#AskAlan Mailbag: Best day to attend the Masters? And are Augusta’s greens really *that* difficult?

April 5, 2019

What’s better than one #AskAlan per week? According to my editors, two. So we’ve recently begun a new tradition: for the midweek edition I shall answer queries about the just completed tournaments and related concerns. For a second column every Friday, we can entertain more miscellania, venturing into the dark, shadowy recesses of your collective conscious. Thanks as always for the questions…

How bananas would it have been had ANWA sent off the group playing for the last 10 spots as an 11-some? #AskAlan -@DavidAStorm

They should have! That would have been great theater and messy fun. I hate it when multi-person playoffs get split up into different groups — it’s not exactly sudden death when folks have to wait half an hour to find out how much a putt means. Watching all of that unfold, I couldn’t help but wish Fred Ridley had waved a magic wand and cancelled the playoff, letting all 11 girls advance. Would anyone have been bothered by this goodwill gesture? Augusta National has always played by its own rules.

Could an 18-handicap be airdropped to the 72nd hole of the Masters with a 4-shot lead and bring it home? –@KenRyan_MKE

No f’ing way. With the 18th hole swarming with fans and the whole world watching? He’d be shaking so hard it would be difficult to tee up the ball. Guaranteed this overwhelmed chop would slice one into the trees. Then he’d catch the punch-out heavy. One more punch shot and he’s finally back in the fairway, 240 yards out. A cold-topped 3-wood gets him halfway there. A full-blown panic attack has now set in. A skanked 9-iron into the front-right bunker. First try stays in the sand. Next one is thinned over the green. The ensuing pitch is too hot and runs off the green. He stubs the next one, advancing it about three feet. Blades the follow-up all the way to the back of the green. First putt is way too strong and rolls off the green…and then 20 yards down the fairway. Chunks the chip. Putts the next one onto to the front of the green. Leaves the 20-footer six feet short. Babies that one to six inches. Our would-be hero taps in for a 16 and doesn’t even finish in the top 25.

Pimento Cheese or egg salad? -Paul (@prhughes)

Egg salad every day and twice on Sunday … literally. It’s my go-to afternoon snack during Masters week. I open up the sandwich and embellish it with BBQ potato chips, pickles and Texas Pete’s hot sauce. So good.

What is the best thing you’ve ever bought in the Augusta National merchandise mecca? -@Adam_Stanley

The only thing: a striped polo at my first Masters, in ’94. Augusta National has enough money, they don’t need mine.

It's hard to top the scene at Amen Corner.
It's hard to top the scene at Amen Corner.
Getty Images

Good morning Alan. If a fan could choose any day to attend the the Masters, which would you recommend? I’m sure any day is special, but which day is your favorite? -@LuciaHoff

Friday or Saturday, depending on what kind of fan you are. If you want a glimpse of aging past champs enjoying their deserved victory lap or the good vibes of starry-eyed amateurs, Friday is good fun as all of these folks fight to make the cut. And of course all the big names are still on hand before a surprising number fall victim to the cut line. For more hardcore fans, Saturday is a great spectating experience. You might get a Jeff Knox sighting! There is always a glittery pairing that goes off early — you can follow them with few other fans and the players are typically hyper-aggressive, trying to shoot a low round to get back on the fringe of contention. And then by the late afternoon the contenders have separated themselves and you can bounce back and forth between the most relevant groups, setting up the drama of the final round. The Sunday vibe is electric but you simply miss too much meaningful golf if you’re divorced from your TV and phone.

The exchange between Rahm and his caddy at the Players was riveting stuff. Especially when Rahm went on his own with a bad decision. When will the networks make this standard for the broadcast? #AskAlan  -Adrian (@ARGonzalez22)

I agree this electronic eavesdropping is always a highlight, but, collectively, the players hate it. They think of it as a private, possibly vulnerable moment that is shared with the world without their consent. It’s a curious position, since they’re paid entertainers who should be striving to maximize their fanbase. I think in years to come many players (and their caddies) will be mic’d up for the telecasts but that is a different experience — they are hyper-aware of everything that is being said and so there is a showbiz element to the proceedings.

With the start of Major Championship season days away, what venue are you most looking forward to? -Dave @djdlettieri

Everyone knows how much I love Pebble Beach, but I’m going to say Royal Portrush. I did a scouting trip there last July on my way to Carnoustie. It’s one of the most awesome courses I’ve ever played — incredible terrain, endless variety of holes, heroic shot values, really cool greens and jaw-dropping beauty. If the wind blows it’s going to be a beast. And you can’t ignore the fraught history that has kept Portrush out of the rota for nearly seven decades. It is going to be incredibly meaningful for golf to unite the entire Irish island, especially in these Brexit-inflected times.

Tiger is rumored to have planned a series of one-on-one matches akin to his duel w/ Phil. Hate to think that these kind of charades are replacing his competitive footing in tournaments. What other purpose can be pinned to it? And when does he plan to square off w/ Brooks Koepka? -Susan @zuzanryan

It’s all about expanding his brand, er, growing the game. Tiger is looking to move product and scoop up golf design deals. What better way to break into a new market than take on the local hero? I’d be amazed if Hideki Matsuyama isn’t part of the reputed Tokyo shindig. Then a match versus Shubhankar Sharma in Mumbai, followed by one versus Haotong Li in Beijing. Steiny can hear the cash registers ringing! I know some fans still swoon over Brooks’s biceps and Brando-esque brooding, but I’m not sure he has the personality or starpower to warrant a match like this. Though Tiger-Phil vs. Brooks-Dustin would be great fun.

A majestic view of 2019 Open host, Royal Portrush.
A majestic view of 2019 Open host, Royal Portrush.

What hole at ANGC would take you the longest to make birdie on? Assume tournament tees. -@WillKnights3

It’s not 8, which I birdied the one time I played Augusta National. Or 12, where my chip from long and right of the green hit the flagstick and stopped inches from glory. Or 15, where I three-putted for par. Should I go on? Nah, I’ll just say 11, which from the back-tees is the toughest drive on the property, followed by one of the most dangerous approaches. Even with a good drive I’d be looking at a 5-iron in, or maybe a 4, or maybe, gulp, a hybrid. Yikes.

Tiger says that what sets Augusta apart is the speed and slope of the greens. They seem like something us mortals could never understand watching on the TV. Are they that hard? #AskAlan -@GolfJoss

Yes. You gotta stand next to the 6th green, or 14th, or 9th, or 7th, or 1st, to understand just how crazy they are.

WHERE ARE THE SQUIRRELS AT AUGUSTA NATIONAL?!? I will ask this question every year until we know the truth. -@Luke_boatright

Try DisneyWorld, along with all the Augusta locals. The schools sync their calendar to Masters week, so all the Augusta families rent out their homes for exorbitant amounts and take their kids to Orlando. Every time I’ve had to call a homeowner with a problem or question when they answer the phone “It’s a Small World” is playing in the background. It’s rather squirrelly.

If you don’t use Jack Nicholson in the lede in the mythical world where you’re writing the ’97 Masters gamer, what’re your first few lines, or at least the focus (hug with Earl? the final putt)? -@ShawnFury

This is a reference to Rick Reilly’s actual lead in his SI game story. It’s a great piece of writing but I wondered aloud on Twitter if Reilly might want to have a redo on the lede — it always seemed kind of random to me to begin such a historic story with … an actor. Reilly responded with typical delicacy, calling me a dick in a tweet. It’s impossible to answer your question because it often comes down to your reporting/access. What if I had happened upon Arnold Palmer watching the finish on a TV in the clubhouse? Or gotten Earl and Tiger walking to their car in the parking lot that night? Those stolen moments often yield a memorable lede. Reilly glimpsed Nicholson slap Tiger on the back and made that his. I know you loved it, me not so much. It’s a subjective thing, which it what makes it fun to discuss.

What’s the next adventure your laptop has without you? -@_Qonquistador

Presently it is at the Apple store, getting a diagnostic check. Its next adventure may be getting recycled. It’s looking increasingly likely that I’m going to have to borrow Dan Jenkins’s old typewriter to file my stuff next week.