AUGUSTA, Georgia – “Welcome to Woodstock.”
That’s how a smiling marshal greeted patrons who were slowly sloshing their way through a muddy quagmire along the second fairway Tuesday at the Augusta National Golf Club.
Heavy rain Monday afternoon into Tuesday morning turned everything outside the gallery ropes into an icky, gooey, soupy mess. This is my 28th Masters Tournament and I’ve never seen it wetter.
To be clear, the fairways look immaculate and the greens, thanks to a sub-air system that sucks moisture from the turf, are as close to perfect as can be after all that rain.
But if you’re a spectator, it’s a different story. I committed the double fashion faux pas of wearing mesh tennis shoes and long pants. After walking the course for two hours, the former are soaked and the latter are mud-splattered.
I asked one guy wearing white shoes if he’d made a mistake.
“Nah,” he said. “They’ll wash off. They’re golf shoes. I’d rather have spikes on than anything else. I’ve seen quite a few people go down today.”
The words were barely out of his mouth when a patron directly in front of us slipped on a downhill grade behind the first green and went down in a heap, his knee bending awkwardly beneath him. He got up caked in mud, but said he was OK.
The forecast calls for mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the low 80s Wednesday and Thursday, so the golf course should play nicely. But there’s no way it’s going to dry out for the patrons.
The day Phil stiffed Brooks Koepka
Brooks Koepka was a young kid, running around collecting autographs at his first Masters Tournament in the late 1990s. He waited patiently behind the old driving range at Augusta National and got most of the players to sign. Fifty in all, he figured.
Who would turn down a tousle-haired kid with a grin plastered on his face?
Mean old Phil Mickelson, that’s who.
On Tuesday, Koepka told the funny story of his encounter with Lefty in 1998 or 1999 — he couldn’t recall exactly which year — when he would have been 7 or 8.
“I somehow found my way kind or right by the parking lot and asked him for an autograph and he said no,” said Koepka, a three-time major champion. “He turned me down. Probably about the only kid Phil’s ever turned down.”
Koepka relayed the story to Mickelson when the two played a practice round together before the 2014 British Open.
“He (didn’t) remember,” Koepka said. “I mean, I can’t believe he doesn’t remember the first time he ever said no to a kid, signing an autograph. I had to tell him. I was like, ‘Listen, man, you stiffed me and I really didn’t like you for a long time.’
“He was typical Phil, right back at me: I shouldn’t have been there (in the parking lot). We can laugh about it now. I’ve got his autograph now.”
Lesson learned at Erin Hills
Justin Thomas shot a U.S. Open record-tying 63 on Saturday of the 2017 championship at Erin Hills and went into the final round with a chance to win his first major championship.
Instead, he struggled to a 3-over 75, but said the lesson he learned about patience that day helped him win the PGA Championship two months later.
“I definitely learned patience that day at Erin Hills,” he said. “I did get behind early. I bogeyed, a bad bogey, on (No. 2). … I fought really hard. I just got off to such a bad start an was so behind quickly to where I felt like I was kind of trying to force things in places that I maybe didn’t need to. Then once I got out of the tournament and had no chance it was such a letdown.
“That’s where the patience that I learned from Erin Hills helped me out (at the PGA), because I knew if (caddie) Jimmy (Johnson) and I stayed in our own little world and our game plan and executed what we could and stayed patient, that’s ultimately what got it done for us.”
Oh, to be a fly on the wall
The menu for the annual Masters Club Dinner, hosted by defending champion Patrick Reed on Tuesday evening and including all living Masters champions: choice of Caesar salad or wedge salad, prime bone-in cowboy ribeye (mountain trout available upon request), macaroni and cheese, corn crème brulee, creamed spinach and steamed broccoli.
Wouldn’t you just love to hear the dinner conversation?
Rory McIlroy said he has been exploring ways to separate his "two lives" on and off the course, which has led him to meditation, mind training and juggling. How many balls can he juggle? "Just three," he said. "I'm a rookie." He said he meditated for 20 minutes before the final round of The Players Championship, which he won. ... Mickelson will play his 100th Masters Tournament round on Friday. … Tiger Woods is bringing back the mock turtleneck this week. “I thought it was a pretty neat look back in the day,” he said. “I was probably in a little better shape back in those days but I won events wearing the mock. I’ve always enjoyed wearing them, and you’ll see it on Thursday.”