It takes a lot to make me speechless, but to describe what it is like to walk and witness the Final Round of The Masters at Augusta National Golf Course leaves me just that. I can not begin to describe what I saw and witnessed on Sunday. But it is something special, and something I won't ever forget.
High Definition Television with all its clarity and detail doesn't come near the amazement of walking this course in person. The hills, the narrow chute of trees from the 18th tee to the hillier than you imagined 18th fairway and green. The undulations of the greens, the razor thin fairways, how close the patrons sit next to the green or along the fairways. Or even how the pins are tucked into the tiniest and trickiest corner of the green.
It doesn't begin to show the awe and beauty when you come across Amen Corner for the first time. You stand there totally still for five minutes to absorb it all in. The 12th green surrounded by the flowery and colorful blossoms of Azaleas. And then to think how many rounds were jump started by an amazing shot onto the green....or lost to Ray's Creek. You look at the simple beauty of the two stone arch bridges over Ray's Creek. The first leading to the 12th green, the other from the 13th tee to the fairway.
Nor can it capture the sound of a distant roar from 13 when Tiger Woods eagles the Par 5. It doesn't capture the buzz around the 16th green as the echos come rolling through. It can't capture how the silence of the course is broken by the clicking of the hand operated scoreboard with results from distant holes. Or the patron's reaction when they see a shocking score go up....the gasp of a double bogey on 12....or the cheers of an eagle on 8 or 13.
The only way to appreciate all that is Augusta National is to walk the course. Whether it is early in the morning over 15, 17 or 18 hours before the first pairings arrive to these holes. Standing at the 18th tee box...through the chute of trees....up the hill at two massive white as fresh snow bunkers...is something that will give you chills.
The emptiness of these holes early on a Sunday Morning --- with the exception of the many patrons rushing to leave their folding chairs in just the right spot in hope to catch that one dramatic or defining moment that makes the tournament --- is a total contrast to the throngs of people that follow the leaders later that afternoon.
I spent a few hours Sunday sitting across the pond from the 16th green. Watching the reflections of those across the way grow in the late afternoon shadows. Seeing the crosswalks along 15 grow from a trickle of people to a massive wave of humanity scurrying across the fairway to get as close as they can to the action. It's totally amazing to see develop and unfold in front of you. It is still hard to describe and it's even more memorable.
I can tell you I was close enough to hear Fred Couples converse strategy with his caddie. Or that I saw a one competitor's ball land five feet from me and under a magnolia tree on the 5th hole. And then walk up discuss with the gentleman that had a rules ribbon around his arm, and fire an awkward looking punch shot back onto the fairway.
I can tell you that I was on more than a few occasions less than 20 feet from Tiger Woods. That on the 7th tee, I was directly behind him right along the ropes. His drive was a low bullet off a 3 Wood that seemed like it was purposely flying below the radar, almost like a stealth bomber in the Cold War.
Standing behind the 7th tee is one of the best views in Augusta. Looking straight ahead at an uphill fairway and elevated green that is surrounded my numerous pure white bunkers. The backdrop filled with people watching quietly yet intently at the play at hand. Even the massive scoreboard behind the green fits perfectly into play. Oh only to be allowed to bring a camera.
The course changes personality during the final round on Sunday. From the leisurely feel of an early Sunday round that transforms into the intensity of the final hours and holes of the day is amazing to be a part of.
The course and atmosphere at Augusta National is simply amazing. It is everything that has been said about it....better yet it's over a hundred times more. The course is beautiful, magnificent, and has an attractive charm that leaves the most veteran of patrons in awe....or leaving this first timer just about speechless.