AUGUSTA, Ga. – Thoughts and observations while traversing the rolling hills of Augusta National and standing beneath the huge oak on a Masters Tuesday:
• During a week in which the Tiger Circus takes center stage at the Masters, is there a more fitting candidate to sneak in and win a green jacket than the ultra-quiet Retief Goosen, who was out on his own plotting his way around the course? Under the radar? Heck, the Goose owns an apartment there.
• Can’t think of a more poignant mental photograph than seeing brothers Edoardo and Francesco Molinari and fellow Italian Matteo Manassero shoulder to shoulder to shoulder in a synchronized, three-swing shot skipping balls across the pond at No. 16 early Tuesday afternoon (pictured, above).
Three guys from Italy in the Masters? Buono! Yes, this really is a global game.
• Best marquee pairing on Thursday: Palmer-Nicklaus, 7:40 a.m. Best marquee pairing that will take more than one swing apiece: Ernie Els, Anthony Kim, Ryo Ishikawa. Best pairing if you like guys who can hit it about 340 yards: Dustin Johnson and Alvaro Quiros, 9:29 a.m. Oliver Wilson is also in that group, but might feel as if he’s playing a different golf course.
• That huge expanse of land sitting left of the 18th fairway at Augusta National sure would make a great place for an outdoor concert. But we might see Greg Norman in a green jacket first.
• Started my day with a breakfast buffet at the storied Patridge Inn on Walton Way, where we had our first Masters champion spotting of the day: Tommy Aaron (1973), who walked past with some yogurt. He’s sure to get some better fare at Tuesday night’s Champions Dinner. Hey, who has it better than past Masters winners?
• One of the funnier lines of the week came from the lips of six-time major winner turned CBS announcer Nick Faldo. A reporter tried to catch Faldo as he walked under the tree behind Augusta’s stately clubhouse, and blurted out, “Nick, can I ask you a non-Tiger question?” Deadpanned Faldo, “Oh, a non-Tiger question? Well, no comment then.”
• Mark O’Meara on his old pal Tiger Woods: “The best thing everybody can do is let the man come out and play golf. Let him do that, and he’ll figure out all the other aspects of his life.”
• By the way, don’t think marketers are going to let a good Tiger opportunity slip past this week in Augusta. Sign seen on the corner of Washington Road and Berckmans Road advertising a local jeweler: “Pulled a Tiger lately? Smooth it over with fine jewelry.”
• I could have sworn I saw Vijay Singh playing a yellow ball this week. Either that, or the pollen is thicker and worse than we all believe it to be.
• Don’t know who is in charge of laying out what goes exactly where in the layout of the concession stand, but these are the last two items you see as you check out, comprising the “impulse” aisle: Tylenol (50 cents) and Moon Pies (two for a buck). What other major offers that combo?
• Every time I walk down the par-5 15th I stop and try to think about Gene Sarazen making a double-eagle there on the way to victory in 1935. C’mon, using 1935 equipment, this guy made a deuce? There’s no possible way there has been a greater shot in major championship history.
• The red-hot Els, who won twice in Florida, was not brought into the interview room this week. That’s good news for Ernie. The last three green-jacket winners (Zach Johnson, Trevor Immelman and Angel Cabrera) never made it into the interview room before the tournament. Els was asked about his jacket size this week, and had this to say: “I think I’m a 46 Long. I’m not really a jacket guy.” Let’s work on that one, Big Fella.
• Jack Nicklaus is going to hit a single shot at this week’s Masters, yet he spent 50 minutes in the interview room late Tuesday afternoon. When the moderator tried to end the interview at 30 minutes, Jack looked at his watch, still saw some writers with hands in the air, and stayed and talked for about 20 more minutes. The gap between Nicklaus and Woods competitively may be four majors, but the gap between the two as ambassadors to the game is far wider than that. Tiger – and many of his young peers on the PGA Tour these days, too – would be well-served to sit in and listen to a Nicklaus chat one of these days.
• Here’s why the Wednesday Par-3 Contest at the Masters is another great tradition: Nicklaus will play with his granddaughter, Christie Nicklaus (daughter of Jack’s oldest son Jackie) on the bag; Matt Kuchar plans to have his 86-year-old grandfather, Maurice, on his.
• Here’s the money closer: Nicklaus was headed to the Champions Dinner Tuesday and was told that part of defending champion Angel Cabrera’s planned menu for the evening included (gulp) blood sausage.
“Blood sausage?” repeated Nicklaus, pausing to think about it. “Oh. I hope he enjoys it.”
Hey, maybe Tommy Aaron will bring some extra yogurt.