AUGUSTA, Ga. – An overnight storm that swept through Augusta National left broken limbs all over the course and knocked down one of the famous trees along Magnolia Lane.
Defending Masters champion Phil Mickelson noticed the gap when he arrived at the course Tuesday.
“It was just disappointing that a tree that’s been there for so many years was uprooted,” he said.
The storms toppled trees and some power lines across town. The club delayed its scheduled opening by 45 minutes to give workers time to clear debris so the practice rounds could begin.
Chain saws could be heard from various corners of the course. In the final minutes before fans were allowed on Augusta National, numerous carts were hauling away tree limbs. Some marshals were picking up debris from fairways.
The day turned sunny but was much cooler, barely reaching the 60s, than the balmy conditions Monday and what is expected during the tournament.
With that in mind, Mickelson changed up his schedule, deciding to take Tuesday off and play a practice round Wednesday, when the forecast was for temperatures in the low 70s.
As for the entrance to the club, Mickelson said jokingly that he couldn’t believe it hadn’t already been replaced.
“Chairman (Billy) Payne must have been sleeping,” Mickelson said. “This place does it right. That drive, I guess it has 60 magnolia trees now instead of 61. But it did not detract from the drive up.”
CROW’S NEST: Peter Uihlein picked the wrong night to spend in the Crow’s Nest, the upper floor cubicle at Augusta National where top amateurs in the Masters are invited to stay.
Watching the national championship basketball game with fellow amateur David Chung was fine. But the powerful storm that roared through the area later in the night caused Uihlein some anxious moments.
“I was up all night,” the U.S. Amateur champion said.
There was no damage in the Crow’s Nest, though Uihlein had already planned to move into a house with relatives and his girlfriend for the rest of the tournament.
Despite the storm, Uihlein was soaking in the experience of his first Masters, including hitting a tee shot on the part-3 12th hole for the first time.
Like his stay in the Crow’s Nest, that was an adventure.
“I hit it in the water the first time I played,” Uihlein said. “Right pin, I went for it.”
CHAMPIONS DINNER: Two-time Masters champ Seve Ballesteros was too ill to attend the Champions Dinner, but the Spaniard was very much a part of the night.
Phil Mickelson, who selected the menu as the 2010 winner, went with a Spanish-themed dinner that included paella.
“All of the past champions are really thinking about Seve,” Mickelson said. “Honoring Seve is easy and no big deal. I just want him to know we all wish he was here and we are thinking about him.”
Ballesteros, who has been battling brain cancer, was one of Mickelson’s golfing heroes. He recalled playing a practice round with the Spaniard at his first PGA Tour event when he was only 17.
“He was the guy I wanted to play with,” Mickelson said. “He was the classiest gentleman to me. From that day on and the rest of my career, he has been the nicest guy and supportive and nothing but class to me. I just always appreciated that.”
Mickelson tried to model his own career after Ballesteros, who was one of the most imaginative shot-makers in the history of the game.
“I watched the way he played and loved the way he played and was drawn in by his charisma,” Mickelson said. “He didn’t let me down at all. He was every bit the gentleman I thought he was and more, and I just want him to know we are thinking about him.”
Jack Nicklaus, who holds the Masters record with six victories, still marvels at the way Ballesteros could bail himself out of trouble.
“Seve was a seat-of-the-pants golfer. He invented shots,” Nicklaus said. “When he couldn’t drive it to find it early in his career, he would play out of parking lots, under cars, over the top, out of trees, and he would knock it on the green and make pars. That’s what he did. That was Seve.”
PAR-3 JINX: The winner of the Par 3 Contest has never gone on to win the green jacket.
That’s not going to stop British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen from coming back to defend his trophy Wednesday.
The South African won the just-for-fun contest a year ago, even through countryman Ernie Els advised him to put the ball in the water after he pulled into a tie for the lead.
“I don’t like to believe in things like that,” Oosthuizen said. “I’m definitely playing again.”
Will he try to win again?
Uhhh, that’s another issue.
“My little girl is going to walk with me,” he joked, “so I’ll probably try and get her to kick the ball or something, so that my score doesn’t count.”