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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Thoughts from Augusta

Needless to say, I had a great time at the Monday Masters practice round. As you have all heard a million times, you can't quite understand what makes Augusta so special until you walk the grounds. Here are a few of the highlights from Monday:

Chatting Up Steve Stricker: This wasn't as lengthy a conversation as we had in 2001 with Jim Nantz, but my friend Jay Payne did offer up some words of encouragement to Steve Stricker, whom we followed around for a few holes. Steve seemed like a cool guy, and though we're pulling for him, his opening round 75 isn't looking very stellar.

Watching Brett Wetterich Hit Bombs on Eleven: We spent some time hanging around the 11th tee box, and were fortunate enough to see Wetterich hit two MONSTER drives. He didn't like the first one (it only went about 300 and was a little to the right), but he gave the patrons a wry, knowing smile after his second one, which had to have traveled about 330. I also overheard him talking to one of his playing partners, Larry Mize, and he seemed very deferential to Mize, a former Masters champion. So, Jay and I immediately became Wetterich fans and were glad to see him leading after the first round.

Seeing Seve Chip on Three: We made sure to catch a few holes of The Spanish Armada (Seve, Miguel Angel, and Ollie), and it was worth it. We dubbed them the "Nina", the "Pinta", and the Jose "Santa Maria" Olazabal. Seve might hit it sideways, but we saw him hit about eight chips to a precarious part of the green that must be one of the traditional pin placements. It was incredible to see him stop each of the chips on a dime only a few feet from each other with his buttery hands. Even though he probably won't break 80 this week, he still has a ridiculous short game. This one knucklehead near us asked his buddy if he thought he could beat Seve if he was given two a side. Moron...

Watching Tom Watson Play Thirteen: I've always liked Watson, and if he could put together a few days of solid putting, I think he could contend. That probably won't happen, but when watching him, it's obvious that he loves Augusta and won't be giving up his privilege to play anytime soon, a la Faldo. Strangely, he was playing his practice round with Andy North, who is not exempt from the Masters. It was cool watching Watson hit pitches over Rae's Creek and spend lots of time on and around the green hitting to various pin positions. He made a comment about how things would go on Sunday, so we just knew he still has that competitive fire.

Hanging Out at the Putting Green: One of the coolest things to do at Augusta is to watch the players on the practice green. Here, we saw nearly everyone. They all have different drills and routines, and Henrik Stenson stood out for his focus. We really liked how all of the players came over to Adam Scott to congratulate him and give him guff for his win in Houston last week. We couldn't hear much of what was said, but he seemed to take the ribbing like a champ. Another highlight was listening to O'Meara give Vijay a bunch of crap about how Vij will probably never play on the Champions Tour because he won't need the money. Vij was smiling, but he also looked like he wanted to rip O'Meara's head off.

More commentary tomorrow...

4 Comments:

Anonymous Jack said...

Great stuff Johnny! Funny you brought up Steve Stricker. An assistant pro at CCV, Steve Loomis, knew him from collegiate golf and when we went to Friday’s round at the ’97 US Open at Congressional he introduced us to him. Stricker was really down to earth and a quiet guy. He brought Loomis, William and myself out onto the practice green to chat. Since then I’ve always followed his career and Dines and I would follow him around Avenel during the Booze Allen. It’s great to see his game come back into great form over the last season. To highlight his character, this excerpt is from this week’s Golf Week:

It was less than a year ago that Steve Stricker was resigned to sending letters and asking for sponsor exemptions. One of those letters was addressed to Steve Timms, tournament director of the Shell Houston Open.
“I had been practicing,” Stricker said. “It wasn’t like I was at home doing nothing . . . I came down and took advantage of (the exemption)”
That spot was all the opportunity Stricker needed. His third place finish in Houston was one of seven top 10s in 2006, which included a tie for 6th a the US Open and a runner up showing at the Booze Allen Classic.
Stricker would have like to take time off this week to prepare for his first Masters since 2002 but wanted to pay Timms back for last year’s exemption, so he made the trip to Houston.

As I'm posting this, Golf Channel is running highlights from the 1998 PGA at Sahalee that Vijay won, but Stricker was in contention and played in the final pairing w/ Vij. A shakey outward 9 killed Stricker who did make a run at the end but came up short.

22 days left 'till OC!

9:05 AM  
Blogger John Gorman said...

Those are some great stories about Stricker. I think people who have never attended a pro tournament are at a disadvantage when it comes to deciding who to root for. For example, Sara roots for Lee Janzen because he gave her a smile at the Kemper about nine years ago.

2:37 PM  
Blogger Guadalupe Guard said...

John,

Did you ever live in Foxmoor Hills, Westlake, Dad: John, Mom: Maureen? If so, your family and mine were neighbors and friends.

8:28 AM  
Blogger John Gorman said...

Guadalupe-
I'm curious about your true identity. I am indeed the John Gorman of Westlake Village fame. Who are you, and how did you come across my dinky blog?

7:22 PM  

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