'This is unlike any tournament I've been to in my life,' he gushed. 'Everything is understated. Nothing is grandiose. You're not treated like you're bigger than you are. They treat this like a golf tournament.'
Making this week even sweeter is his guest list.
Joining him at his Masters debut is his 84-year-old grandfather, Bill Oberholser.
'He has been watching this on television ever since television was invented,' Oberholser said. 'He's here for the first time, and it's a big thrill for him. And it's a big thrill for me, being able to provide that.'
Charles Howell III knows what to expect at Augusta National, and not because he grew up 5 miles away.
Once a player becomes eligible for the Masters, he can play the course with a member before the tournament. Howell qualified by finishing in the top 40 on the PGA Tour money list last year, and he has been a regular since November.
'I played four times over Thanksgiving. Over Christmas, I played seven or eight more,' he said Monday. 'I may be the reason that rule gets revoked for everybody.'
Howell's caddie is Jimmie Johnson, who previously worked for Nick Price. And Howell usually has a local caddie when he plays, trying to learn the nuances of a course that is loaded with them.
'They always seem to know something,' Howell said. 'They always show me a new putt or two. You can't explain it with grain, you can't explain it with break, you can't explain it with slope. Balls out here just do things that they can't do.'
Augusta National continues to buy up land around the club to accommodate a world-class practice facility and create parking lots for those who come to the Masters.
Golf World magazine studied real estate records and reported in this week's issue that the club has purchased 53 lots for $22.9 million since 1999. It said the driving range could be open by 2011. The current range is only 250 yards long, and the club has tried to keep tee shots off Washington Road by erecting a net 100 feet high at the back end of the range.
The club's plans for a new practice facility was stalled in 2003 when Martha Burk protested the lack of female members at the private club, and Masters chairman Hootie Johnson responded by dropping television sponsors for two years.
But everything is back on schedule for an expansion plan that will increase Augusta National's total land area by more than 60 acres.
How has the club been able to buy so much land?
According to the magazine, Limited Liability Corporations linked to club members are making the purchase. Golf World said the buyers offered the opportunity for sellers to stay in the home for two years without rent, and they would get two lifetime tickets to the Masters. Now, the magazine said, the LLCs are offering one year of free rent and two lifetime tickets.
For the first time, those watching the Masters on the Web can see every player take on Amen corner.
Visitors to 'Amen Corner Live' on www.masters.org will be able to see live action before the start of each day's television broadcast. The Webcast times will be 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and 1:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.
'The importance and use of the Internet continues to grow, and we think this is another service to our patrons,' club chairman Hootie Johnson said. 'The ability to see live action at Amen Corner is something very special.'
In previous years, the Masters' Web site has provide live coverage of the par-3 sixth and 12th holes, but only during practice rounds.
The fairways at the Masters will be mowed at three-eighths of an inch, while the rough will be 1 3-8s of an inch. The Masters does not disclose how fast the greens will run on the Stimpmeter ... Steve Elkington withdrew with a groin injury. The Masters does not have an alternate's list, meaning the field is 90 players.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.