Graeme McDowell escaped Augusta’s greatest curse despite firing a hole in one at the final hole in the Par-3 Contest.
No winner of the annual Par-3 has gone on to win the Masters but McDowell feared the worst when he holed a 52 degree wedge from 114 yards at the ninth, spinning it back into the cup.
He said: “I don’t think I’ve ever been leader in the clubhouse and hope somebody comes and beats me. It is a lot of fun. It’s a little bit like an Opening Ceremony for the week, everybody out on the course enjoying themselves and a great week for us to enjoy the atmosphere, as well.”
The Irish are out in force at Augusta National with business tycoons JP McManus and Dermot Desmond seen hugging Tiger Woods earlier this week.
But who could have guessed that Doonbeg Golf Club in far western County Clare would be given a publicity shot seen in the Far East thanks to the doyen of American sports writers, Furman Bisher.
Dressed in his familiar pork-pie hat, the 91-year old retired sports columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution sported a blue Doonbeg polo as he was interviewed by Japanese TV on the eve of his 61st Masters.
“I’ve been to Doonbeg three times,” Bisher told me. “I’ve got great friends there in Leonard Long and Buddy Darby. It’s a special place.”
In 1949, Bisher landed the only interview ever granted by Shoeless Joe Jackson concerning his involvement in the 1919 “Black Sox” scandal - the scandal of the Chicago White Sox team that had eight member banned for life for throwing the World Series.
Rated as one of America’s top five columnists by Time magazine in 1961, he’s had a front row seat at some of the greatest sports events of the last 60 years and covered every Kentucky Derby since 1950 and every Super Bowl bar the first.
Sergio Garcia is a man of wildly conflicting emotions.
Twelve months ago the controversial Spanish star slammed the course set up as he slumped to weekend rounds of 75 and 74 to finish in a tie for 38th.
“I don’t like it, to tell you the truth,” Garcia said. “I don’t think it is fair. Even when it’s dry you still get mud balls in the middle of the fairway. It’s too much of a guessing game.” Asked what should be done, Garcia added, “They can do whatever they want. It’s not my problem. I just come here and play and then go home.”
Days later he made a grovelling apology and he now appears to be a fan again.
Arriving at Augusta this week, he ordered is courtesy car to stop, got out and snapped a photo of Magnolia Lane and the 61 trees that line the entrance to the clubhouse.
A short time later, he uploaded the photo to his Facebook page with the caption: “Always a special place.”
Is Padraig Harrington Ireland’s answer to Bernhard Langer, the two time Masters champion renowned for his meticulous attention to detail?
The answer, it would appear, is a resounding “Jawohl”.
Playing a solo practice round this week, Harrington surveyed the slopes on the first green and promptly whipped a spirit level out of his bag in his efforts to map the subtle breaks near certain pin positions.
He also spent time drawing lines on the soles of his wedges with a marker to indicate the exact amount of bounce he’ll require on his favourite weapons when the action gets under way today.
If you’re wondering what the green jacketed members of Augusta National think of Tiger Woods, you only had to listen to the annual address to the media by club chairman Billy Payne.
Talk about a sharp rap over the knuckles for the philandering world No 1.
“Finally, we are not unaware of the significance of this week to a very special player, Tiger Woods. A man who in a brief 13 years clearly and emphatically proclaimed and proved his game to be worthy of the likes of Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. As he ascended in our rankings of the world’s great golfers, he became an example to our kids that success is directly attributable to hard work and effort.
“But as he now says himself, he forgot in the process to remember that with fame and fortune comes responsibility, not invisibility. It is not simply the degree of his conduct that is so egregious here; it is the fact that he disappointed all of us, and more importantly, our kids and our grand kids. Our hero did not live up to the expectations of the role model we saw for our children.”
Payne added: “Is there a way forward? I hope yes. I think yes … I hope he now realizes that every kid he passes on the course wants his swing, but would settle for his smile.”