I needed to go to a happy place this week. We have had three days of rain, which turned into ice, and the gloomy weather has put a damper on my golf enthusiasm. It's easy to get depressed this time of year...the transition into spring can be very slow and it seems we become prisoners of Mother Nature. If it were golf season I'd make my way to my local course. Even walking around without a club in my hand is enough for me - I'm happy there. But the snow is still hanging around and the soggy ground needs time to dry up and prepare for the upcoming season - it's not ready to be my happy place.
But a thought popped in my head and I smiled. Visions in my brain turn into a rainbow of colors - blue skies, creamy sand bunkers, grey stone bridges, rolling green fairways, carpets of pink azaleas, creeks and ponds that reflect the clouds and trees, and of course the traditional yellow flags. And we can't forget about the people...thousands of them who make the pilgrimage each year to experience a little golf magic. Can you see it with me? Yes, it's the Masters. I can almost smell the flowers and hear the footsteps on the pine straw. Ah, time for a deep breath!
I knew right then where I needed to go...www.masters.org. Even though the event is still two weeks away, there is plenty of information to browse through. The first place I looked? The Field. The majority of the field is already in place and there are some interesting names on the invite list. If you're a Greg Norman fan (like me) it's pretty fantastic to see his name there again. I recently read an interview on pgatour.com and even though it sounds like he's gearing up his game, he's going to focus more on enjoying the opportunity to play his favorite tournament, especially with his son, Greg, on his bag.
There are currently 15 players making their Masters debut this year. One of them is amateur Drew Kittleson, who is doing an exclusive blog on the website. His first entry is now posted. I can't imagine what it must be like to be thinking about competing in the Masters for the first time...I'd be thrilled just to walk up Magnolia Lane!
I think I counted 19 past winners in the field, including the 1979 winner Fuzzy Zoeller, who won on his first trip to Augusta 30-years ago. What an amazing thing to have a green jacket...I'm going to enjoy seeing Freddie, Crenshaw, and Watson, and I've got a feeling they might just make the weekend, too. There's something special about tradition.
There are still some invitations left to be given - anyone who hasn't already qualified that is in the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) at the end of next week's event will get to compete. Currently sitting at #47 is Davis Love III, who I would love to see at Augusta. Winners from this week and next will also earn a spot, so we'll see who's hot.
Masters weekend is all about couch time for me - a few extra pillows, a blanket or two, and pretending like I'm there - the beauty of Augusta on TV is fabulous, so I can only imagine what it is like in person. I enjoy the CBS announcing team (I hope Vern Lundquist is there!), and the limited commercials on Sunday keep me glued to the TV for hours without moving. I can't wait.
What is also fantastic is the online coverage, starting with the par-3 on Wednesday. Live scoring, Amen corner coverage, and player interviews will definitely be on my computer screen.
As I browsed the site today, I watched a few of the video flyovers, played the putting game (I'm terrible), and read Drew's blog. Thinking back to 2008, I'm reminded of rooting for Brandt Snedecker, all the while wondering if Tiger would pull off a miracle final round. But sometimes golf is like survival, and Immelman's win proved he could withstand the pressure.
The Masters does have its share of heartbreak and disaster stories to tell, and it's hard for me not to think about the Norman collapse in 1996 and the improbable Larry Mize chip-in on #11 in '87. Golf can be that way sometimes. But how do you not smile when you think about Jack winning at age 46 in 1986?(can you see him crouched over putting right now?) Or Tiger's first win there in 1997? (wins by 12 strokes-amazing) Or Mickelson getting his first Major there in 2004?(I was happy for Phil, but I'm cringing just a little thinking about his bad victory leap) Although I think my favorite memory that comes to mind right now is when Freddie's ball stayed up on the bank on #12 in 1992...it's nice when golf gives gifts, too. Take a minute and pull out your mental Masters highlight reel and enjoy the sights...if they are anything like mine, you're seeing pine trees, Rae's Creek, lightening fasts putts, and someone slipping their arm into a green suit coat. Nice.
The rain is still falling, my putter will go unused tonight, but I'm smiling like I just stepped off the golf course after a great round...Thank You, Masters, for being my happy place - see you in 2 weeks!
Filed under: Masters, Greg Norman, Fred Couples, Tiger, Augusta, Davis Love III