Rice, Mickelson play together on members day
AUGUSTA, Ga. - The Sunday before the Masters is a members day. The last members day until the 77th Masters champion is fitted for a green jacket.
Though most Sundays are sleepy at Augusta National, this one was not typical.
Condoleezza Rice, a member since August when she was invited to be one of the two initial women’s members of Augusta National, teed it up on the first tee joined by three-time champion Phil Mickelson.
Member Ron Townsend, former president of Gannett Television Group, went off next with a group of members.
And following Townsend’s group was Adam Scott and Martin Kaymer along with another member.
Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, Francesco Molinari and Matteo Manassero teed off on the 10th hole as 1973 champion Tommy Aaron teed it up with a friend off the first.
“The course is spot on,” Scott said of the conditions of Augusta National before teeing it up.
Scott played on Saturday as well and believes that Augusta National is in the best shape he’s ever seen it.
“You always have the false sense of security of chipping around the greens,” Scott said of the conditions before the tournament starts. “And then they cut the green surrounds down and you're putting instead.”
As a pulsating sun heated things up at Augusta National, Tiger Woods arrived to play 18 with Steve Stricker and U.S. Amateur Public Links champion T.J. Vogel.
But Augusta being Augusta, the sultry atmosphere was on evidence as Stricker ducked away from the action at the 10th tee to greet former U.S. Open champ Steve Jones. That's the appeal that the Masters has, the one tournament in which former competitors make it a point to stop in and watch. As Stricker and Jones chatted, former Masters champ Bob Goalby came off the 18th green, having played a practice round on this the 45th anniversary of his unforgettable win.
Goalby never tires of this annual trek, but even on a warm and lazy Sunday, he had responsibilities beyond just playing. His guest wanted to do some shopping, so the 84-year-old was headed toward the pro shop.
He wouldn't be the only owner of a green jacket when he got there. That's because two-time champ Jose Maria Olazabal, having played the front nine, already was inside, piling up the goods.
That's the Masters being the Masters, the only time all year you'll see players buying merchandise to commemorate the experience.
Michael Thompson, who gained an invitation due to his victory at The Honda Classic last month, hadn’t been back to play in the Masters since he played in 2008 as the runner-up at the U.S. Amateur.
That trip was two and done, with a 73-78 and an early exit, but Thompson learned from that week.
“By Friday I was done,” Thompson said of 2008, when he played 18 holes for four consecutive days before teeing it up in Thursday’s first round.
This year will be different. Thompson played the back nine Saturday and plans to play his only 18-hole practice round Sunday, with 2007 champion Zach Johnson. The rest of the week will be limited to nine holes on the front nine Monday and nine holes on the back Tuesday.
Wednesday will be a little practice and then the Par 3 Contest, in which Thompson will look for some crystal.
“I was a quarter-inch from getting crystal on the eighth hole in,” Thompson said of losing out to K.J. Choi in 2008.
Thompson said the only changes he had seen from 2008 were the changes to the 14th and 16th holes. He noted one significant change that is not course-related: “My game’s better.”
- Jim McCabe contributed to this report