Welcome back to the No Laying Up mailbag! It’s a special Masters edition, which means we’re splitting it into two parts. Look for Part Two on Wednesday.

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Bfrosty: KVV, I’m going to my very first Masters this year (Monday practice round)! Any advice?? What to do, not do, etc.

There are a few places that live up to the hype, and I think a first visit to the Masters is one of them. Not sure if you’ll see this in time, Mr. Frosty, but for anyone else, my best advice is to walk down 10 (pausing to look at the coolest bunker on the course) and then head down 11 to Amen Corner. People have been writing melodramatic things about it for half a century, but it really is cool to stand there and see 11, 12 and 13 and realize you’re not looking at a painting. Also, it will help you grasp something about Augusta National that television truly cannot convey: The elevation changes! Supposedly, from where the clubhouse sits to where 12 green sits is a drop about the equivalent of the Statue of Liberty. That’s pretty cool.

As for what else to do, I’ve always loved sitting on 15 and watching players try to hit that green, whether it’s with a wedge or a long iron. Ian Poulter once told me it was like trying to land on a golf ball on two ping-pong tables that had been strapped together.

Do check out the merchandise tent at some point, but don’t go bonkers. Pick something that will last, not something you’ll throw away in a year.

Don’t, under any circumstances, run. They don’t like that. Don’t say anything moronic like “Mashed potatoes!” or “Get in the hole!” when someone is hitting driver on a 500-yard par 4. That’s a great way to get booted. I’m not kidding either.

Do try a pimento cheese sandwich. I’m not a fan but I try one every time I go, just to see if my taste buds have come around. Grab a cheap beer and find a player you feel invested in and follow them for a few holes. Feel the freedom that comes with not being tethered to technology for a few hours. At first, you might feel FOMO. But then a calm will wash over you and you’ll realize how pleasant life is without a tiny computer in your pocket that can teleport all the world’s miseries right into your fingertips. Make jokes with your friends and people-watch. I once saw Arnold Palmer drinking an Arnold Palmer on the veranda. It would be hard to top that one, but I hope you get your own memory to file away forever.

Jwfickett: Very stupid thought exercise for you… A generous benefactor has donated a blank check to the NLU slush fund, sufficient to cover a sky-writer who can deliver any message 12 words or fewer to the patrons and greencoats below, converging on the sacred grounds of Augusta National on Saturday afternoon. As the company wordsmith, KVV is designated to draft the message.

What message are you sending to the club, to the golfers, to the patrons, or to the world?

I gave this considerable thought, but before I came up with an answer, I had to ponder: Is there a skywriting school? Do you have to get licensed? Is there a skywriters union? I’m not sure skywriting is a particularly effective way to deliver a message these days. I would also be worried that Augusta has its own missile defense system at this point and our fearless skywriter would get taken out well before he finished. Joel Beall’s fascinating article that detailed the 30-year plan for Augusta National didn’t include ballistic missiles, but I wouldn’t rule anything out. (Except maybe a waterslide. Augusta is way too classy to build a waterslide; that’s more the style of Southern Hills.)

As for a message, I have settled on this: I would ask the skywriter to write some lyrics from the Quad City DJs classic tome “C’Mon ‘n Ride It (The Train).”

Why would I pick such an insane thing? Well, it’s the song that Tiger blasted in his car driving down Magnolia Lane in 1997 when he won The Masters. This is his 25th appearance at Augusta. I feel like it would be a nice callback and an Easter Egg for him (literally on Easter weekend) that would perhaps help him channel some of that magic.

The baffled look on people’s faces would be a delight. But I like to imagine Tiger humming “C’mon ride the train, hey, ride it” as he plays the back nine on Saturday, almost like it’s a time machine.

FisherM24: Alright KVV, you’ve won the Masters, what are we getting at your Champions Dinner?

I struggled with this answer because I wanted to pay homage to my home state of Montana, but I also wanted something more interesting than just steaks, which is the most Montana meal I can think of. My wife is of Mexican heritage, and I’m a huge fan of Chef José Andrés — both his food and who he is as a person — so I’d ask Augusta National if I could hire him for the evening to prepare a meal made up of ceviches and tacos and tortas. I would want a couple of bottles of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon to pass around, and then I think I’d serve my mom’s banana oatmeal cookies with ice cream as dessert. I feel like that would cover all the things I love and want to represent me.

While there is no risk of me ever winning The Masters, I do like it when golfers get creative with their meals. Supposedly, Vijay Singh’s spicy Thai food-themed Champion’s Dinner was a huge hit, even though Gary Player said he spent the next 24 hours on the loo after the meal. (I did not make that up, it’s a real quote from Player you can read here.)

JDGafflin: Please give us your personal rankings of the 4 majors and give a brief synopsis of why you’ve ranked them in those spots.

  1. The Open Championship: The Open is the best major because it usually asks players to be creative artists instead of robots. I appreciate that the bad bounces and bad weather are part of the deal, you don’t cry about it, you just try to overcome it. Spieth’s win at Royal Birkdale is probably my favorite major I’ve attended in person. I love that it stays light out until 10 p.m. I love that there is usually a pub somewhere after the round where people are telling stories, I love that it’s a little less crass and commercial than the other majors (even if that’s changing). I love the venues and the towns. I also love watching it on TV when I’m not there, even if that means getting up at 3 a.m.
  2. The Masters: One element that makes golf unique as a sport is that so much of the joy you derive from it is based on anticipation. I know every hole at Augusta National, and I know that whoever wins this year, they’re going to have to hit great shots on 12, 13 and 15. I can spend hours thinking about those shots, hoping Rory will execute them or that someone else will fail to execute them. That’s part of what makes the Masters great. In football, I can anticipate a long touchdown pass. In baseball, I can anticipate a home run, but it’s possible neither will occur. I KNOW Jordan Spieth has to hit a shot into No. 12, and I’m guaranteed that entertainment. That’s why the Masters returning to the same course every year is so compelling. Even if I love a shot at Pinehurst or Pebble Beach, I might have to wait five years before I see it happen again in a major. Throw in the fact that Masters rarely gets the spectator experience wrong and it’s hard to beat.
  3. The U.S. Open: I do enjoy it when the U.S. Open drives players a little crazy, but I don’t love it when you basically have to hack out sideways if you miss a fairway. I like it when there is danger lurking, but recoveries are possible. I wish the U.S. Open would (or could) go to more venues. In my perfect world, every state would get to host a U.S. Open, making it a true national championship. Sure, you could return to Pinehurst or Pebble every five years, but in the other four years, I would love to see them play a U.S. Open at Seminole (Florida) or Crystal Downs (Michigan) or Pacific Dunes (Oregon) or Rock Creek Cattle Company (Montana). Could you fit the infrastructure of the tournament into those places, the parking, the corporate tents, the hospitality? Absolutely not. Could you play some of them without a Model Local Rule ball? Again, probably not. But I like the idea golf is a universal sport that can be played anywhere, and we should test our best players by going to places that represent different elements of golf.
  4. The PGA Championship: The poor PGA. I sometimes feel bad that it gets ranked in this spot by everyone who isn’t Gary Player. I do think it would be easier for the event to have its own identity if it were match play, but I don’t see that ever happening. It would be cool if you could come up with a compromise though. Play the first two days as stroke play to determine seeding, and keep the 16 best players around for the weekend, then go match play from there. Imagine how intense the fight for that 16th spot would be on Friday! It would be provocative. Alas, that’s little more than a fantasy. One frustrating element about the PGA is that the venues on tap are so uninteresting. Why are we going back to Quail Hollow in 2025? And what about Valhalla (2024) is interesting without Tiger Woods and Bob May dueling with a Tiger Slam on the line? I have some hope for Aronimink (2026) and Frisco (2027) just because we haven’t seen them before, but Baltusrol in 2029 holds very little appeal.

Hreilly27: You have been granted the power to change the outcome of a single stroke in any Masters tournament in history, except for the 2016 tournament. What do you change and why?

The short eagle putt on No. 2 that Rory missed in 2018 would have tied him for the lead with Patrick Reed. I think that would have given Rory the bounce and swagger that might have changed that entire round for him. Rory has always been at his best when he feels like he’s strutting and front-running. Instead, he looked deflated after he missed, like he was reminded that Augusta put a little hex on him in 2010 that he’s never been able to escape. I have some other answers that would make for fun “What ifs.” Namely, I wish Kenny Perry could have made that putt on 18 that would have won him the tournament and then we would not have a convicted criminal in Angel Cabrera as a Masters winner. Watching Perry’s kids cry as they hugged their dad afterward is one of my most haunting golf memories.

Kornwhalice: Power Rank the following Masters winner, feasibility aside, from a more dramatic story perspective:

-Amateur wins

-Phil wins

-pre 2000 winner wins

-Rory wins

-Tiger wins

  1. Tiger wins: If this happens, I will no longer be sad that I missed 2019. I will no longer believe in anything, really, except the Church of Tiger Woods. I actually don’t think it’s THAT far-fetched, considering how he looked at Riviera. I think it would be, in some ways, more fun if he won an Open Championship at Liverpool this summer because it would show a different element of his genius. But none of the other scenarios really compares to what a sixth green jacket would feel like. It would probably be the most memorable golf event in history, especially if it came on a dramatic birdie on the 72nd hole.
  2. Rory wins: I think considering how much he’s stuck his neck out and tried to symbolize what he thinks is right for the sport, and how long it’s been since he won a major, it would be second only to Tiger. You could even talk me into Rory being a more interesting story, just not a bigger one. Tiger has shown us that he’s capable of anything at the Masters. Rory has seen mostly disappointment here, except for last year. I do know one thing: It would mean he needs to come on the Trap Draw before every major to talk about a TV show. I’m dying to get his thoughts on Derry Girls, which was one of my favorite series in recent years.
  3. A pre-2000 winner wins again: I had to think about this one for a bit. If you don’t count Tiger (1997), the realistic possibilities here are Fred Couples (1992) and Bernhard Langer (1985, 1993). I don’t think Sandy Lyle, Jose Maria Olazabal or Larry Mize has any kind of shot. But you could talk me into a scenario where Couples or Langer pulls a Tom Watson at Turnberry and shocks the world by being in contention. Now, would that be a bigger story than Tiger or Rory? I actually don’t think so. It would be huge in the world of golf, but I think it would almost be laughed at by people outside the sport. A 65-year-old wins the world’s most famous tournament? I think people would struggle to grasp how insane it would be. They might just use it as fodder to dismiss golf even further. I still think Tiger or Rory would have a larger cultural impact.
  4. Phil wins: I actually think this scenario would be the funniest, watching Phil go full troll and tie Arnold Palmer with seven majors would be incredibly entertaining. This also feels like the least likely scenario since he can’t seem to break 70 on the LIV Tour, but Kiawah proved he possesses the ultimate gambler’s mentality. As long as he still has chips, he’s not leaving the table.
  5. Amateur wins: This would be cool, but again, it would not really blow up beyond the world of golf. Let’s say, for example, that Sam Bennett played the tournament of his life and won the Masters. Would that come close to capturing people’s interest like the previous four scenarios? No chance. It seems like Bennett has a chance to be a solid professional golfer soon. So would it really be THAT shocking? Not to people who barely follow golf. Unless the amateur winner was Mathew McClean — an optometrist from Northern Ireland who got in by winning the U.S. Mid-Am — I don't know that anyone would truly see it as a Cinderella story. They’d see it as the next good player going on a heater. I actually covered the Masters where Bryson DeChambeau got himself into contention through two days as an amateur and I’ll say this: No one thought that was a better story than Jordan Spieth potentially winning back-to-back Masters. It would be compelling, but I’d still rank it last in these scenarios.

FrequentFader: You won the Masters ticket lottery and have one ticket to sell: what is your asking price for that ticket? Hypothetically, of course

I feel like this one is pretty simple. I wouldn’t sell it at all.

I’d fly my kid down and spend the day walking around with her. I’d nudge her to the front of the rope line and I’d spend half my day looking at the smile on her face. That might sound cornball, but what difference is $3000 — or whatever that ticket could fetch — going to make for me financially? Probably not a lot.

But walking around with someone who loves golf as much as I do, someone who will remember that day forever?

Yeah, I’d take that in a heartbeat.

Kevin Van Valkenburg is the Editorial Director of No Laying Up.

Email him at kvv@nolayingup.com

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