Augusta National Golf Club
“Is this heaven?”
“No, it’s East Georgia.”
You’re going to find everything you need to know about Augusta in lots of other places. It’s the most written about, talked about course in all of golf, at least in the United States. We humbly recommend, though, checking out Adam Sarson’s terrific breakdown of the track on a hole by hole basis. If you want to discuss how to make a perfect-10 into an 11, check out Part II of our Masters preview, where we talked about how we would improve the course. Finally, in Part I of our Masters Preview, we broke down prevailing shot-shapes required for this layout (as well as a whole bunch of now irrelevant Tiger analysis–yay!). All that said, we’ll move on to other parts and try to paint the picture of the place as best we can.
What I’d like to highlight here is often overlooked about The Masters. First, not enough people realize how centrally located Augusta is within Eastbumblefucknowhere. It borders South Carolina to the east and north, the Savannah River Site (Nuclear YOTTO) to the immediate north, Georgia’s lake country to the west, and absolute nothingness to the south. This isolated location is culturally instructive. Augusta is one of the most racially diverse places I’ve ever been, and also one of the most racist places I’ve ever been. And yet, in the dozen or so times I’ve been to Augusta, every time for either high school golf tournaments or the Masters, I’ve never actually been to Augusta proper. Not once have I even come close to downtown Augusta. In my mind it doesn’t even exist.
Augusta National is an oasis of conservative ideals, Southern charm and manners, and unfettered hoity-toityness smack dab in the heart of a plebeian epicenter. I’m amazed that this doesn’t get talked about more. Washington Road is equal parts rough and tumble strip mall, fast-food joints, and check-cashing shops. In short, it’s the new, somewhat dystopian America. Washington Road is Augusta, Augusta National is not. And yet, just off these wholly populist confines sits Augusta National Golf Club – one of the last bastions of old-school civility, even older-school money, and fraternal ideals. A place that shat on Bill Gates (at the time the richest man in the world) for having the gall to publicly entreaty his desire to become a member. Put simply, the right turn from Washington Road onto Berckmans Road is the very definition of dichotomy. In society and in golf.
I’ve experienced Augusta National five times, three of which were actual tournament rounds. Each and every time, the day began around 5:00AM in Atlanta (not gonna pay $500/night to stay at a Days Inn). The drive along I-20 east is wholly unremarkable, painful even, as you drive through vast stretches of pine forest transfixed by the day that looms ahead. The relative quaintness of the exit onto Washington Road suggests that The Masters is something different, not some big-box golf tournament. Once off the exit, you head a couple blocks east, hang a right, and you’re in the (massive & free) parking lot (or whatever they call it – patron’s vehicle storage?).
The biggest change over the last few years has been the stroll from the lots to the gates. You used to park in someone’s yard, walk in through nondescript fencing, and that was that. Now, those same yards are AGNC-controlled lots (minus the houses) and feed into a corporate-ish environment not unlike that of the entrance to the Kentucky Derby. The new entrance screams “big event”, which strips just a little bit of that allure away. But that allure comes rushing back as soon as you set your eyes on the course. That moment when you realize it actually exists, it’s actually a real place, is beyond special.
Once inside the gates, the vibe is pretty much set to perma-jolliness (think Matt Kuchar) all week. The beauty and greenery of the grounds is awe-inspiring, the history permeates every nook and cranny of the premises, and the beer is remarkably fairly priced. People are exceptionally happy and decidedly content to be where they are, walking the grounds, and taking in the action. One thing Augusta has always gotten 100% right is the experience of its customers. You never once feel exploited, taken for granted, or marginalized as can all too often be the case at a lot of sports venues. In this way, it’s the very best of Southern hospitality on full display.
A truly historic event. Adam Scott nailing a 20-footer on #18 to seemingly win it (and Steve Williams somehow connected on a high five!).
Angel then stuffed a 7-iron to five feet to force a playoff. I get a rush of adrenaline even now as he stalks it up the fairway!
Then Scotty (we seriously need a nickname for him, c’mon people) provided the final act of the drama by draining a 15-footer to win his first major (and separate every female watching from their clothes).
(All GIF’s courtesy of Adam Sarson)
(all lines courtesy Ladbrokes.com, the Official Bookmaker of NoLayingUp.com)
Horses for Courses
- Sergio (20/1) – He’s been as low as 40/1 this year for those who got in early (I file Sergio plays in early February, just like my 1040-EZ). He hasn’t missed the cut here since 2008 (made the cut even while he was in the wilderness in 2010-2011) and shot 66-76-73-70 last year. It’s time. His putting is the best it’s ever been. His ball-striking is all-world. His psychology is halfway balanced. He’s our pick, without reservations.
- Matt Kuchar (20/1) – NLU is a house divided on Kuch. Soly and Neil love him. Whereas Tron and Fil get queasy at the sight of his swing and think he’s softer on Sunday than Bubba’s physio regime. Bottom line is the guy’s got a track record here, banks top-tens, and is definitely in form. Beyond that, a green jacket would justify his dad’s hilarious performance back in ’98 and bring him into the fold forever more. NLU’s developmental rush-end prospect was T3 and T8 the last two years here.
- Lee Westwood (One) (40/1) – The last four years: 2nd, T11, T3, T8. My heart melts for ballstrikers. Is his chipping good enough? We shall see.
- Rory McIlroy (10/1) – Felt like Rory was value at 7/1. His final round performance from 2011 haunts him. Question is whether his putting is good enough. From an observational perspective, that part of his game hasn’t stood out in his few appearances of ’14. His high, right to left ball flight is an absolute dream for Augusta.
- Adam Scott (10/1) – He’s in the same boat as Kuch and Rory, in that our last memory of him going into the Masters is a collapse down the stretch when he should have pulled away for the win (at Bay Hill). If he would have finished with a 65 to finish top 5 at Bay Hill, we’d be all over him like we are Rory for his 65 on Sunday in Houston. The fact is, he’s in good form coming in, he loves the track, and oh yeah, he won here.
- Graeme McDowell (66/1) – I feel like I cut a coupon to get this value. Best big-game putter in the game, works the ball right to left.
- Harris English (66/1) – Yes, he’s a rookie here. But Harris English isn’t a rookie in any sense of the word He lives two hours away in Sea Island, no doubt building upon the reps he got on this track while at UGA. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say he’ll have played Augusta at least a dozen times before Thursday rolls around. The tournament is a different animal, but he’s played the shots and then gone home and dreamed about hitting those same shots during the first week of April. That ain’t a rookie. Beyond that, English has imposed his will on the tour this year and is 3/3 in cuts made in majors. He’s the future of American golf (no disrespect to Jordan Spieth).
- Rickie Fowler (66/1) – I should not let a practice round affect a betting decision, but the dude had nine birdies and an eagle in his practice round on Tuesday. The Tuesday practice rounds when Lefty is involved are nothing to scoff at. He finished solo 6th in Houston last week, and has some value at 66/1.
- Bill Haas (80/1) – Billy’s made a SHITLOAD of money in his career, to the point where it’s almost disrespectful not to note his designation as “Member, FDIC” status after saying his name. However, something’s missing: he’s never shown up in the majors. This is surprising, as he’s won on classic courses like Congressional, East Lake, Greenbrier, and Riviera (while also raping and pillaging the new-age tracks of Palm Springs and Mississippi). It’s nothing more than a hunch, but something tells me that Billy’s hungry to get started on an actual legacy and has Augusta circled on the schedule. He’s 4/4 as far as cuts go but has never once broken 70 here. I have a hunch he shoots in the 60’s on Thursday or Friday this year. The rest is up to him.
- Ernie Els (125/1) – The Big slEazy is in like year nine of his five-year plan. He’s the best guy of his generation never to win a green jacket (results from ’00 to ’04: 2, T6, T5, T6, 2) and finished T13 LY. I’m betting Ernie has one more major rip in him. 125/1 is palatable.
- Billy Horschel (125/1) – Can’t help it. Billy Ho’s game is a mix between ZJ’s draw and Schwartzel’s gunslinger mentality. He’s crazy enough to win this thing on his first go-around (and has played it before as an SEC golfer). Billy’s “World’s Fair of Ballstriking” that he put on at Merion solidified him as a future big game hunter prospect. He may not be there yet, but I can’t help myself. I yearn for him to be in the mix on Saturday, pissing intensity all over Amen Corner.
So many possibilities here. The first inclination is a nice whiskey, but you’re going to be watching so much golf that we can’t suggest getting hammered. We only require this: On Saturday and Sunday, you must be at your television for the exact moment that Jim Nantz comes on and sets the scene. Your household must have complete silence. If that requires putting the two year old down for a nap early, or sending your family to the store for pimento cheese, then you have to be prepared to make that game time call. When Nantz finishes his lead in and drops the obligatory “Hello, friends”, you cheers everyone in your house, text your buddies, tweet it at us, and recognize that you just committed yourself to that couch until Nantz excuses you.
- Favorite Masters story ever, told at a Christmas party a few years ago by a family friend who’s spent a good bit of time at AGNC: I’m standing next to the range with a member on Thursday morning during the tournament (he didn’t say the year, but it was early 2000’s). The old range at Augusta was mega-short. Tiger is BLASTING drivers over the net onto Washington Rd. The member politely asks Tiger to refrain from doing so. Tiger nods but keeps the driver in hand and hits another couple over the net. The member then walks back up to Tiger and says “Mr. Woods, if you don’t refrain from clearing the net, on behalf of the membership, I’m going to have to ask you to leave the premises.” Tiger hits a few wedges and Stevie packs his shit up. My buddy (the member) walks back over to me and I asked him what the hell he was going to do if Tiger wanted to hit a couple more drivers. Without an ounce of irony, he replied, “I was going to have him escorted off the premises.”
- To follow up on a previous story, no definitive word on whether DJ actually made an appearance at The Natsters. The golf channel said he went home for treatment, so we’ll have to take their word for it.
- Billionaire Duffer Would Love to Belong to Storied Golf Club – What a headline. Great Bill Gates/Augusta story.
- Golf would be so much better off if Lee Trevino would’ve won a green jacket. Turns out, the guy never finished better than T10. It probably has to do with the fact that he hit almost exclusively a fade, and was never a real long hitter, but this seems like a fraternity he should belong to.
- One of my absolute favorite things about this event is the Japanese tourists. Watching them head into the merchandise tents in search of bounty is a sight to behold. Would be interesting to know how much it costs to ship a 200 lb. plastic bag of golf apparel halfway around the world when you’re a captive audience.
- The lack of distinction on what kind of beer your drinking at the tourney has always floated my boat. It’s either “domestic” or “import” – take it or leave it. What if all this time the Membership’s been serving PBR or Red Dog and nobody noticed?
- Our man, “The Big Unit,” didn’t end up nabbing that coveted Masters invite. However, he kinda lost his game since we last visited with him during the BCS (Best Coast Swing). Aphibarnrat has nothing to be ashamed of – he balled out really hard for a solid five months and will likely find form again just in time for the PGA Championship. Keep working toward that Masters appearance, brah.
- I’m split on the evolution of the event the last few years. On the one hand, the lottery is sweet and really brings a much-needed dimension to the event, but at the same time it brings in some total clowns. I’ll put it this way – it’s the one event where I won’t yell “Filet Mignon!” after a tee shot. On the other hand, there’s just too many badges these days. Talk to anyone who’s been around the event since before 2000 and they’ll lament the same thing. When Augusta gave the members a shitload of cash a few years ago and told them go out and buy up every badge that they could find on the open market, then sent those badgeholders a letter stating that they no longer had badges, well, that was sweet.
- Angel Cabrera gave us one of our favorite quotes of all time last year (paraphrasing): “I didn’t lay up when I was poor. Why would I lay up now that I’m rich?” El Pat0!
- There are six amateurs in the field this week. Five are 24 or younger. Then there’s 51 year-old Mike McCoy from Des Moines, Iowa. He’s in thanks to winning the US Mid-Am Championship. According to the The Des Moines Register, he’s an insurance executive, an 11-time Iowa amateur player of the year, and 5-time Iowa Amateur champ. He’s always dreamed about the opportunity to play the Masters (like all of us), and thanks to the very cool tradition of the tourney reserving spots for amateurs, he now will get a chance to live out this dream. Here’s hoping he makes it to the weekend!
- A word about last week: I find it just a bit ironic that a guy named “Matt Jones” won the Houston Open….. Back then they didn’t want him, now he’s hot, Augusta’s all on him.