OK, you’ve got your ticket to the Masters. Now what? To make the most of your Masters experience, it’s best to strategize. Here are your dos and don’ts for the biggest week in golf.
DO: Go on Wednesday and Thursday. If you’re there on a Wednesday, you can watch the pros on the championship course in the morning, then take in the par-3 tournament in the afternoon. You get to see legends like Nicklaus and Player tee it up, you get to see 6-year-old kids caddie for their famous fathers and you get to see the most beautiful short course in golf. The eighth and ninth holes, on opposite sides of Ike’s Pond, are the best for viewing thanks to their broad hillsides, but arrive early as they fill up quickly. The best chance to see an ace is at the second hole, which measures 70 yards and at the third, a 90-yarder. Spend the rest of the afternoon walking and studying the championship course in near solitude, as players are rarely on the course at that hour.
Thursday is another favorite day to attend. The massive crowds of the Monday-Wednesday practice rounds have dispersed, and the patrons who are in attendance are spread out nicely, because there are no leaders to follow just yet. In addition, you’ll be able to watch your favorite players, no matter who they are, because once the weekend arrives, some of them might be absent, having missed the cut.
DON’T: Get to the ceremonial opening tee shots late. One of the hoariest Masters traditions is the honorary starters hitting the ceremonial opening tee shot (another reason why Thursday is great to go). In recent years, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player have handled these duties, although it will be just Nicklaus and Player in 2017 after the passing of Palmer. The spectacle is superb, but to see anything at all, you’ll need to arrive when the gates open and walk briskly to find your place at the first tee. Thursday feels great, with so much anticipation in the air, and the party-like atmosphere of Wednesday’s par-3 event has given way to the sobering reality that the field is playing for the year’s first major championship.
DO: Find time to watch from the small bleachers behind the 12th tee. During tournament rounds, that small bleacher spot behind the 12th tee is prime, as it’s an elevated position for watching approach shots into the 11th green and to take in the tee shot at the scary, watery 12th, one of the world’s greatest par-3s, as well as the tee shot at 13. Even if you can’t find room there, the slope that leads down to it to the right of the 11th fairway provides ideal viewing.
Another preferred vantage spot is at the outside elbow of the dogleg at the par-5 13th, where azaleas, bunkers, fairways and Rae’s Creek are all on display and where the risk/reward second shot is one of the greatest ever devised. Unfortunately, additional tree plantings in recent years have obscured some of the superior viewing opportunities at 13, even as it’s made the hole more challenging for players.
I’m also fond of the right side of the 10th fairway, where you gain a gorgeous, unobstructed view of players hitting their irons into the green from a severe sidehill, downhill lie.
My colleague John Garrity cites the area behind the tee box at the downhill par-3 sixth as “Augusta National’s most thrilling spectator perch,” though some argue that the hillside below the tee box is even better. You can’t see the tee shot from there, but you can see them land. You can also pivot to the right and see the results at the par-3 16th green.
DON’T: Run. Ever. No running at any time, anywhere on the grounds. Just don’t. We warned you.
DO: Strategize your trip – or trips! – to the merchandise tent. You know you’re going to purchase gifts and souvenirs from the main merchandise tent, located near Gate 6A. Even the players and broadcasters do some of their Christmas shopping at Augusta, though they usually access the much smaller, badge-only members pro shop. You have to buy your Masters gear here. They only sell it this week and they don’t do online merchandising. If you’re walking your purchases back to your car, go early in the week and late in the day, so that you don’t have to lug them around. However, in recent years, the Masters has added a shipping option—and it’s terrific, if you don’t mind waiting an extra few days for your logoed goods to arrive. If that’s the case, go early in the day, while others are out watching golf. The volume and selection of goods in the main merchandise tent is remarkable and the prices are reasonable. Still, they do occasionally sell out, so to be safe, get your shopping done by Thursday.
DON’T: Bring banned items. No backpacks, periscopes, tablets or beverage coolers. Binoculars are OK, though.
DO: Attempt to get autographs where and when appropriate. According to the Patrons Info section of the Masters website, www.masters.com, autograph seeking is only allowed around the practice range and on the Par-3 course during the Par-3 Contest. The best spots to seek autographs are next to the roped entrance and exit areas at the practice putting green and short-game area. The best time to ask are when players have completed their practice session.
DON’T: Bother golfers for autographs on the golf course. This goes for practice and tournament days.
DO: Come hungry. Masters Series Badges are considered one of sport’s Golden Tickets. The platinum upgrade would be a Clubhouse Badge. If you have Clubhouse credentials, you can savor two of golf’s greatest dining experiences: lunch in the members-only clubhouse and lunch on the lawn next to the huge live oak that abuts the clubhouse. The green-and-white jumbo umbrellas that shade the tables are as ubiquitous at the Masters as Magnolia Lane and the green jacket.
Having said that, if you don’t have access to the clubhouse or to Berckmans Place, you’ll dine like most of the other Masters patrons—and that’s not such a bad thing. The prices on menu items appeal to every demographic, in almost a reverse-chic way. The miniscule costs for beer, peanuts and sandwiches are one more reminder as to how cool the Masters is, with its emphasis on tradition, rather than pure profits.
DON’T: Forgot to grab a Pimento Cheese Sandwich. Of the nine sandwich choices, the standout is the legendary Pimento Cheese. True, purists have charged that a recent recipe change has devalued its greatness, yet for $1.50, its creamy goodness, peppered with chunks of pimento and served on the kind of white bread you enjoyed as an 8-year-old will leave you satisfied. The other must-have on the Masters menu is the Georgia Peach Ice Cream Sandwich, a newer staple.
DO: Pose for a photo in front of the clubhouse, alongside the famous flowerbed that holds the Augusta flag. A club-approved commercial photographer will take the shot, or else you can use your own camera Monday through Wednesday. Lines can get very long, especially in the afternoon, so go early. It’s worth it just to see the clubhouse and famous Magnolia Lane, the club’s main entrance.
DON’T: Bring a cellphone or smartphone to take your photos. While traditional cameras are permitted Monday through Wednesday, modern camera-phones are never permitted. Don’t even think of sneaking one in. Security will catch it, via bag-check or metal detector. If you forget you had it with you and bring it to the course accidentally, you can check it at a storage facility near the entrance. Just remember that lines are long at the end of the day when you go to retrieve it.
DO: Wear comfortable shoes. Golf shoes are permitted, though metal spikes are not. They’re not always fashionable, but I like to don tennis shoes. The terrain is really hilly, so it’s good to have support and traction. And pay special care when it rains. Augusta National’s grass is shaved down nearly everywhere, so when it’s wet and even a little muddy, it gets very slippery on the hills.
DON’T: Forget your chair. It’s best to bring a collapsible chair, without armrests, although Masters chairs are available for purchase in the Merchandise Tent for a surprisingly low price, $29. You can place your chair next to a green (do this as early in the day as you can) and wander away for hours. When you return, your chair will be there, just as you left it. Classic Masters civility.
DO: Check out the sprawling live oak between the first tee and the clubhouse. It’s a beehive of activity all week, and you’ll see anyone who’s anyone in the game of golf, from pros to caddies to administrators to broadcasters. Safe to say, the oak tree at the Masters is the epicenter of golf. It’s also adjacent to the first tee and to the practice putting green, which provides superior close-ups of the smoothest strokes in the game.
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. – Tiger Woods’ 67 in the third round of his Genesis Invitational was the lowest score of his latest comeback and sent a promising message about the stamina of a player who struggled to play past the halfway point of tournaments last year.
Woods’ third round at The Riviera Country Club vaulted him from the cut line to the cusp of the top 25. He sits T26 at 3-under 210 (69-74-67) with one round remaining in the tournament he hosts.
The ability of Woods’ body to endure 72 holes of competition was again in question after Friday’s 74, which included bogeys on three of his final four holes. He barely squeaked into the weekend, making the cut on the number, but rebounded Saturday with three birdies and an eagle. His 67 on Saturday was the third-lowest score of the day. While the violence of a full swing would seem to be more traumatic for his surgically-repaired body, it is the gentle motion of the putting stroke that has caused him the most trouble this week.
“I felt like I made some nice adjustments with my putting and that was the thing that held make back yesterday,” Woods said. “Just wish I could have putted a little bit better yesterday. I made a few adjustments today and some of the putts went in.”
Woods gained more than a stroke on the greens Saturday after losing nearly two a day earlier. He has missed seven putts inside 10 feet this week, with five of those misses coming Friday.
“I've always been a person who likes to hook my putts,” Woods said, “so I just tried to feel like I went back to releasing the putter blade more, more right hand, more release. I just hate that blocky feeling which I had yesterday, which I can't stand. So I go back to hooking my putts and it felt like my normal stroke, which was good.”
Last year, Woods didn’t appear to have the energy to compete past the opening two rounds of a tournament. He posted a pair of 78s on the weekend of last year’s Masters after shooting 71-74 in the first two rounds to sit just two shots outside the top 10. After a second-round 69 to make the cut at the PGA Championship, Woods withdrew following a 79 on Saturday at Southern Hills. He didn’t have a chance to play the weekend at The Open Championship after rounds of 78 and 75. Walking is still difficult for Woods, especially after his bout of plantar fasciitis, so it would make sense that Woods’ scores increased as his step count went up. He has countered that trend this week, though being on his feet for more than four hours and walking four miles remains a challenge.
“It's just a matter of whether I can get from point A to point B,” Woods said Saturday. “That's been the struggle part of it. I can hit shots, I can hit balls on the range, I can chip, I can putt. It's just getting from point A to point B has been the biggest challenge.”
The Open was his last official competition before this week. He will always limp between shots and occasionally use a club as a cane, but he said increased abdominal strength has allowed him to generate clubhead speed now that he no longer can use his legs. He is averaging more than 300 yards off the tee while relying on a low cut shot with his driver. The iron play that has always been a hallmark of his game is still a strength.
“His game was really solid. I was quite impressed,” said playing partner Matthias Schwab. “He didn't really hit any bad shots except for maybe on 6, the par 3.”
On the West Coast, players are grouped in threesomes even after the cut and tee off on both 1 and 10. Woods began Saturday’s round with Schwab and Christiaan Bezuidenhout on the 10th tee at 10:12 a.m., just a half-hour before the leaders teed off on No. 1. Because Riviera, which was built at the bottom of a canyon, is one of the tightest pieces of property on TOUR, Woods’ location was easy to discern at all times. Max Homa, who started the day with a one-shot lead, was standing over a birdie putt on the third hole when a loud roar went up about 150 yards away. Woods had made a 25-footer for birdie on the 14th hole. Homa responded by making his own 20-footer.
“It's cool, it's awesome seeing him out here,” said Max Homa, who is in second place after starting the day with a one-shot lead. “I can't believe how well he's playing and how hard he's hitting it. Tiger's Tiger, man. It's just one of those -- he's just a living legend and it's amazing. It's cool to see all the type. He had way more people than we did for a while today, which is pretty awesome.”
Woods began his round by making a 16-footer for birdie on the 10th hole and made the turn in 2 under after that birdie at 14. After climbing the steep hill behind the 18th green, Woods’ round resumed on Riviera’s elevated first tee, which sits 75 feet above the fairway. He hit a 316-yard tee shot into the right rough, then hit his 190-yard approach shot to 3 feet to set up an eagle. It was his first eagle on TOUR since the final round of this event three years ago. He reached 5 under par for the round after holing a 12-foot birdie putt but finished his round with three pars and a bogey at the seventh.
Woods was visibly limping after his post-round interviews. How his body will hold up for another round remains to be seen. But there have been enough promising signs for him to not rule out another start before Augusta National. Woods described himself as “on the sore side” and wanted to see how long it took him to recover from this week before making any decisions.
“We'll go ahead and reassess everything and see where we are, see how I recover from a full tournament,” he said. “I haven't done this in a while. The last time I did it was at The Open Championship, so it's been a while. Hopefully the body will still feel good sometime later next week. As of right now, recovery time will be fun.”