It was sleeting when I left home last Monday. My husband was bemoaning the fact that we had reached April 2nd and the weather was not behaving in anything approaching a spring-like manner. It was curtailing his motorbike outings, you see. I do, however, remember several years of playing in the Helen Holm tournament in Troon in late April and being snowed off, so there’s no doubt that April has previous form in the snow department.
My spirits picked up on my Virgin Atlantic flight to Atlanta – an abundance of legroom in economy is to be celebrated, especially when you are six feet tall and suffer from lower back pain from time to time. Mental note to self: fly more often with this airline. The good flight and even better subsequent night’s sleep meant I awoke refreshed, eager to embrace what I call my FDOY – Favourite Day of the Year. In other words, the Tuesday of Masters week.
I’d better qualify that a bit. It’s only my FDOY if I’m actually AT the Masters AND working. If I’m lucky enough to be there and not working – well, any day that week could be my FDOY. And, of course, if I’m not actually in Augusta then the Tuesday is unlikely to measure up to the acronym.
I don’t usually have any formal work commitments on the Tuesday so it’s my opportunity to walk the course and reacquaint myself with its wall-to-wall perfection. This week it was 29 degrees and easy to surrender willingly to the sensory overload that Augusta National provides, marvelling yet again that my memory has not played any tricks on me and that, indeed, the place is even more beautiful than I have remembered. The smell and crunch of the pine straw beneath your feet, the aroma of big fat cigars and the reverential murmur of the patrons all conspire to fill you with anticipation as regards the tournament ahead. And yes, that birdsong that you hear on your television IS real, most definitely not piped as many of my pals back home have suggested!
Against this backdrop is the opportunity to walk a few holes with players of my choice – Rory, Tiger, Sergio, the two Justins, Dustin, Bubba, Phil, Jordan, Henrik et al. Those I miss on the course I will try and spot on the practice ground, and, if I’m lucky, I may catch a wee word with them, their families, coaches or caddies. Tuesdays are fairly relaxed for the players. The nearer we get to the gun going off the less likely is an opportunity to speak to anyone outside of the formal interview areas and Tuesday’s comments can be quite revealing as to a player’s inner calm – or not.
I like to have my lunch down at Amen Corner at one of the concession stands where the prices seem permanently frozen in the time warp of the 90s and the day is not complete without a visit to the famous Masters golf shop. This year it has increased substantially in size, seemingly effortlessly absorbing the old media centre and the whole experience of working my way down my extensive shopping list, nobly provided by my friends and family, was surprisingly easy. I find I become quite popular at this time of year.
Sprinkled throughout this glorious day are meetings and encounters – planned and unplanned – with some of my favourite people in the print media, as well as my BBC colleagues and the American broadcast crews I have the pleasure of working with when in the States. This is the day to grab a coffee together, have a catch up on each other’s lives and draw a bit of a breath. As the clock ticks down towards Thursday morning and the moment the honorary starters take centre stage on the 1st tee time seems to accelerate at an alarming rate. For all of us in the media these are the calm waters before being hurtled over the brink of Victoria Falls – remember, this isn’t a major just for the players.
Masters Tuesday is a special day and one I look forward to and love. It is nourishment for the soul and doesn’t really have any close rivals for my FDOY……………hmm, unless, of course, a certain Irishman could manage to complete a Career Grand Slam. Then I’d just have to consider switching to Masters Sunday!