Tiger Woods is returning to golf to compete at the Masters tournament at Augusta National, the most prestigious golf venue in America, after many months of a self imposed lay-off. Industrialist Siddharth Shriram, also an avid golfer, files the second part in his series of exclusive reports from the golf course
Augusta opens at a blistering 92 degrees Fahrenheit 25 degrees lower than last year.
The Greens are going to be hard and lightning-fast, much faster than 13 on the stimp meter. Watch out for three putts and even the occasional four putts (shades of Danny Lee from last year); the fairways are going to be running and anybody can be the winner.
But, nobody is talking about anybody other than Tiger to win. No talk of last year’s champion, Angel Cabrera, nor of his playoff partners; no talk of Phil or Harrington, or any of the other Europeans. There is some muted talk of the only two-times winner on the PGA Tour this year, Ernie Els. However, this is also dismissive.
The atmosphere is thick with anticipation and expectation. The wonders that Tiger will surely perform; nothing else matters. Tiger will surely make the cut and, even if he is way back in the pairings in the final two days, he will be commanding the largest galleries. The burgeoning demand for tickets for the ‘Return of Tiger’ has raised the prices of traded tickets to thousands of dollars. His will be the match to watch.
The southern sun is already beating down mercilessly, leavened with some gentle breezes. The spectators, as normal, are in their riot of colours of every hue, set in the exquisite green background of Augusta National. Bunches of journos cluster under the great Oak tree as players come off their practice round and are interviewed. The atmosphere is indeed electric.
The rules and regulations of public conduct at the Masters Tournament are comprehensibly different from any other tournament in the world. No running, no shouting, applause mainly when required, and no discouraging remarks against any players. As usual, Augusta National has improved the already perfect facilities and regular visitors are able to discern the subtle changes.
The crowds are already gathering around the Wednesday afternoon Par 3 Contest which takes place in the exquisitely designed 9-hole Par 3 Course.
The Augusta National Par-3 Course is a par of 27 (naturally) and totals 1,060 yards in length.
This picture depicts No 8 green in the foreground and No 9 green in the background.
With the towering pines rising up to the skies from the dips and rises bordering the lake around which the course is laid out, the atmospherics were as near-perfect as one may imagine. The myth that he who wins the Par 3 contest does not win the Masters will again be put to test. It is not clear whether Tiger will participate in this contest but the chances are high, because of his new media-friendly face.
We will be missing some superb players, owing to injuries. And, of course, Gary Player, who has now retired after 50 years of Masters appearances.
To follow the tournament it is meaningful to know the description of each hole and the particular blossom or plant that typifies that hole.
|HOLE BY HOLE|
The blooms of the various flowers, particularly the Dogwoods and Azaleas, are spectacularly surprising against the lob lolly pines and the overall glorious landscape.
The suspense and the tension is mounting, which is palpable. Thursday the 8th will the first defining moment. Watch for it with bated breath.