"I've never seen Augusta so beautiful. If heaven is this pretty, I'd go there tomorrow," Gene Sarazen once said.
I agree! Augusta National has an addictive magnetism that is hard to explain. My first day at Augusta was a little overwhelming but after opening day of the Masters, it seems to creep into your soul. It is kind of spiritual!
I thought I would start the day by following Tiger. I followed him down No. 1 and down No. 2 and gave up. He still draws huge crowds and many here at the Masters think that he will get back to his winning ways.
After I gave up trying to see Tiger, I got lucky and got to attend a Q&A with Mike Davis (Executive Director of the USGA) and Peter Dawson (Chief Executive of the R&A) with a game-changing press release. Players will not longer be booted out of the tournament if they did not see an infraction because their eyes are not as good as slow motion HDTV. Many of you know that Padraig Harrington was disqualified earlier this year after a review of an infraction. Now, the player will be given the appropiate penalty but not disqualified.
For these organizations to sit down and change a rule is huge! Both men said that when the rules of golf were originated, no one imagined there would be a time when you could blow a golf ball up to the size of a basketball and see if something happened that should not have.
After that was over, I picked up Dustin Johnson for a few holes. When he hits the golf ball, it sounds quite a bit different than the other players. He smokes it! He is part of the tour that is being call the Flex generation. Forget all the old school stuff about taking it back to parallel in you backswing!
I then had time to watch a number of players hit into (Nos.) 9 and 18 greens. I saw Craig Stadler miss a chip and you could see that he was not too happy but then he almost made his next one.
I followed Rory McIlroy for the last couple of holes. He missed a very makeable putt on 18 but he is still tied for the lead. At his post-round interview, he said he would rather have a 20-foot uphill putt here than a 6-foot downhill putt. I think that is true for the entire field.
I know that many people have heard that you cannot really appreciate the course on TV. Well, it is as beautiful as you see on the television, but the change in elevation is unreal. I saw many balls hit the green half way up and spin right back off the green into the fairway. It might sound a little strange but it seems as if the greens are big on TV but I think they look as if they play rather small. They have some unreal breaks and hidden undulations.
Phil teed of late and it is a totally different cheer when Phil tees off or hits a great shot. He is special and the crowds let him know it. I followed Phil for about four holes, and he was struggling off the tee a little bit but he is a master at getting the ball up and down. I heard Curtis Strange comment that Mickelson is the best in the world on the short game, and I have seen the proof first hand!
This tournament is so rich and full of history and traditons, and William Porter Payne (Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament) along with his committee members and the many volunteers are doing a wonderful job in protecting those traditons. I think every volunteer and Masters worker have greeted me and everyone else I am near with a "Have a nice day and enjoy the Masters."
Talking to some folks at the Masters, it sounds as if the crowds just get bigger each day, so I might just hang around Amen Corner on Friday and watch as many players as I can.
Steve Kottsick is the pro at Souris Valley Golf Course. He is at the Masters and is writing a column each day.