Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Augusta National -- The Calm Before The Storm

   One of the coolest things about the Masters is Wednesday afternoon and it's not the par-3 tournament.

   That's a terrific event, a place for dads with kids as their caddies and for Arnie, Jack and Gary to go another nine together.

   But I like Wednesday afternoon because the golf course closes in the afternoon and, if you're there, you can walk Augusta National and see it on your terms. There are still thousands of people scattered across the course and they're just soaking it in. They're posing for pictures behind the 16th green or just staring at the par-3 12th hole.

   The players are off the course and the maintenance crew has taken over.You can watch six tractors mow a fairway in tandem, doing their own Blue Angels routine. You can see a marshal carefully spray re-painting the gallery lines at crosswalks -- in green paint, of course.

   Walk up a path between the second and eighth fairways where the wild azaleas are in bloom and you see a man taking close-range photos of the yellow-orange flowers.

   On the second green, a group of green-coated men study where they'll cut the hole for Thursday's first round. They have a tape measure stretching from the front of the green to the back and they're studying it like it's a chemistry equation.

   It's a nearly perfect afternoon, sunny and warm with just enough breeze to keep it fresh.

   By Thursday morning, the same places will feel so different.