AUGUSTA, Ga. – Brad Malone was poised with pen and check book, but as he leaned in to work his penmanship, he was halted in the backswing, so to speak.
“Two of these, too,” Adam Scott said to Malone, his swing coach, friend, and brother-in-law. Malone stopped what he was doing to see two shirts tossed on their pile of goods. Next, Malone became engaged in further examination of what was available for their shopping pleasure. Ball marks, a divot repair kit, even some logo golf balls all caught Scott’s fancy.
“Oh, and the socks. You have to get the Masters socks,” Scott was told by an interested observer.
Scott smiled, then nodded.
“Everything,” he said. “I buy everything.”
Ah, yes, the Sunday before the start of Masters week remains a study in serenity like no other golf day of the year. And if you’re looking for reasons why the Masters is unique, here is yet another entry: You want to find players at a weekly PGA Tour event or even the U.S. Open, check the range, the putting green, the fitness trailer, or the course; you want to find players at the Masters, stake out the pro shop.
Indeed, after a full day of practice and play in preparation of his 11th Masters, Scott couldn’t head to dinner until he took care of a lengthy shopping list for family, friends, and associates back in his native Australia. It is, he said, the only tournament of the year in which he tackles shopping duties.
He was hardly alone, because as Scott piled up the goods, former Masters champ Sandy Lyle was also browsing. And only minutes earlier, Paul Casey had come and gone. Yes, it was close to 6 p.m. and a handful of players were still on the range, but the pro shop is where the action was.
Of course, that will change Monday at 8 a.m. when the gates open and patrons by the tens of thousands converge upon Augusta National to welcome the 2012 Masters. Nothing for the rest of the week will be done with the calm and casualness that accompanies players on this annual day of peace and quiet, aspects to this Sunday that they truly appreciate.
Several dozen players were on hand, most notable being Tiger Woods. He played nine holes alongside his longtime friend, Mark O’Meara, and one can only imagine the sort of conversation they might have had had the topic turned to the swing coach who is forever tied to them.
O’Meara, of course, encouraged Woods many years ago to consider his swing coach, Hank Haney, and while there were several golden years of a partnership, it is all soured. Haney’s book on his years with Woods remains a hot topic on the eve of the 76th Masters, though Woods looked like he didn’t have a care in the world as he played alongside O’Meara and Dr. Vern Cooley, an associate of Dr. Tom Rosenburg, who operated on Woods’ knee after the 2008 U.S. Open.
With a pulsating warmth enveloping Augusta National, it was a pleasing day for all concerned, particularly for members and guests who took advantage of this rare opportunity to share such a hallowed course with the game’s best.
So different was this day that players who routinely surround themselves with the best the game has to offer just had to stop and take note. Casey, for instance, was casually strolling around in shorts and a golf shirt – green, of course – when he left the pro shop and walked just a few yards down the hill when he stopped and soaked it all in.
Gazing across the first fairway, his view took part of the ninth, then swept down to where glimpses of two, seven, and eight enter the picture.
Magical, and so shockingly green, and Casey made sure to capture it all.
Good thing, too, because starting today, such a panoramic vista will not be available, because the complexion of the Masters will change. Serene will be out. A tradition like no other will officially be under way.