utter dejection and humiliation? And why is it that somebody like Jon Rahm can deliberately and outrageously top a ball across the lake at the 16th hole at Augusta on his birthday - and watch the ball fall into the hole? To rub salt into the wound, he also had a hole in one at the fourth the previous day.
Dustin Johnson’s favourite Masters tradition? The sandwiches! All and any of them. So not Magnolia Lane. Not the Green Jacket. Not the Butler Cabin. Not the Crow’s Nest. Not the legendary locker room. Not the Champions Dinner. When you think of everything that goes hand in hand with Augusta, only Johnson could come up with an answer like that. He truly is one of a kind. And if you thought that the players chose the clothing that they wear over the course of four days, Johnson revealed that nothing could be further from the truth - their outfits are “scripted” by the clothing manufacturers who sponsor them.
Every year on the eve of The Masters, Rory McIlroy comes up with another way of trying to convince us that he is finally going to win that elusive Green Jacket. This time he told us that he needed to learn to “play smart”. Really? What a surprise! For goodness sake, Rory, why can’t you just go out there and play and trust your ability, which you possess in abundance? I suspect this tournament has become a millstone around his neck. No matter what he says, he tries too hard when he gets to Augusta - and that is hardly surprising when you consider what is at sake. If he finally wins it, he joins an exclusive club of players to have completed the career Grand Slam - Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan and Tiger Woods.
It was fascinating to watch Tiger Woods talking about his 2019 victory at Augusta. As he approaches the age of 45, he has become rather more reflective, taking time to enjoy any success that come this way. Nevertheless, it was a huge surprise to see him fighting back the tears when he spoke about his 15th major triumph. He admitted that when he first won at the age of 21 he probably didn’t appreciate the scale of his achievement. He also said that hosting the Champions Dinner was one of the most nerve-racking experiences of his life.
How sad that the organisers at Augusta took the decision to scrap the Par 3 Contest. Of course I understand their reasons. With Covid-19 still running rife, social distancing measures must be strictly enforced and the Par 3 Contest is a family affair, where players, their families, friends and caddies mix. You can be sure, however, that the players would not be complaining. Why? Because nobody has won it and gone on to collect the Green Jacket.
Jon Rahm began the week ranked second in the world. He hits the ball a mile, is a brilliant iron player and has a magnificent short game. But there he was on the eve of the tournament having a lesson in bunker and short-game play from Jose Maria Olazabal. It should be remembered that Jose Maria learnt all he knows from the incomparable Seve Ballesteros, so perhaps Rahm knew exactly what he was doing.
Lee Elder will join Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player next year as one of the honorary starters. When Elder played at Augusta in 1975, he was the first black American to do so. Unbelievably, he faced death threats and had to rent two houses and dodge between them because he didn’t want anybody to know where he was. And all because he is black! Thankfully, the reception he received from spectators at the course was rather more welcoming. The pity is that it has taken so long for Elder’s position in the game to be recognised.
The field at Augusta is the smallest of any major - and it stands to reason that it is also the weakest. A huge number of those who started the week had absolutely no chance of winning - Sandy Lyle, Fred Couples, Jose Maria Olazabal, Larry Mize, Bernhard Langer, Vijay Singh and Mike Weir for starters. It divides opinion, but no other golf tournament treats its past champions the way that this one does. And when all is said and done, the small field means that the elite almost always rise to the top. The aforementioned past champions will all know when the time has come to walk away for good, as Ian Woosnam has done.
Even the players pick up souvenirs from Augusta, with Tyrrell Hatton announcing that he would be buying a Masters hoodie - in green, of course!
There were no azaleas and there was rain but Augusta National still looked magnificent in all its autumn splendour. Even now, there is something about this course and this golf tournament that brings me out in goosebumps. And we only have to wait until April for the next instalment!
They do things rather differently at Augusta. The men in green jackets decided that the venue’s media facilities simply were no longer up to scratch. Their solution? To build a brand new, state-of-the-art facility, which was built within a year. There is, however, one thing that they didn’t take into account. The press centre is located 380 yards from the practice tee, and the media spent much of the week listening to Bryson DeChambeau’s practice drives clattering into the trees that surround the building!
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