SUNDAY, APRIL 11: What a great way to finish a great week at the 2010 Masters. Of the five Masters I have covered, none had more drama from start to finish than this one.
From Tiger’s return, to Jack and Arnie kicking things off, to Watson and Couples turning back the clock and finally Mickelson winning one for Amy, this Masters had it all.
As I’ve done in the past, I got out to the course early on Sunday so I could soak in as much of atmosphere and excitement of the final day as possible. I started by taking a walk around the entire property. It was nice to finally see some color, as the azaleas and other flowers have started to bloom after a delay from the cold.
While standing near 16, I had the good fortune to hear the roars that accompanied Nathan Green’s ace. It was one of two aces at the 16th today, and it was a foreshadowing the drama that was to come.
Over the next six hours there were great shots, bad ones and some weird happenings, but it all added up to one heck of a final day ay Augusta.
While I’ll admit that I’m not a huge Phil Mickelson fan, I was happy to see him win his third green jacket, especially with all that he and his wife Amy have gone through over the last year with her battling breast cancer.
Mickelson is truly one of the greats in our game and I feel fortunate to have been here for two of his three Masters victories.
While it’s always a little sad to see the tournament end, I must admit I also look forward to getting back home and seeing my wife, 4-year-old son Shaun and 8-month old daughter Sophia. A week is a long time to go without seeing their smiling faces in person. And I look forward to the second major, the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, where I will have the privileges of covering the excitement of that event. I can’t wait.
— Bob Buttitta is the Ventura County Star’s golf writer. He can be reached at email@example.com.
As sports fans we show up to our favorite events expecting to get ripped off when it comes to things like parking and food. And that’s another reason the Masters is so different than any other big-time sporting events.
While a beer and a sandwich would cost close to $15 at a Dodgers or Lakers game, here at Augusta National, you can get those two things and a bag of chips for less than $5.
Each year I’ve come back to cover the Masters, I’ve stood out near the concession stand right behind the media center and listened to fans shout in amazement about how little the food costs here.
And on top of that, most of the parking around the golf course is 100 percent free. That’s right, I said free. Unlike most events, the folks at Augusta National are not looking to line their pockets by killing the patrons with high priced food and parking. You have to love it.
Now imagine walking through the gate after spending nothing for parking and very little for food and then getting to see the kind of action that patrons were treated to during Saturday’s third round. It’s the kind of day that most sports fans dream about.
I spent part of the early part of Saturday under the large oak tree that sits in front of the clubhouse. Over the years it’s become the spot where people come to meet and talk. Writers conduct interviews with players there. As I stood and chatted with legendary champion Gary Player, I realized how fortunate I am to what I do.
Over the years I’ve covered this event, I’ve seen and talked with some of the greatest champions the sport has to offer. As golf fans we’re fortunate that most of our heroes are worthy of our support and praise, and for me, I get a chance to meet them up close and personal. It’s something I feel truly blessed to do.
After some iffy weather on Thursday, it was a picture-perfect day at Augusta National, so I decided to get out on the course early in the round, check out the action and soak in the sunshine.
One of the best spots to do that is the bleachers around the eighth hole. Since it’s a par-5, there’s usually a chance to see a few eagles, but not on Friday. The pin placement was so difficult that guys were struggling just to make par, never mind eagle or birdie.
Three of my housemates and I sat there for close to 45 minutes and only saw one player, Ian Poulter, make birdie. Watching so many players struggle, it was clear that the folks that set-up the golf course were not thrilled with the way players were able to chew it up on Thursday, so Friday they fought back.
If I were setting things up, I think I would have left things the way they were because nothing makes this place more exciting than hearing the roars when players make a birdie or better yet an eagle.
Hopefully the roars will be back over the weekend.
I also spent part of the afternoon standing under the oak tree in front of the clubhouse. It’s where a lot of players stop and get interviewed. One of those was Tom Watson, who continues to amaze everyone with his strong play here.
Watson is the consummate professional, both on the golf course and off. After leaving the scoring area, he stopped and answered questions from reporters for about 15 minutes. He then stopped again under the oak tree and answered them again. He didn’t complain, like many younger players might have. He was not only cordial but also engaging. It would be nice if the younger guys took a lesson.
Weekend at the Masters are always great and with good weather and a strong leaderboard to boot, the next few days figure to be amazing.
Wow, what an opening day at the Masters. As a reporter, each time you start an assignment you hope that one or maybe two good story lines emerge, making your assignment a little easier.
Thursday's opening round provided more great stories than a dozen reporters could handle. From Tiger’ return, to the amazing story of the over-50 players like Fred Couples and Tom Watson, this first day was simply spectacular.
My day started early, with the ceremonial opening tee shots that were hit by Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. Seeing those two great champions on the tee at the same time at the Masters was one of the most amazing moments I have ever experienced. It gave me goosebumps.
Then came Watson shooting 5 under, Mickelson matching him, Couples besting both of them and finally Tiger blowing us all away in his return to golf.
I don't think anyone knew what to expect from Tiger, but based on his history, perhaps none of us should be surprised by his 4-under 68. ON the golf course, he's always had the uncanny ability to rise to the occasion and today was just another example.
Walking with him over the front nine, it was a little surprising to see how well he was received. But then again, it’s Augusta and the Masters and people here are pure golf fan, people who love the game.
After such an amazing opening round, it will be interesting to see what the next three days holds. This place just seems to bring out the best in everyone, so I can’t wait to get back tomorrow and take in the next chapter.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 7: One of the great draws of the Masters is its traditions, everything from the green jacket that goes to the winner to the players participating in the Par-3 contest. Over the last five years that I have made the trek back to Augusta to cover the Masters, I have created my own Masters traditions.
One is to take a walk down to Amen Corner and sit for a while late in the day, take in the beauty of the spot and soak in the peace and tranquility. I try to do it on Wednesday as a way to get myself ready for the upcoming madness of the next four days.
Another tradition is heading over to the clubhouse for lunch. The Masters is the only tournament that allows the writers to eat in the same spot as the players. This is truly special for us, and I’m sure it’s hell for the players.
The dining room is on the second floor of the clubhouse, right next to the Champions locker room. In order to get there, you walk up a spiral staircase. As I made my way up the stairs, I looked up and was face to face with Masters champion Tom Watson.
As we squeezed by each other, we exchanged hellos. For the next hour, I kept thinking about how cool it is to get a chance to rub elbows with some of golf’s living legends. In past years, I’ve seen everyone from legends like Nicklaus and Palmer to current stars like Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els.
The most memorable lunch came two years ago when I tagged along with Tod Leonard, golf writer at the San Diego Union-Tribune and fellow SCGA contributer, for a lunch with Billy Casper. Incidentally, Billy was inducted into the 2009 SCGA Hall of Fame. That day we didn’t just sit near a legend, we sat WITH a legend. Getting a chance to talk with him and hear his stories from when he played and won the Masters was something I will never forget.
I’m hoping to make my way to the clubhouse a few more times this week, and if I do, I can’t wait to see who I might bump into.
I’m excited that the tournament is finally ready to begin. If the weather stays good, I think we’re in for some exciting play.
I felt like a kid going back to Disneyland as I walked through the gates at Augusta National Tuesday morning to officially kick off my week of covering the 2010 Masters.
While there are many great golf venues around the world, I don’t think there is a more amazing golf property on the planet than Augusta National.
Tuesday at the Masters is the day where they bring a variety of players into the media center for us to interview. Today’s list included Phil Mickelson, Padraig Harrington, Angel Cabrera and David Duval. But the one I enjoyed most was Jack Nicklaus.
For me, Nicklaus will always be the King of Golf. He’s the player who got me interested in the game and every time I get the chance to be in the same room with him, I’m amazed at the way he treats people, notably us golf writers. He takes time to give thoughtful answers and always tries to make sure that everyone who has a question, gets it answered.
Before the press conferences, I went out on the golf course and watched some of the practice round. Despite the unusually high temperatures (it was in the 90s) it was really fun to walk around the back nine and check out Amen Corner and the other notable holes on the back side.
Among the players I watched were Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Woods looks good and the people here have been very kind to him, which he seems to appreciate.
Myself and two of my housemates sat in the bleachers next to the 15th green and watched action on that hole and also on the par-3 16th. It’s a great spot to watch from.
While Augusta National is always beautiful, the recent stretch of cold weather seems to have taken some of the bloom off the flowers that usually appear around the course. When you watch the tournament this week, you’ll probably notice it’s not quite as colorful.
I took a quick peek inside the merchandise tent today. Each year I have covered the tournament, I have purchased matching shirts for my son Shaun and I. Before I left, Shaun told me he wanted this year’s shirt to be purple. I told him that they might not have that color and I was right. Luckily, his second choice was blue and they have two blue shirts to choose from. I always spend more money here than I want, but I can’t help myself. They have so much cool stuff.
Tomorrow is the par-3 contest, which is one of the fun events of the week. I’m hoping to get out for most of it. I love watching the players with their kids as caddies. It shows how much of a family game golf can be.
Well, after a really long day of travel, I am in Augusta. Due to travel schedule, I wasn't one of the 200 writers who got to grill Tiger at today's press conference. I thought both sides handled themselves really well. I was proud of my fellow golf scribes for asking Tiger some real questions and forcing him to talk about issues he had not had to deal with before today.
Conversely, I thought Tiger handled the situation very well. Listening and then watching video after I got here, Tiger came off genuinely humbled and also more relaxed than he has seemingly been in a long time.
While he got a lukewarm reception early in the round today, my media buddies who were out there said it got better as the day went on. Fred Couples, who played with Tiger during the practice round, said he even got a standing ovation on 18.
Tiger even skipped a shot across the pond on No. 16, a first in his career here at Augusta. Perhaps he is trying to open up to fans a little bit more.
Tuesday is a big day of interviews, with most of the major contenders coming in. I look forward to hearing what guys like Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els will say. I'm also going to try and hook up with former SCGA Amateur champion John Merrick after his practice round. Merrick was very impressive last year as a rookie here at Augusta and I am curious to hear his impressions and goals for this week. Look for an in-depth interview with him in the May/June issue of FORE Magazine.
I'm staying in a house with five other golf writers. It's one of the unusual, yet fun, aspects of covering this tournament. Most people rent houses from the locals. I was never in a fraternity, but I'm guessing this is what it's like (minus the drunkness of course.)
Now it's off to dinner and then bed, the alarm will ring early again, but I love it.
Remember the movie “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” where five children have the chance to gain admittance to a tightly guarded candy factory by finding one of five golden tickets that were hidden in selected chocolate bars?
That’s how I’ve felt each time I’ve received my Masters credential approval letter from the nice people at Augusta National. Knowing I am going to be one of those selected journalists who get to cover the world’s greatest golf tournament makes me giddy with excitement.
Early Monday morning, April 5, the shuttle picks me up at 3:45 a.m.; I’ll board a flight for Augusta, where I will cover the Masters. This will be my fifth time stepping into golf’s Mecca, and I’m perhaps more excited than I have ever been, maybe even more than before my first time covering the tournament in 2005.
There are many reasons for my excitement, starting with the return of Tiger Woods. Like most, I am curious to see what happens with Tiger, everything from the reception he receives to how well he plays.
The only negative is that Tiger is doing his pre-tournament press conference on Monday afternoon, less than an hour after I arrive in Atlanta. So there’s no way I, or a lot of other writers, can be there. The good or maybe bad thing is there will be plenty of other Tiger stories to write. Tiger is by far the biggest story, but there are plenty of other stories I am looking forward to covering.
It starts with the ceremonial first tee shots on Thursday morning, where Jack Nicklaus will join Arnold Palmer for the first time as a starter. Nicklaus is my all-time favorite player, and I was fortunate enough to have my first Masters be his final one, allowing me to see his exit from tournament play in person.
It will be thrilling to see he and Palmer, two of the legends of the game, standing together on the first tee, even if it is for one shot that doesn’t count.
There are also a million other stories that could be fascinating to cover.
Can 49-year-old Kenny Perry make a run like last year? Does Fred Couples, who has been killing it on the Champions Tour, have one last run in him? Will Phil Mickelson win his third?
How about Ernie Els, who has won twice in the last month? Can he finally get over the hump and win a green jacket? Will one of the under-30 kids, like former SCGA Amateur champion John Merrick, make a serious run? Augusta is all about drama and that’s what most of us can’t wait to watch every year.
For me, it’s the best golf event of the year and I’m thrilled I will be there in person. During the tournament I will try to provide SCGA members with an insider’s look at the Masters. I hope you’ll come along for the ride.