The Masters

At the Masters: Jerry Zgoda eschews tradition

Wednesday, April 4th, 2007

001masters.jpgStar Tribune golf writer Jerry Zgoda will be giving you daily Masters updates live from the scene all week. Today? He takes things a little less seriously and provides his own artwork.

The Masters has its many traditions, only one of which is the annual awarding of an ugly green jacket on Sunday. There’s the family handing down of precious, and inexpensive, all-tournament badges from generation to generation. And roped seating areas where the tournament’s genteel patrons arrive early and set up their folding chairs, which are not disturbed by anyone the rest of the day no matter how long they are unattended.
And then there’s one that a Northerner just doesn’t get: The pimento-cheese sandwich. They sell ‘em — tray after tray — from Augusta National Golf Club concession stands, for a $1.50 apiece. A spread on white bread made from processed cheese, canned pimento and mayonnaise, it has been a Southern tradition at church picnics and such since the 1940s because all the ingredients were cheap and staples in the kitchen pantry. One bite and I’d say, you get what you pay for. And, according to one web site that recreated the recipe, only 35 grams of fat per sandwich. Bon appetit from Augusta.

Echoes of Augusta

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2007

A mighty roar rose from Amen Corner and resounded across the hillsides Tuesday morning. During a practice round. And just after Tiger Woods had gone through the little par-3 12th that plays over Rae’s Creek.

One group behind him, affable, old Fuzzy Zoeller, the 1979 Masters champion, had hit a middling shot into the narrow, tilted, bunker-protected green. He bantered with the fans gathered en masse around the 11th green and 12th tee and then extended his club to a man behind the ropes, a gesture that said if you can do better, just try.

The man slipped under the ropes, stepped to the tee and hit a soaring shot straight at the flag, much closer to the stick than Tiger’s approach minutes earlier. The crowd erupted with noise, and even ol’ Fuzzy offered a theatric pose and an ovation himself.

Live from Augusta, it’s Jerry Zgoda

Monday, April 2nd, 2007

01masters.jpgOK, so that doesn’t have the same ring as “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night,” but let’s face it: Aside from the occasionally funny digital short or the times they let Super Bowl QBs host that show, SNL’s not very entertaining. Jerry Zgoda? Very entertaining. He’s the Star Tribune’s golf writer, and we’re going to be hosting his daily web-tronic dispatches from the Masters over here on RandBall. Follow him from tee to green, around Amen Corner and into the clubhouse, but stop just before he gets to the men’s room and give a fella a little privacy. OK, enough of our blather. We’re getting close to Lyle’s time and leaving you with Jerry’s first report:

The first ball struck early Thursday morning every year at the Masters tells golfers everywhere that spring is imminent. If you travel the South’s back roads 90 miles to Augusta — past blooming dogwoods and lilacs, country churches and aromatic barbecue joints — and approach Magnolia Lane, you know it’s here. To get to perhaps the most pristine and revered patch of real estate in all of golf you first must endure the underbelly of America, encapsulated in a one-mile stretch of Washington Road that fronts the Augusta National Golf Club property. Before you enter the foliage-hidden fenced walls (topped by barbed wire), you pass every fast-food, cheap-motel and convenience-store chain known to mankind.
Through those walls awaits another world. Passing through the paved main entrance lined by neat, wooden green (what other color would you expect?) buildings is like walking down main street at Disneyland, and like passing into another time.
Beyond the permanent concession stands (where a sandwich still costs you only $1.50) and the souvenir building (where people were lined outside by the hundreds waiting to enter late Monday afternoon), green turf, towering pines and splashes of brilliant white sand tumble out before you, enough to make any golfer’s heart go pitter-pat. It’s tempted to stop beating all together the first time you walk down the 10th and 11th hole and glimpse “Amen Corner,” the stretch of holes from Nos. 11 to 13 that includes the little par-3 12th played over Rae’s Creek.
On Monday, the temperatures reached the low 80s, a humid breeze swayed the pines and golf fans by the tens of thousands — a traffic jam compared to the modest crowds allowed entry on tournament days starting Thursday — arrived to follow Phil and Tiger around the grounds or stand and watch past champions Craig Stadler and Larry Mize work on the putting green late into the afternoon. Spotted among the crowds was a Minnesotan, Chris Foley, the director of golf for Madden’s resort near Brainerd. He comes every year for practice rounds and, this year, Thursday’s opening day of competition. Already getting a bit of sunburn, he said, “There’s no place else like it on Earth.”