I landed in Atlanta as the clock struck midnight, and by the time I found the rental car place it was close to 1 a.m. I found a rest stop just outside Augusta at 3:30 a.m. and slept for 2 hours, then stopped at a Starbucks for breakfast (though down here they call them Waffle Houses). I took the mandatory picture of the Augusta city sign and of Tiger’s table at Arby’s, picked up my pass then drove to the course.
By now it was 6:15 a.m., and people were already lining up. I checked the weather app on my phone, as it wasn’t yet raining. It still said 100 percent chance, but not all day (as it had ALL WEEK). Too soon to thank the golf gods, I then checked Stubhub, Craigslist and eBay for Saturday pass prices. Thanks to Tiger Woods and Phil playing terrible, and a guy named Patrick Reed suddenly "running away" with the tournament, one-day passes had plummeted in price. There were literally hundreds available for under $1,500 each, with a couple as low as $1,200. That’s how quickly tables turn in sports—how quickly Patriots-Eagles can become Browns-Buccaneers.
All of a sudden no one thought Jordan Spieth could win...or Rory...or Rickie...or DJ, JT or Rose. More importantly, the "I was there when Tiger" moment was not going to happen. That said, the pass I held in my hand still felt priceless. I still believed Jordan or Rory could come back and win this. I still believed I might witness history of a non-Tiger kind. (Weather permitting, of course.)
I left my phone in the car with one last text to my wife, and walked past military/police personnel armed to the teeth with assault rifles and other officers with K-9 dogs towards Augusta National’s front gate. They opened the gates WAY early, before 7 a.m. according to someone with a watch. That let the early crowd get into the shops before the line built up, and let me buy the deck of cards I coveted, a Tervis tumbler for my collection and a hat for my son. I met Ann at the Press Building, had breakfast with her and got the grand tour, even garnering a nod from my wave to the legendary John Feinstein. (I could have sat and talked to that man for hours.) Ann actually had a job to do, so I left her to it and headed for the course.
It was a heckuva day. I got my picture taken in front of the clubhouse (lest I ever forget I was there). I met Jared Goff and called him Nick Foles (no slight intended to either), and, being a diehard Patriots fan, almost pushed him into Rae’s Creek which (as the Los Angeles Rams quarterback) Goff wouldn’t have understood, and likely would have gotten me punched by the huge dude with him. I congratulated the guy I thought was Nick Foles on a great game and he just nodded, likely viewing me in the same light as that moron on the plane.
I followed Tiger Woods for 13 holes then gave up on him, hurrying back towards the first tee to pick up Jordan Spieth and Rory. Given the massive crowds following both Spieth and Rory, I had to pick who I wanted to see most. My son’s favorite golfer is Spieth. Mine is Rory. I went with Rory and was able to watch him play a complete 15 holes and part of two more. In the process I was also able to watch Jordan play eight holes, my pre-tournament favorite Justin Thomas play four and a guy named Patrick Reed play five holes. Turns out my decision to go with Rory was a wise one. He had a remarkable (and lucky) round that could have been even better if he hadn’t hooked a shot into the flowers on Amen Corner. Everyone around seemed convinced Rory was going to come back and win this. I was equally wishful but far more skeptical. I’m a firm believer that Rory will NEVER win another Major until he hires a caddie that he trusts to give him second reads on greens. (Part of what makes Jordan Spieth and Michael Greller so productive.) Rory might be the most talented player in the world, but (as much as I love him) he’s also a terrible putter.
In all I walked the entire course (except for Hole 5) twice, including one hole with Rory’s dad (puffing on a cigar) and three holes (Amen Corner) with Jordan’s mom (in her white UA Spieth hat) and dad.
Jordan’s dad and I were standing beside each other—myself, at least, in awe—as Jordan hit a miraculous shot from the pine straw to the green on 13. "Amazing," I said to him. He looked at me like I’d just called him Nick Foles, as if to say... "Amazing? That’s routine."
I walked over 20 miles total when the day was said and done. I had two lemonades, two Peach Ice Cream Sandwiches, one bag of chips, one chicken sandwich and one BBQ sandwich. I made one last run through the Golf Shop for a few souvenirs for family and people who were helping my son with his golf back home. I ended up in line behind a guy whose total purchase was just over $11,000. (The guy bought 116 hats alone!)