AUGUSTA, Georgia — The most popular figure at Augusta National this week isn’t Brooks Koepka or Bryson DeChambeau, or even Tiger Woods.
In fact, the most popular figure at The Masters Tournament has never hit a golf ball. He hasn’t even moved a muscle.
Oh, and he’s 13 inches tall.
Meet the Masters garden gnome, the hottest item in the Masters Tournament Golf Shop. The bearded little fellow, dressed in khaki shorts and a green Masters-logoed polo and holding what appears to be a cup of coffee, is flying off the shelves so quickly that the Masters is stocking it only intermittently throughout the day.
Masters employees are not allowed to be interviewed, but a young woman working in Active Wear told me in a casual conversation that people are literally grabbing the limited-edition gnomes out of employees’ hands as they are trying to put them on the shelves.
The gnome sells for $39.50 plus tax and the limit is two per patron. Why only two?
“They just set that limit (Thursday),” the young woman told me. “The day before, a guy bought 100 of them. They had to cart them out to his car.”
That’s $4,000 worth of garden gnomes, if you’re counting at home.
I have a good idea where they’re going to wind up, and it’s not in the guy’s garden. If you check out eBay, the gnomes are getting plenty of action, with multiple bidders pushing the price of some to over $100. There is a 2018 version of the gnome with a buy-it-now price of $399.99 (10 people are watching).
OK, so yesterday, I bought a gnome. But only so I could take a photo of it for this story.
2019 Masters: How Wisconsin's major champions fared
|T2||Brooks Koepka||2017 U.S. Open||Erin Hills||66||71||69||70||276|
|T5||Jason Day||2015 PGA||Whistling Straits||70||67||73||67||277|
|T51||Martin Kaymer||2010 PGA||Whistling Straits||73||74||72||71||290|
|MC||Vijay Singh||2004 PGA||Whistling Straits||80||76||156|
Cole takes advantage of 'best perk there is'
Like all PGA Class A professionals, if Scott Cole wants to come to the Masters, he doesn’t have to enter the ticket lottery or pay inflated prices on the secondary market. He just shows up at the main gate, produces his Class A card and driver’s license and is handed a ticket.
“Best perk there is,” Cole said after spending the day walking Augusta National.
Cole, 41, played college golf at Marquette University (after transferring from Southern Miss), became a Class A pro in 2009 and spent 13 years at his home course, New Richmond Country Club – the last eight as the head professional.
He currently owns a seasonal indoor practice facility, The Golf Cave, in New Richmond and also is a partner in RTG Golf, a golf travel business.
This is Cole’s fourth trip to the Masters. The highlight was watching his friend, Sammy Schmitz of River Falls, who earned his Masters invitation by winning the 2015 U.S. Mid-Amateur. Schmitz played in 2016 but shot 75-81 and missed the cut.
Zach Johnson can laugh about 'oops' moment
Well, you’re not going to see that every day, at least not on the PGA Tour.
Zach Johnson inadvertently hit his ball with the toe of his driver while taking a practice swing on the 13th tee, which caused the ball to ricochet off the tee marker and bounce a few yards forward, much to the amusement of playing partners Ian Poulter and Matt Kuchar.
“It was quite funny, because he backed off and said, ‘No, no guys, it’s OK, you can laugh, it was pretty funny,’” Poulter said. “I mean, we were trying to hold it in, but we had to let it out. It was great.”
Johnson looked momentarily confused before retrieving his ball and re-teeing it. He was not penalized because according to the Rules of Golf a player “has not made a stroke if he accidentally strikes the ball when making a practice swing or while preparing to make a stroke.”
“I knew what to do,” Johnson said. “It’s all about intent. Clearly, I did not intend to do that. … I mean, I know the rules. Even if you do that on the putting green it’s not a penalty.”
Johnson went on to birdie the hole.
“Yeah, I made a nice recovery. So I think technically I made a six, right?” he joked. “Net four. So it worked out well.”