Waiting Out the Rain Under the Porch

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AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The long porch at the Augusta National clubhouse was filled with caddies, most of them sitting, some of them smoking, all of them with nothing to do but wait for someone in a green jacket to give them a weather update.
 
Rain at the Masters -- a tradition like no other.
 
Some scenes from the porch:
 
Rocco Mediate, three shots out of the lead and in the final group for the third round, was among the first to emerge from the clubhouse. He didn't get far when a cameraman for a local TV station asked him for a quick interview.
 
'What should I tell him?' Mediate asked the caddies, eyes bulging in mock confusion.
 
'Tell him it's raining,' a caddie replied.
 
Saturday was the fifth straight year a round at the Masters was interrupted by rain.
 
A peak through a window into the lounge outside the locker room looked like a snapshot of a family gathering at Christmas.
 
Stephen Ames shared a seat and a smile with his wife, Jodi, who is recovering from lung cancer. They had no plans to be at Augusta National until Ames buried the strongest field in golf to win The Players Championship two weeks ago.
 
Ben Curtis sat in a chair while his wife, Candace, who is four months pregnant, made herself comfortable on the carpeted floor, both listening to the chatter and stories coming from all directions.
 
Across the room, Retief Goosen sat impassively, like a wax figure in a museum.
 
Ricci Roberts leaned against the golf bag when his boss, Ernie Els, ambled out of the clubhouse and came by for an inspection.
 
He pulled out a rain suit so new it still had tissue paper under the creases. Els doesn't like playing in a full rain jacket, so he was happy to find zippers halfway up the sleeves. He removed them, converting the jacket into a vest.
 
'You don't learn how to play in the rain,' said Els, who grew up in Johannesburg. 'You learn to be organized with your bag. I didn't play much in the rain until I went to Europe.'
 
It has served him well at Augusta.
 
Ben Crenshaw stopped long enough to be surrounded by a dozen reporters who know him to speak eloquently on any subject. The topic -- his chances on a course that went from fast and firm to slow and soft because of the rain, which won't help.
 
The 54-year-old Crenshaw had not made the cut since he won his second Masters in 1995. He is last in driving distance. He needed the course to be dry, making it play shorter. 'I've been waiting for a dry year,' he said.
 
He was more interested in telling stories of his early years at Augusta National, recalling the first invitation that came in the mail -- understated, of course -- for the 1972 Masters.
 
'It's like an invitation to a nice party,' Crenshaw said. 'There's an RSVP at the bottom. And you had better RSVP.'
 
Crenshaw was at the University of Texas, and his blond hair was a full mop. One of the first people to notice it was Clifford Roberts, the iron-fisted chairman of Augusta National.
 
'There used to be a barber shop right over there,' Crenshaw said, pointing to the end of the porch. 'Mr. Roberts said, 'Ben, we're mighty happy to have you here. You're playing great golf. I've spent some time in Texas, and we've had a number of Texans do well here. By the way, do you know we have a barber shop on the grounds?''
 
Crenshaw paused to smile.
 
'I went right over,' he said.
 
Another peak inside the window: Goosen still hasn't moved.
 
Rich Beem stuck his head out the clubhouse door, spotted a reporter and waved him over.
 
'Have you seen this book?' Beem said.
 
Sitting in the lounge, he picked up a copy of 'The Wit & Wisdom of Bobby Jones,' a collection of sayings from the man behind Augusta National Golf Club and a tournament now called the Masters.
 
Beem pointed out one passage that appeared to go against lengthening the golf course, which club chairman Hootie Johnson has done twice in the last five years. The course now is 7,445 yards, the second-longest in major championship history.
 
'There was good reason to expect that improvements in the manufacture and the introduction of new methods and materials might make even our long courses look silly and make jokes of our championships,' the passage said. 'It was not practical to think of buying more and more expensive ground to keep increasing the length of holes to make them fit for championship play as the ball became more and more powerful, particularly when this increase in power carried no actual advantage to the game in any conceivable form.'
 
Beem turned the page to show another passage.
 
'American architecture allows practically no option as to where the drive shall go,' it said.
 
'What about No. 11? And (No.) 7?' Beem said.
 
He was referring to two holes that have been lengthened to 505 yards and 450 yards, respectively, both lined by trees that allow for a tight driving area and really no other option.
 
'Good stuff, huh?' Beem said, then went back inside.
 
Inside the lounge, Curtis switched chairs and was immersed in a coffee table book called 'The Greatest of Them All,' a biography of Jones. Chatter had quieted, replaced by boredom.
 
Tim Herron, affectionately known as 'Lumpy,' lumbered out of the dining room. The chef was right behind him.
 
Steve Williams was on the far end of the porch, closer to the locker room set aside for Masters champions. His boss, Tiger Woods, had been on the practice range when the siren sounded to suspend play. Woods' glove, crinkled from wear, was on top of his irons.
 
'It's too bad,' Williams said as a slow, steady rain began to fall. 'This course was getting unbelievably fast. I would've liked to have seen it that way on the weekend.'
 
Did he think something like 2 under par would have won?
 
'Very likely,' Williams said, without noting that Woods was at 1 under.
 
Goosen finally got up from his chair. The third round resumed at 5:20 p.m.
 
The porch was empty.
 
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