Everyone lucky enough to have been to the Masters has a favorite spot from which they like to view the action.
The hill behind the 12th green is obviously very popular, right in the heart of Amen Corner, as you not only see players trying desperately to land their ball somewhere safe on the gorgeous but tantalizingly dangerous Golden Bell, but also coming down the hill at the fantastic 11th hole and teeing off from the distant 13th tee.
The exciting par-3 16th is a hot-spot too, wherever the hole is cut, but it’s especially dramatic when the pin is on the left half (Thursdays and Sundays) of the green as balls, responding to the slope, funnel down toward the hole and the thousands of patrons circling the green anticipate a hole-in-one they’ll never forget.
Another great place that not many TV viewers know exists is halfway down the hill at the short par-3 sixth. Here players actually hit over the heads of patrons they can’t see when standing on the tee and who can not only observe what happens on the sixth green but also the 16th which lies just to the right.
I spent time in all these places and could have stayed at each one for hours.
But my favorite place at Augusta National was a patch of ground somewhere to the left of the 17th green, at the bottom of the expansive area that you see to the right of the 18th fairway on TV.
Here you don’t focus on one player or a group of players in particular, and your view of the holes you can see isn’t as great as that of a person stationed in a bleacher at each hole.
But my goodness what a view.
Behind you is the 18th tee, and looking up the hill toward the clubhouse you can see the green. You can see the broad sweep of the ninth hole above you. The awesome par-5 second hole plunges down the hill to your left, and a little further left you can see players teeing off at the third, trying to avoid the huge bunkers on the left side of the fairway.
Moving round anti-clockwise again, there’s the seventh fairway and green, and immediately to your left are the fairway and green of the 17th hole.
Amen Corner might not be part of the vista, and you certainly wouldn’t spend much time here on Sunday afternoon with the battle for the lead going on somewhere on the back nine. But of all the wonderful panoramas I saw at Augusta National this week, this one might stay fixed in the memory the longest.
Strict, But Friendly, Security
Founded by Scottish immigrants Allan and Robert Pinkerton in 1851 (born out of Allan’s company, the North-Western Police Agency), the Pinkerton Guards are one of the many fixtures of the tournament.
Stories concerning the way they handle Masters miscreants are legendary, but actually very few and far between because, on the whole, the patrons know their golf and recognize how special the tournament is. They aren’t dumb enough to do anything that might get the attention of the Pinkertons.
But as well as enjoying a reputation for dealing quickly and efficiently with anything even slightly amiss, the Pinkertons are also extremely courteous.
“Good morning, and welcome to the Masters,” they say at the entrance gates every morning. And on leaving? “We hope you had a wonderful day at the Masters. Y’all have a great evening, now.”
Polite, cordial, affable but, one suspects, not slow to get their hands dirty if the need arose.
Where were you?
A lot of the talk this week – on TV, in the Media Center, and also out on the course among the patrons – has centered on Jack Nicklaus’ famous victory in 1986.
It’s amazing how everyone seems able to remember exactly where they were and what they were doing that day. I was on a high school geography field trip in Yorkshire, England. In a dormitory with five others (it was about 11pm and we had been sent to bed), I turned on the TV despite the fact our teacher had forbidden it and watched engrossed, trying hard to explain to my mates why what was happening was so cool.
I think they got it, and they all mentioned how pretty the course looked which, given that this was probably the first time they had watched golf on TV, and that we were watching in black and white, says a lot about Augusta National.
I saw Tiger Woods walk off the ninth tee as I followed Tom Watson to the second hole, but didn’t see him hit a single shot all week.
I saw just one of the 65 that Rory McIlroy hit in his superb first round. My Thursday badge, which I had hoped to laminate, somehow got ripped and is now in four pieces.
There wasn’t one moment when I could be part of a deafening back nine roar as all the balls I saw creeping slowly down the hill toward the hole at the 16th stopped agonizingly short or slid by the edge.
I didn’t make it down to Amen Corner on Thursday largely because I spent three hours in a grandstand to the left of the 15th hole having a very enjoyable conversation with a couple who live in Augusta and were attending their ninth Masters.
Of the 431 shots hit on Thursday by Englishmen (my fellow countrymen), I saw just eight – Lee Westwood’s tee shot at the 16th, Justin Rose’s second at the 17th, Luke Donald’s eagle putt at the 15th, Paul Casey’s putts on the 15th and 16th, and Ian Poulter’s four shots from the side of the green at 15 (sorry Ross Fisher, you were out too early).
I saw only a handful of shots by players with Northwest ties – Fred Couples’ second to the 13th during his Wednesday practice round, and a couple by Ryan Moore on the 15th on Thursday (sorry Ben Crane).
I missed Jack and Arnie teeing off early Thursday morning, and I walked away from the first tee of the Par 3 course just seconds before Craig Stadler made his hole-in one.
Any regrets? Not one. It was magical.
Tony Dear is an editor and golf travel writer from England who’s lived in the Northwest for five years. He recently published the book, “The Golfer’s Handbook.”