From Burger King to Magnolia Lane
'Our newsprint supplier is hosting a group of us at Augusta and one of the players can't stay for the entire trip....could you join us and fill-in for two days?' At the time, I was about a ten handicap and obviously found the time to accept the invitation. My memories of the three rounds I played there are, of course, vivid. As I recall, I shot 83, 84, and 85 with birdies on 16, 13, and 15 over the course of the visit. But my most vivid recollections were of the famous rules and regulations that govern a visitor to Magnolia lane. First, I was not allowed on the grounds until the man I was replacing had left the property. I spent two hours in a Burger King on Washington Road waiting for his departure. When I drove up to the clubhouse, I was met like an honored guest at the clubhouse door, registered into my motel-like room next to the clubhouse and my clubs were taken to the storage area to await the morning round. I recall standing in the doorway of my room at sunset looking across the practice green into the twilight and feeling lightheaded with anticipation. Could I do this?
Would I actually be allowed to do this? I joined my colleagues for dinner in the clubhouse and the wine and stories flowed freely until a late hour. If I slept that night, I don't recall it because I saw the sun come up and the dew begin to steam off that most manicured of acres. I met my caddy the next morning and we headed to the range with a bag of practice balls. 'How far to you hit your 7 iron,'? The young man said as he placed the two dozen or so balls on turf as pristine as most greens. '
Hopefully, about 150 yards if I don't throw up,' I said with more than a little truth in the remark. He said nothing but took the empty bag and sauntered downrange about 150 yards. I soon became aware that everyone's caddy had done the same and the premise was that they would gather the balls as we hit and re-fill the shag bags. All I can say is that my caddy covered a lot of the range during my warm-up.....and much of it was far-ranging from his original 150 yard posting.
Finally, on a glorious late spring morning, our group was second to tee-off and my heart was racing. The Vice-Chairman of the Board of the New York Times was in the group ahead and was standing over his second shot from just shy of the initial bunker on the right of the 1st fairway. It looked like nine miles away from the tee. One of my playing partners said he felt we could tee away and that I should hit. Mr. Vice-Chairman hit his shot and began to walk slowly up the hill. You can imagine the rest of the story. I hit the drive of my life (with my eyes closed) and very nearly clipped the corporate eagle in the back. I thought I tried to yell 'fore' but my mouth was so dry it probably came out like a whisper. My superior eyed the near-miss and turned with a fist pumping in my direction. He later said he was acknowledging a strong tee shot rather than counting the remaining hours of my employment.
Most of the three rounds have blurred over time, but the total experience is indelible in my heart. We were all treated like conquering heroes as we hacked around that day and the next. If the caddies were amused at our talent, they graciously did not show it. The paths the patrons had worn less than a month previous were still bare and the TV towers were still in place. There was an eerie stillness everywhere as we were among probably fewer than five groups on the course that day. I have been fortunate to attend the Masters on five different occasions and those three rounds on that magnificent acreage only served to heighten my conviction that it is truly the most beautiful place on this earth if you are a golfer.
-Bob, Eureka, CA
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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake
Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.
While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.
“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.
Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.<
DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi
Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.
“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”
Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).
“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.”
Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.
Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace).
“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.”
Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi
What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.
Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.
McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.
He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.
McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65).
Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds.
“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”
Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder
Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.
Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.
Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:
Filling in tomorrow for Corey Pavin that WD today @cbgolfchallenge I do things like this a lot to help events and asking for sponsors exemptions here but didn't get any help.— Ken Duke (@DukePGA) January 18, 2018
Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.
Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.