(Augusta, GA) Tiger Woods was the top story at the Masters on Monday. This despite the fact that’s he’s now the 111th-ranked player in the world and his last competitive round was a 82. But he’s also won the Masters four times, 14 majors in all, and remains the greatest player of his generation. After a self-imposed layoff to get his wobbly game, most notably with his chipping, back in shape, Woods appeared late in the day at Augusta National and immediately went to the short-game area at the expansive practice center. There appeared to be no evidence of the dreaded chipping “yips” that has plagued him the past several months, causing such consternation that many observers wondered if Woods’ legendary golf career might be over. On Monday, Tiger’s performance on and off the course addressed those concerns. There was no evidence of any “yips” either in his practice session or during his round with long time friend Mark O’Meara. He made birdies at 1, 3, 4 and his chipping was solid.
As importantly, Woods appeared upbeat, loose and engaging with fellow players and patrons. It’s as if he had consulted with famed sports psychologist Bob Rotella who advised him “to just enjoy the game, remembering golf course has to be your sanctuary, the thing you love, and you can’t be afraid of messing up.”
Although it was only Monday, Woods seemed to quell lurking doubts about the state of his game. At least until Thursday, that is.
Other notes and observations about Monday at the Masters:
Proclaimed by Mayor Hardie Davis, Monday was Carl Jackson Day in Augusta. An Augusta native and Masters caddie since the age of 14, Jackson is best known for being Ben Crenshaw’s long time caddie. He was on Crenshaw’s bag won the Masters in 1984 and again in 1995. Jackson, 67, is credited with providing a vital swing key to Crenshaw before the ’95 Masters, suggesting a slight address change in his ball position and a fuller shoulder turn. Jackson is the first non-golfer and first black person to be so honored at the Mayor’s Masters Reception. Crenshaw delivered some thoughtful and heartfelt remarks about Jackson. “How can you thank somebody who has been in the fire with you and shared your triumphs, who has meant so much to all of our lives? …I’m so proud to call him my friend.”
In his speech, Jackson thanked Crenshaw, his late grandfather and the late Augusta National Chairman Jack Stephens for all of their devoted support. It was Stephens and another Masters member who suggested to Crenshaw that he should hire Jackson in 1976. Since Crenshaw is retiring from Masters tournament play this week, Jackson may well end his official caddie duties as well. But he’ll remain actively involve with his foundation, called Carl’s Kids, which assists underprivileged children in the Augusta area.
Best interview of the day went to Erik Compton, 35, who qualified for his first Masters this year due to his runner-up finish at the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst. Twice a recipient of a heart transplant, Compton said: “There’s two sides to me. I’m a competitor and a sports person, and I’m also the recipient of two transplants, and I know what that involves. So when you put them together, it does make a little bit of spaghetti in my mind sometimes.” Compton, who’s competed in four events in 2015 including a T-55th last week in Houston, also was asked about his involvement with young heart transplant patients. “Yeah, I’ve been very blessed to be a spokesperson for Donate Life and to be a part of a bigger thing than the game of golf,” said Compton. “To be able to save lives and to make a difference in kids’ lives and also in adult lives; being able to speak to donor families, and there’s so many of them out there on the golf course right now as we speak. It’s a growing community, and one that I’ve been involved with for 23 years. So to be able to be out here playing in the Masters, this is Donate Life month, an awareness for our cause, and you know, very cool and fitting that Augusta is all green and our foundation is green.”
At Augusta National on Monday, patrons were busy not only touring the tournament course (“I can’t believe how hilly it is!”) but also the par-three course which commands a center stage on Wednesday afternoon. Dozens of patrons quietly visited the near empty nine hole par-three course, taking photos and marveling at its pristine beauty. A security guard politely reminded them, “Please stay off the greens, the tees and don’t play in the bunkers!” He also provided advice to patrons planning to come back on Wednesday to watch the action. “Get here by 9 am and after we let down the ropes, you can walk down next to the greens, place your chairs, and then return later when the par-three officially starts.”
photos courtesy of the PGA TOUR.