I received the invitation to play in my first Masters about a month ago. What made it special was what came with it: a ticket request form. I have to pay $100 apiece for tickets, which was a surprise. There were eight spaces on the form, so I sent in for eight tickets, not realizing that I could have asked for more. Now everyone at my brother's pool hall in Cape Coral, Fla., is asking for one. I've been saying, "O.K., you're the 31st alternate, you're 32nd and you're 33rd." They're not impressed. That happens to Masters rookies who don't know the ins and outs.
I had no idea that getting housing would be so hard. There are big price differences based on how many bedrooms there are and the home's distance from the course. From the prices (up to $10,000) I assume some houses are gold-plated. At first I told my manager to go for a place within four miles of the National, but then you've got a 45-minute commute. So I'm paying an extra $1,000 to be within a mile.
I asked my manager to find a house with hardwood floors so I could practice my putting. When I played Augusta for the first time, in November, the greens were scary. I've been watching the Golf Channel whenever it replays an old Masters, and you can pretty much see which way the putts will break. But I have also noticed that guys who've been back for the tournament 25 times can't always read the putts, so how the heck am I going to? I'm a little bit nervous about those greens. I played a tournament in college on a course with the same kinds of greens and had a five-putt, a handful of four-putts, 25 three-putts and only one one-putt the entire week. And this time, there'll be people watching!
Before November I had been to Augusta once—for the final round of the '86 Masters, when I was in college. I was as naive as could be and in total awe. That's when I knew I had to become a pro golfer. To me, everything was summed up by the fact that a little patch of clover in the 1st fairway had been marked as ground under repair. When I went back in November, one of the superintendents and I searched everywhere for a weed but couldn't find one. Not in the pine straw or deep in the bushes or among the azaleas. There are no weeds. None. I really wanted to pull one up and take it home as a souvenir.
I got excited about the Masters in October when I learned I was definitely going. I hadn't realized that by finishing third at the PGA I was automatically in. I found out at Disney that I'd been in since August, and all I could think was, "Wow, I've got an invitation and didn't even know it." I had my head in the clouds all week, and the next thing I knew, I'd missed the cut.
It should be an interesting week. I just hope it's not an embarrassing one.