Masterful Observations: Peaks and valleys at the Masters

Mike Nadel

After spending several hours walking the hallowed grounds of Augusta National, I was grateful to plop my posterior into a seat in the press building and do some writing. America's most famous golf course is a grind.

The second thing I noticed during Thursday's opening round of the Masters: the terrain, featuring dramatic elevation changes. You don't really see the hills and valleys when you watch on TV, even in high-def. Well, let me tell you, in addition to being a great test of golf, it's a very nice physical test for the competitors.

Both the first and 18th fairways lead the golfers downhill into a valley and then up a steep incline to the green.

Now, I'm not trying to claim these guys are world-class athletes -- put it this way, there are no track stars, point guards or goalies nicknamed "Walrus" -- but I can just imagine how much endurance and toughness it takes to play No. 18 effectively at the end of a five-hour round in the heat and humidity.

And there are plenty of arduous climbs and long walks in the 16 holes between 1 and 18. One can see why the best golfers are in darned good shape.

I said the terrain was the second thing I noticed about Augusta National. The first: its sheer beauty. Every hole is pleasing to the eye. Every hole is interesting. Every hole feels special. 

You know, I think I'll join the club. I look great in green.


Thursday's opening round started about an hour late due to heavy fog. It ended at dusk. Almost darkness, actually.

Maybe if Bernhard Langer had played faster than a tortoise with a broken leg, there still would have been daylight for the final groups -- which included the likes of Lee Westwood, Ernie Els and Jim Furyk.

On No. 18, Woody Austin, who was in the same group as the notoriously slow Langer, went into the gallery and sat down among the fans. He had a disgusted look on his face.

Then again, Austin could have been disgusted about the 79 he was in the process of shooting. He finished only four strokes ahead of the high scorer, 72-year-old Gary Player.


Twice, defending champ Zach Johnson stood over putts only to back away because of loud roars in the background. The first came on No. 7 after Ian Poulter scored a hole-in-one on 16, the second happened on No. 17 after Tiger Woods chipped in for eagle on the 15th hole.

After Johnson's miss on 17, which resulted in one of the two bogeys in his otherwise superb day (2-under), I noticed he had a ladybug clinging to his pink shirt near his right shoulder blade.

Aren't ladybugs supposed to be lucky? Maybe they just like the color pink.

At one point, a fan yelled: "Zach! Stay with the pink!"

If Johnson wins the tournament in pink Sunday, I'll choose the color for the Masters polo shirt I plan to buy.

Why not? Pink is the new white.


Even if my membership application is rejected, I still might get to play the course.

I need your positive vibes, folks. Think about the number 2-8-4. Those three digits are printed on my "lottery" ticket. If it's chosen, I'll be one of the few media mopes invited to play on Monday.

My golf buddies already have had plenty of laughs at the notion of Mike Nadel playing Augusta National.

You know, the course has survived flooding rains, high winds, insects, hurricanes, John Daly and badness knows what else. It certainly could survive me. Maybe.


After Tiger Woods crushed his drive on the 455-yard opening hole, some yahoo screamed: "Get in the hole!"

Apparently, not every Masters "patron" is enlightened.

Mike Nadel ( couldn't break 100 at Augusta National if he played from the ladies' tees. But he'd gladly try.