Posted: Friday April 7, 2006 2:14AM; Updated: Friday April 7, 2006 6:40PM
Not much can compare with spending quality time with Dad at Augusta National.
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- This is my 12th Masters, but during the sun-drenched first round I saw Augusta National with new eyes. That's because I spent the day with my father, David. It was the first time he had ever set foot on Augusta National, and getting to play tour guide was a chance for me to appreciate all over again what a unique experience the Masters is.
I have to admit I was a bit surprised when my dad asked if he could tag along this week. He is many things -- black-diamond skier, jazz aficionado, voracious reader, long-distance cyclist, mountaineer, lord of the BBQ -- but a golfer he is not. Dad pretty much follows the game only because of my involvement. But he recently retired after teaching economics at a community college for 36 years and he's up for any new adventure. And since he is about to spend three months in Spain and France with his wife, hiking a thousand miles on an ancient pilgrim route, I was thrilled to have some quality time with the old man.
Arriving at the course this morning, I was anxious to see the changes to the 7th hole and, especially, the 4th, but it was impossible to avoid the pull of Amen Corner. We were passing by the 10th tee just as Gary Player arrived, so we stopped to watch him tee off. My dad had to chuckle when I informed him that he's a couple of years younger than Player. After losing his drive to the right, Player slammed his club to the turf and muttered a few oaths. I was impressed to see how much he still cares.
We followed Player down the hill and then cut over to the new restroom by the 18th tee, what has to be the spiffiest public water closet in creation. Dad was particularly impressed by the slate walls and beamed ceiling. Since we were so close to the 7th green, I suggested we check it out, given that I could see Vijay Singh loping up the fairway.
Singh flagged his approach but it skittered up the steeply pitched green, leaving him a frighteningly fast 15-footer down the hill. "He'll knock this six feet by," was my expert prediction. Instead, Veej hit the prettiest putt you've ever seen and the ball tumbled into the hole, putting him one under par and into the early lead. Seeing the beautiful pace of that putt, I knew immediately that Singh was going to be a force this week.
From there we slid over to the 8th tee, where we watched a few groups smash their drives up the hill. Tiger Woods uncorked one of the longest drives I've ever seen on the hole, which was followed by my dad's distinctive "Whooooaa." It made me laugh, since I've been hearing that exhortation my whole life in various contexts.