For those entering Augusta National for the first time, the temptation to reach down and touch the grass is irresistible. The dark green of a secret variety of rye grass grows dutifully in these soils.
From the huge balcony of the press room you can see, about 300 meters away, multiple players in the practice area. They hit balls from early in the morning until the end of the afternoon. They prepare for one of the most demanding challenges in golf in the most beautiful place of all.
Allister MacKensie used to say that beauty should be a very important element on a golf course. The Masters is like that beautiful woman everyone wants to dance with. Many try, but few can keep up. But let’s ask Rory McIlroy, for example, who was left alone in the middle of the track twice. In the first, she went with Charl Schwartzel (2011) and in the second with Patrick Reed (2018). Jordan Spieth, one of the lady’s favorites, also had his thing in 2016. When he was already considered a stable couple, she dishonorably left him to go with Danny Willett.
Speaking of Rory McIlroy, Monday afternoon was his press conference. One of the most interesting things he said was that he was visiting the home of the convalescent Tiger Woods. He said that in the “family room” of his house, Tiger has a display case with the trophies of the 15 Majors that he won. “That’s really cool,” Rory said. He said he then asked him where the other 67 trophies were. Tiger replied: “The truth is that I don’t know, there must be some or other kept here in a closet, some must be at my mother’s house, and others surely in the office, I reckon.” He also said that while driving home he realized that the only thing Tiger Woods cared about was winning Majors. The rest must have been simple practices. “How easy, after all, for Tiger there were only four important weeks a year,” concluded the Northern Irishman.
Seven years have passed since the last Major Rory won (British Open 2014). And since then there weren’t many where he was around. No one is seriously talking about McIlroy winning this year. It’s as if the fans have already turned their heads to look at De Chambeau …
Speaking of the “scientist” it could be said that the madness that made him look ridiculous in November is over, and it will not be repeated. He is good at learning, like any good, tireless and ambitious young man.
Where’s Rickie Fowler? The only thing that has been seen of him around here is a Corona commercial on the giant screen in the press room. Sponsors love Rickie, and he has time for them. Currently ranked 95th in the World Rankings, the organization seems to have had no good reason to invite him this year.
There are hungrier players. Koepka came on one leg. The scent of a Major is irresistible to him, even though he had surgery on his right knee three weeks ago. His longtime caddy, Ricky Elliott, isn’t sure his boss should be here, and just hopes he can finish all 72 holes. The most bizarre thing, according to Elliott, is that even with a bad knee he is hitting great. “I never saw him hit as well as in the last two days, never” he said.
There is an audience in Augusta, but little. Due to the pandemic, the organization allowed a reduced percentage of “patrons” to come to the Masters. It could be said that there is between 15 and 20% of the public that regularly attends the tournament. Another peculiarity of this year is that you can go to the shop and not stand in line for 20 minutes.
The players are already on the court on this first day of competition. It is easy to see that the greens are very difficult. Nobody leaves her very close from the fairway, and the first putts are, in general, very defensive. The Masters is not won in the first round, but it is possible to lose it.
The 85th edition of the Augusta Masters has started and promises to be a great tournament. There are 84 players participating in this edition. Among them are 18 former champions. In total 21 nations are represented. Obviously, the country with the most players is the United States, which has 41. They follow it: England, which has ten; South Africa and Australia have four; Canada and Spain three; Mexico, Korea, Scotland and Ireland have 2. And with a single player there are: Norway, Germany, Japan, Italy, Colombia, Chile, China, France, Fiji, Sweden and Austria.
Finally, in order to explain in part how things work at Augusta National, a notice is transcribed that is in the “Spectator’s Guide”:
“The Masters is a tournament by strict invitation, which is carried out by a private organization. The qualification rules are the main way that is taken into account to establish the list of invited players. But these regulations do not oblige the Tournament Committee to send an invitation. Not being invited, even if you qualify, does not imply disability or defect.
For the preparation of the tournament, the first consideration is to provide a first class court in the best conditions and as close to perfection as possible. The second is to show our invited players the utmost courtesy.
The guiding principle of the Masters is to offer a golf show that is enjoyable for all, for our members, for the spectators and for golfers in general. We would also like, if we can, to contribute to the development of the sport of golf. “
It is said that at the first membership meeting in 1933, just as Bobby Jones, the chairman, had begun to give his opening speech, a member interrupted him and said aloud: “I have been a member of many clubs that have disappeared and have broken. The common feature of all of them has been to have partner meetings. I move that Augusta National never have membership meetings and that all decisions are made by the chairman, to the best of his knowledge and belief. ” The motion was accepted unanimously with thunderous applause and remains so to this day.