Friday, April 8, 2011

Masters 2011 - 75th Edition

It had been four years since my last trip to the Masters and I couldn't wait to visit the hollowed grounds of Augusta National again. We had stayed about 80 miles south of Augusta the night before and had experienced an early morning thunder storm. As we got closer we noticed that the traffic signals were out and there had been several trees blown over. The local AM radio station had alerted us to some 100 year old trees having been lost at the golf course and play would be delayed until further notice. The temperature had dropped from balmy 87 the day before to a cool 54 when we climbed out of our car in the west parking lot.

We headed to the course and immediately noticed the gigantic practice area that had been constructed in the past year. What an improvement from what the pros had to warm up on before. First stop was the merchandise building to kill some time until the course opened. Absolutely, the most dollars spent per second of any commercial operation in the world. One of the employees told me that Monday had been the second highest grossing day in history, I would suspect today was going to be the record.

Next we walked over to the Par 3 course and toured it. I took several pictures of it this visit which you can click on and view under MASTERS 2011. The previous trip I concentrated photographing the 18 hole course and you can view those under MASTERS 2007. Several trees were down between #8 and #9 and the lake was full of debris from the storm. I am sure this was a worst case scenario for the grounds crew but they have hundreds of people and unlimited resources to handle any problem that may arise. By the time we finished our walk around the PAR 3 course, play had resumed.

Starting on hole #10 we made our way around to Amen Corner following Villegas and Caberra before we sat in the bleachers taking in the beauty of #11 and #12. Due to the intense winds it appeared as though many of the flowering azaleas had lost most of their flowers. After a few minutes we moved onto #13 and viewed what Phil was visualizing on his now famous approach shot in 2010. Next rest stop were the bleachers overlooking the 15th and 16th holes. I love to watch the players SKIP IT on the pond. Some of the young first time pros really get into it and will hit several shots. Amazingly, many of their skip shots ended up closer than their traditional shots. Most skip it several times but Ross Fisher , on his final try, hit it hard about 10 feet in front of him and one hoped it on.

One of my favorite hideaways was in the azalea's just off of the 5th green overlooking the 16th. My last visit I got some beautiful pictures from there that you can view on the MASTERS 2007 slide show. This trip I see that they have cleared that whole area out and planted grass so the patrons can now sit and watch. A piece of heaven has been lost. It was getting that time of day when I was craving some of those inexpensive, $1.50 egg salad sandwiches so we headed to the food concession. Due to the loss of electricity they had lost all their eggs, so I had to settle for the $2.50 line of sandwiches which were not nearly as good as the egg salad I had been savoring.

On the front nine we caught up with Ben Crenshaw, his caddie Carl, who was caddying his 50th Masters, and Jhonny Vegas. The long par three #4 had Ben pulling out the driver to make it to the green against a stiff head wind. Ben was showing his Texas Alum all he could about how to putt the tricky Augusta greens. Unfortunately, Ben's lack of length is going to make it tough for him to make this years cut. It appeared most of the players stayed on the range for the day or didn't even show up due to the strong winds that were blowing on Tuesday. Being a Michigan grad, one of the trip highlights was seeing Lion Kim (2010 Publix Champ) finishing up his round with KJ Choi on #9. He had all his U of M attire on with a nice Michigan logo bag. Hopefully, you all caught his maize and blue shoes he was wearing on day one. I hope he makes the cut just so I can see those shoes. If only I had a pair of those magic slippers, my game would improve by at least 5 shots.

Masters Trivia- Did you know that the nines have been flipped at Augusta National? Following the inaugural Masters in 1934, and shortly after Alister Mackenzie's death, Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts announced the change. Just think if Gene Sarazen's shot, "Heard around the World" had been made the year before on the 6th hole instead of on the 15th in the 1935 Masters. I bet that double-eagle would not have been nearly as loud. Horton Smith is the only golfer to have won on both layouts. Other world class courses that have flipped their nines are; NGLA ,Shinnecock, Eugene CC, Victoria Hills, Pablo Creek Club.

By now it was late afternoon and we made one last dash through the merchandise building and then dropped by the range to watch a few players working on their games. Heading out of the gate to the car, I told my son that I hoped he would come back with me again for the 100th edition.

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