‘The Cathedral’ is quiet on eve of the Masters

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Easter Sunday at Augusta National seems a lot more quiet than most golf clubs. It’s hard to believe the Masters begins tomorrow. The temperature in Augusta is in the mid 70s, as wispy clouds float through the mostly blue sky. The only signs of a future golf tournament are the ropes lining the fairways, some signage, a couple of scoreboards by the first and 18th holes and TV towers.

Not many players are here yet. I saw Jim Furyk, Trevor Immelman, Tom Watson, Nick Faldo and Craig Stadler working on their games Sunday. The Walrus, the 1982 winner, was seen joking with members on the first tee.

Immelmann came out of the clubhouse, said a brief hello, shook hands and walked directly to the 10th tee with his caddie and instructor. The young South African looked very determined and will be trying to come back after injury. Immelman, the 2008 champion, seems to be looking for some magic that he hasn’t had since winning here.

Furyk was on the range with his father, Mike. Speaking of the new range . . . it is fit for a king. It is literally the size of the old parking lot. From the time Angel Cabrera’s putt dropped until now, the Green Jackets have been working on building the biggest range in recorded history. It is so long that everyone in the field could be hitting balls and there would be room left for more.

The new practice facility is state of the art. There are short game areas for chipping and sand shots and larger putting greens to accommodate all the competitors.

Down the line from Furyk was Faldo. When I say down the line, it was at least 20 yards.

While Faldo has little chance to win at Augusta National, Furyk does, especially after his victory in Tampa. It may actually be his best chance. Nearly 40, Furyk has found it more and more difficult to post wins as he gets older. Before his victory at the Transitions Championship, Furyk hadn’t won since the 2007 Canadian Open.

Of Furyk’s 14 Tour victories, only four (1996 Sony Open, 2000 Doral, 2001 Mercedes and 2010 Transitions) have come leading up to Augusta. In 1996 he finished 29th, 14th in 2000 and sixth in 2001, his third-best finish and only one of four top 10s at the Masters.

It will be Furyk’s 14th appearance at Augusta National, Billy Casper won his only green jacket in his 14th appearance, and both Phil Mickelson and Jack Nicklaus won green jackets in their 14th years as well.

Some of the other observations of Easter Sunday . . . the member’s tees are out on the course. On the first hole, it seems to be the length of a bowling alley from the tournament tees to the member’s tee. The yellow pine pollen that is prevalent in the South is in full bloom. It’s everywhere, on everything and much worse than usual. Any one with allergies may want to think twice or have a lot of medicine with them.

The caddies that are carrying for members Sunday are also carrying green bags filled with divot mix. Not one divot will be unfilled when the bulk of the field shows up Monday.

And yes, Augusta chairman Billy Payne was driving around checking on everything. He was like a mother hen looking over her chicks, making sure that everything was going well. If I’ve learned anything after years of coming here it’s that the membership really wants you here. They want to show off the Cathedral of Golf. When the tournament is over, the open house is done and they want their privacy back.

But during Masters Week, you are treated as well as anyone could be treated at a golf tournament.

Lastly, this wouldn’t be a proper blog without the obligatory Tiger reference. He arrived in the early afternoon and was seen hitting balls on the range around 2 p.m. EST next to Brian Gay.

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