AUGUSTA, Ga. – Call it Happy Hour for a golf junkie. More specifically, a Masters junkie, but in the warm embrace of a Tuesday twilight, the stroll around Augusta National Golf Club produced a tranquil sight that was worth two gentle hours of your time: Padraig Harrington at work.
Having gone to the 10th tee with just his caddie, Ronan Flood, at 3:50, Harrington was at his analytical best. His tee shots and approaches were what you’d expect, but once he got to the greens? We are not sure there’s a word to describe the sort of deliberation that went into it.
At each green, Harrington would remove a small leveling tool, then nudge it there, tweak it there, all to determine . . . well, one can’t be exactly sure what the Irishman was factoring in. But he sure was committed to the process. As he moved it fraction of inches here and there, Harrington rolled golf balls toward it, then golf balls away from it.
And with every couple of rolls, Harrington would remove a yardage book from his back right pocket and make notations. All the while, mind you, Flood was at another portion of the green making notations in his book.
This started at the 10th, then through Amen Corner (Nos. 11, 12, and 13) and onward through 14, 15, and even to the majestic, par-3 16th. It was nearing 6:30, the descending twilight still had you wrapped in an incredible warmth, and yet there was Harrington and Flood, boss and caddie, brothers-in-law, men at work.
Yet what was the thought that came to mind: I didn’t know what was more fascinating, the fact that Harrington was working like this or the fact that me and upwards of 40 people were following along.
“Well, that’s how you win,” said Bernard Li, a physical therapist who himself was a great discovery on a sultry day. Of Chinese heritage, Li was born and raised in Australia not far from Royal Melbourne but now lives in St. Andrews, yet here he was in Augusta.
Talk about your troika – Royal Melbourne, St. Andrews, Augusta.
Yet by watching Harrington, Li proved he was golf junkie worthy. This was truly a study in meticulous preparation and as Harrington moved from 16 to 17 and up 18, several patrons hung around to watch, as did the litter crew, the men working the mowers and even the security officials.
It was close to 7 p.m. as Harrington approached the 18th green and at the same time the familiar sight of Arnold Palmer strolling across the back lawn of the clubhouse came into view. Ben Crenshaw was there, too, a sure sign that the Champions Dinner was about to start.
Harrington, meanwhile, was at work on his appetizer before his dinner – leveling of the 18th green.
Fascinating stuff. If you’re a Masters junkie, that is.