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This is no ordinary Masters!Posted Thursday, April 8, 2010, at 7:57 AM
On Wednesday morning, Fred Ridley who is the Tournament Chairman for the Masters, strode to the podium and kicked off the 2010 Masters Rules Committee Meeting.
"It's 7:25 a.m. and we are already 10 minutes late," Ridley said with a wry grin. The rules committee meeting, scheduled to start at 7:30 a.m., is the official kickoff of my Masters week. The meeting took place in the newly constructed Magnolia Suite, which is one of several permanent structures added in 2010.
There were approximately 125 officials from all over the world in attendance. A customary start to this meeting each year is for all officials to introduce themselves and tell how many Masters' tournaments they have worked. The senior members in this group are Augusta National Members. Many have served as officials for over 25 years.
The rules officials represent the following groups: Augusta National Members; The European Tour; the PGA Tour; the Royal and Ancient from Scotland; the PGA of America; the United States Golf Association; the Japan Golf Tour; the Sunshine Tour from South Africa and the Canadian PGA. This is a formidable group and all in attendance consider it an honor to officiate at The Masters.
Customary at this meeting, officials receive their official assignments. For me, this is like waiting for Christmas presents! I was very pleased with my 2010 duties.
On Thursday, I will be stationed on Hole 12, Par 3, 155 yards, Golden Bell. This is one of the most famous holes in all of golf and it is the shortest par three on the course. With swirling winds, the club selection can range from a 6-iron to a 9-iron. Rae's Creek is in front, and three bunkers, one in front and two in the rear, make it a necessity to land on the putting surface. The Ben Hogan Bridge, which is where I will be stationed, allows the players to cross the creek.
Friday will find me officiating on Hole 10, Par 4, 495 yards, Camellia. This is a long par 4, which plays downhill. Players will try to drive the ball to the left or center of the fairway hitting a second shot into a green that slopes right to left. This is the hole where Angel Cabrera beat Kenny Perry in last year's sudden death playoff.
On Saturday, I will be on Hole 8, Par 5, 570 yards, Yellow Jasmine. This is an uphill dogleg right. An accurate drive is needed to avoid the fairway bunker on the right side. This hole features trouble left of the green. Bruce Devlin scored the second double eagle in Masters' history here in 1967.
Finally, on Sunday I will be on Hole 3, Par 4, 350 yards, Flowering Peach. This is a classic short par 4. Golfers attempt to hit short of the four fairway bunkers resulting in a full club to the green where it is better to be long than short. This is a good final day assignment allowing me to get back to the Tournament Headquarters and watch the most of the finish on television.
The Masters has its own DTN weather expert who came in and delivered the forecast for the week. There is a good chance for rain around 4 p.m. on Thursday afternoon. This will be welcome relief from the nagging pollen in the air, which is causing many at Augusta National to experience severe discomfort.
The forecast for Friday is sunny and windy with temperatures in the mid-60's. The weekend weather will be perfect with lows in the mid-40's, light winds and highs in the low-70's, perfect weekend scoring conditions.
Various topics were discussed in the rules committee meeting. Potential rules situations were reviewed. Local rules addendums are explained. The evacuation procedures are detailed. Rules officials are required to fill out a Rules Incident Card if a ruling is made. In 2009, I did this on three occasions.
A new rules committee topic this year was Tiger Woods' return. Four plain clothed individuals will be stationed inside the ropes and they will accompany the world's number one player all week.
Billy Payne, Augusta National and Masters Chairman, summed it up, "When people come through security, you can scan for everything but bad intentions. We are very secure in who we are. The Masters has always done things are own way. We have a 45 year history."
Three teenagers are in this year's Masters' field. Of particular interest will be Matteo Manassero. He was crowned the youngest winner of the British Amateur Championship in its 124-year history at 16 years old last year. He will become the youngest player to ever compete in the Masters, eclipsing the 1952 record of Tommy Jacobs of 17 years, 2 months.
I overheard an Augusta member saying that he attempted to show a guest the famed Crow's Nest in the Augusta National clubhouse on Tuesday. He was informed by another member that he shouldn't take his guests to the Crow's Nest because the 16-year old was "up there doing homework and shouldn't be bothered."
It's been a weird few months - even here. Record snowfalls this winter dumped eight inches in February. The return of golf's most celebrated player after the swiftest fall from celebrity status causing heightened security. The worst pollen explosion in the history of Amen Corner is in full force. And now, a 16-year old doing homework in the Crow's Nest!
This is no ordinary Masters!
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