Curious what it’s like to be onsite at Augusta National? Here’s our inside look from Wednesday at the Masters
Editor’s Note: This was originally posted from the 2016 Masters. Like many things at Augusta National, however, the experience is timeless. So read on and enjoy the 2018 Masters!
By Jon Levy
AUGUSTA, Ga. – Since the year’s first major is underway and you can’t be here yourself, here are my top moments from Wednesday onsite at the Masters and the annual Golf Writers Association of America awards dinner.
1. Entering the hallowed grounds through a secret door
My day began with the annual Golf Writers meeting in the Augusta National Press Center. Upon entering ANGC through a private gate and shuttling past the club’s own cottages – tournament patrons nowhere in sight – I arrived at the ENORMOUS Masters Press Center. Picture NASA Ground Control meets a drive-in theater. Very impressive.
2. Watching Lefty get his grind on
The first thing I did after my meeting was hit the practice facility, where Phil Mickelson was in the middle of a grind session with swing coach Andrew Getson. His swing looked cleaner than I’ve seen in recent years and he sounded rejuvenated in his pre-tournament presser, so I expect good things from Lefty this week. (Note: Mickelson shot rounds of 72/79 to miss the cut and make this prediction a complete shank in all senses of the term.)
Parking yourself at the range is a must-do at the Masters, or at any Tour event for that matter, as there’s a lot of action happening in all directions. I could’ve sat there all day but, alas, had that famous golf course to explore.
3. Augusta National is different than it looks on TV
It’s often said Augusta National is hillier in person than it appears on TV. This is true. What’s not often said, however, is how much smaller the greens are in real life than they appear on the flat screen. That goes to show just how good these players really are, especially when you combine the fact that these greens are also significantly more sloped than they appear on TV, and as fast as any course on the planet.
4. Watching THE four-ball of the day
I hit the course just in time for a back-nine four-ball between Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson, Jason Dufner and Jimmy Walker. If you’ve ever seen Tour players play practice rounds, they often hole out for score in friendly competitive matches, then hit a few additional shots to the assumed pins for each tournament day. Such was the case with this group, and man, were there a lot of people following the 2015 champ, Spieth.
5. The patrons know their Masters history
The funniest moment of the day happened on my walk up No. 14, when people recognized Verne Lundquist driving by in a golf cart and spontaneously shouted, “YES, SIR!” to the longtime announcer. He responded with raised arms in victory-v-clad fashion, fully owning his iconic line to the crowd’s cheering delight.
6. You’ll spend your money on a little of this, and A LOT of that
I spent a grand total of $6.50 on a chicken sandwich, pimento cheese sandwich and lemonade. You don’t want to know what I spent in the merchandise tent.
7. Hearing the roars
After taking in more of the warm Georgia sun at Bobby Jones’ realized dream, I went over to catch some of the Par-3 Tournament. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any of multiple hole-in-ones that occurred but, make no mistake, I sure did hear them.
8. Standing at the doorstep
My last stop before departing the course was a quick detour for a free(!) picture in front of the clubhouse, which sits at the end of Magnolia Lane. If you ever go to the Masters in person, the short line you’ll encounter for this is well worth it.
9. Seeing an array of trophies for the world’s best golfers
Late for most things but always early for cocktail hour, I was able to check out the recipients’ hardware at the annual Golf Writers dinner before things got going. These shiny new objects sure did catch the eye, and without a doubt were well deserved for the world’s best and most influential golfers.
10. Tour pros + golf media = respected partnership
Among the evening’s honorees were Jordan Spieth, Lydia Ko, Davis Love III, J.B. Holmes, Jeff Maggert, Christie Kerr and Dottie Pepper. All were onsite, and all were incredibly gracious. Sports media can get a bad rap sometimes, but such is not generally the case in golf. The heartfelt support these players showed to the GWAA proves that.
11. No rest for the weary and a player hard at work
The best takeaway from the evening goes to the GWAA Player of the Year himself, Jordan Spieth, who showed up to the formal event in golf garb. By no means was this meant as disrespect – quite the opposite, actually, as the defending Masters champ came straight from the course after feverishly working to replace a cracked driver face on the eve of Round 1. It was great to see him honor his commitment, but even better to see him do it with a smile on his face. If you’re wondering if Spieth is the class act he appears to be on TV – he is.