Tiger Woods had to wait nineteen months to entertain the champions in Augusta at the traditional Tuesday dinner. Meat and chicken fajitas with grilled vegetables was the menu of choice for the defending champion.
Just that same night, the young Argentine fan Abel Gallegos would sleep in the “Crow’s Nest”, the room always reserved in the Clubhouse for fans who play the tournament. Abel was not going to miss the opportunity to go down to greet the champions. Just to make us envious he sent us a photo with the host. How many lasting memories this boy will treasure during this week in Augusta. Maybe it’s the beginning of an extraordinary career? There are several who started here. From Tiger Woods to Sergio García, Jack Nicklaus to Joaquín Niemann. The future opens from now on for this boy from May 25.
Earlier this week Colin Morikawa, this year’s PGA Championship winner, played a practice lap with Justin Rose. These two players could be said to represent two generations, the young one and the one growing up. Morikawa is 23 and Rose is 40. They are both Majors winners. It was Morikawa’s first time playing the court and there was something Rose wanted to show him. The two hit their drives on the par 4 of the 11th hole, “White Dogwood” and began to walk down to then reach the top of that incredible fairway from where the “Amen Corner” can be seen in all its splendor.
Lower left is the green of the 11, protected ahead and to the left by the “Rae’s Creek”. Beyond you can see Hogan’s bridge leading to the 12th green, the short par 3 that could well be a museum of broken hearts. “Look what this is” Rose said to Morikawa, reminding him of how it felt the first time he had this view, of a place like no other in the world of golf. Morikawa replied, “It is certainly an incredible place, but I am so focused on playing golf well here and trying to figure out this course, that if I become a spectator I am afraid of missing something important.” This is the new generation.
During Masters practice, Spaniard Jon Rahm hit a hole in one by bouncing the ball over the water.
At the press conference Morikawa was asked what his expectations were for this, his first Masters. “Expectations? I love that word, all the press people use it a lot. But I am a golfer. I have no expectations, what I have is a goal and that is to win the tournament ”. Another of the good anecdotes heard in the half-empty press room of this autumn Masters.
To give you an idea of how few people are on the court at this rare Masters, I was following Tiger Woods, Fred Couples and Adam Scott on Wednesday morning at 10 am. All three went out through hole 1 for their practice lap of the day. We were 15 people in total. Ordinarily that group, on an Augusta Wednesday, would have dragged no fewer than 5,000 people.
On Wednesday afternoon, looking for some inspiration to write this note, I went for a walk around the place that Justin Rose loves so much. I went down the fairway of hole 10 “Camelia” and crossed just in front of the big bunkers that are far from the green. From there I went up the slope to the tee at hole 11 and started down that fairway. I hadn’t seen anyone yet when I came across Roger, an officer who had finished yawning, sitting in the classic green armchair that sells by the thousands at the Augusta proshop. “Boring? I asked him “What do you miss most about a normal Masters?” “Talk to people” he replied. “The day is very long sitting here.” I said goodbye and continued walking towards the “Amen Corner” where there were a couple of TV presenters doing shots for their respective media.
I walked down the right side of the fairway of hole 13, “Azalea”, until the violent dog leg. I looked from there towards the green without flowers, but with some fall color that already reddens some leaves of the deciduous trees. I crossed the fairway of hole 14, “Chinese Fir” towards fairway of 15, “Firethorn” and walked towards that green by the left side towards the bridge of Gene Sarazen. I went to the tee of the 16th hole, “Redbud” from where Matt Kuchar just hit three balls, who was already walking towards the green of that great hole. I walked up the hill to the right of the lagoon and went down the long path to the green, watching Kuchar practice with his putter. I arrived just when he was already on the tee of the 17th hole, “Nandina”, ready to hit his drive. He hit it well, long and to the right of the fairway. It was him, his caddy and me, no one else. This is so rare! So weird that he was the one who spoke to me first. He said “Good drive, right? I hope I hit all of them like this this week” “Very good!” I replied. I left Kuchar with his caddy and went back to the press room with a rough idea of what this ending note would be like.
The Masters begins. The departures will be from 7 in the morning. Tiger Woods, the defending champion, will do so at 7:55 on the 10th tee, accompanied by Irishman Shane Lowry and American fan Andy Ogletree. In the antipodes of the veteran champion, the rookie Abel Gallegos will do the same, at the same time, from the tee of hole 1, separated by just 50 meters. Gallegos will come out in the company of South African Charl Schwartzel and Australian Jason Day. This week the two groups will be able to see each other from their respective tees, and make signs not to be disturbed. Usually they would be separated by an immense human tide struggling to see even a fraction of their golf idols. A strange Masters begins.