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Masters Preview- 2010Posted Monday, April 5, 2010, at 9:13 PM
The official rite of spring for golfers in the northern part of the United States is Masters Week. There is no doubt about it. Spring Break and the Easter Holidays are over. The beauty of Augusta National Golf Club as portrayed on television this week will whet the appetite of even the most casual player!
As a National Officer with the PGA of America, it is my distinct privilege to again serve on the Rules Committee at The Masters. Several Indiana newspapers will follow my journeys this week. "Back by popular demand", I guess you could say, as last year's stories from The Masters were some of the most popular I did in 2009.
To serve on the Rules Committee at this tournament is the stuff that obituary columns is made of. When mine is written, it should read, "He served on the Rules Committee at The Masters from 2009-2016." (God willing!). Thursday's column will be devoted to more about The Masters' Rules Committee.
2010 is not your typical Masters. As I arrived at Gate 3 on Washington Road Sunday afternoon, the security guard reinforced the importance of displaying credentials all week due to heightened security. Even non golf fans know why the security detail will be beefed up at Augusta National this week. Tiger Woods makes his return to competitive golf.
According to one Augusta National member there will be 95 additional plain clothed security guards in the gallery this week. Hecklers will be immediately removed from the grounds and their badges will be lifted for life. After Monday's press conference, Woods is taking steps to try and rectify his persona and image. Even Woods can not predict what his legacy will be.
This is a quirky set of circumstances for the world's most famous venue. Augusta National members are a proud group of people who place great importance on the traditions and values of the game. Woods has won their championship four times. If these members are feeling any anxiety over the distractions offered by Woods' return it has not been evident. But, it is certainly an early week distraction to the normal early week Masters' fare.
If you frequent the Augusta National clubhouse this week, you will see many club members holding court with guests or family. The tales are more about past events than the return of the world's best player.
Even this week, Dwight Eisenhower dominates many of the clubhouse conversations. As one member was telling a guest, "I remember hearing Cliff Roberts (club founder) telling Ike one day, 'Mr. President you run the United States of America, but I run Augusta National Golf Club'".
Upstairs on the veranda of the clubhouse on Monday, two older members were discussing another Eisenhower story over lunch. "Charlie, remember when you and I were freshmen or sophomores in college and Mr. Fulcher brought us up here to play? When we got over to Sixteen, Ole Ike was fishing in the lake! Remember that? There wasn't a Secret Service agent anywhere in sight. They told us in the pro shop if we saw him, not to bother him. But, he waved at us and as I recall he was still the President!"
One of the more unique and interesting aspects of the Augusta National clubhouse are the wooden cases filled with clubs donated by former Masters' champions. These clubs were actually in the bags of the winners when they earned their green jackets. Every Masters champion dating back to Horton Smith in 1934 have donated clubs. The most famous club in the collection is Gene Sarazen's fairway wood used when he made a double eagle on Fifteen at the inaugural Masters.
In 2010, Masters' patrons will find a brand new practice area for the PGA tour players. A year ago, this area was a parking lot. Today, it looks like it has been here for years. Augusta National has also purchased roughly 85 acres west of the course on Berckman's Road. This will accommodate parking for over 5,000 vehicles.
Besides Woods, the big story early in the week has been the pollen. Yellow clouds of pollen roll out of the trees and cover the landscape. For anyone who wears contact lenses, it has been brutal. Augusta natives are saying that it is the worst pollen explosion in the history of their city. Buildings and cars are covered with the yellow haze and there is no relief in the form of rain in this week's forecast.
The 2010 Masters awaits its date with destiny. At this point, no one knows if it will be remembered more for Tiger's return or for the accomplishments of the newly crowned champion. Augusta National officials certainly hope for the latter.
How ready is Woods to return? Rumors have circulated all over the U.S. about his practice round scores the past couple of weeks. The numbers are 74-77 and 80 something. Fred Couples was one of Woods' playing partners on Monday. Couples gave Woods' game a "C", but added he thought Tiger would be ready by Thursday.
Even Woods himself says that he doesn't know what to expect. When asked about his expectations for the week, Woods flashed his famous grin and replied, "I am showing up and preparing to win." He is doing so without the company of his wife and children this week.
Predictions? Here is mine. Woods struggles this week. He shows a human side for the first time in his next golf life. It was obvious on Monday that he is feeling his way back into this thing. How about Mickelson? Nope, Phil has struggled most of the winter. I will take a non-American player. How about Paul Casey, Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer or Camilo Villegas. See ya Thursday!
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