Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The place to be at the Masters: Under the oak

Of all the landmarks at Augusta National, none may hold any more allure than the giant live oak directly behind the clubhouse because during tournament week it’s where the world of golf meets.

Here’s what it was like under the tree at lunchtime Wednesday:

There’s Tom Watson standing in the sunshine that comes and goes, talking to a group of reporters who are firing random questions at him. Does he hit the ball longer today than he did 30 years ago? A little longer off the tee, Watson says. Maybe a hair shorter with his irons. It’s impossible not to notice the oversized Polo logo on Watson’s shirt, the better for fans and TV cameras to catch it

There’s Chubby Chandler, agent to many of the Euorpean stars.

There’s Tom Fazio, the official Augusta National course re-designer.

There’s Mike Davis, the man who sets up the course for the U.S. Open each year.

There are thousands of little stringy things falling out of the oak tree, leaving little yellow pollen marks on the shoulders and backs of the people standing under the tree.

There’s the sound of lunch being served, the tinkle of knives and forks, the buzz of conversation, the smell of burgers in the air.

There are business meetings being held in groups of two and three. One agent told me he schedules about three meetings during Masters week then lets the others come together naturally. A tournament contract was just hammered out 10 feet from where Watson is talking.

There’s Tiger Woods walking out of the clubhouse, dressed in black, and there’s his agent, Mark Steinberg, slapping hands with the star as they walk off toward the putting green.

There’s a great view from underneath the tree across and down hill that leads toward Amen Corner.

There’s no place better the day before the Masters begins.