Bill Elliott at Augusta
Our man tackles another US Masters and finds the disneyland resort of Augusta as hectic as ever...
So here we are again. This time to Augusta via Savannah and a few days R&R to get over jet-lag before swimming into the Masters and a small river of decent white wine and, some even more decent friends.
What’s new here? A lot actually. Since last year the club has bought several acres of adjoining land, crunched the houses and constructed a new and massive car park. Probably cost several million dollars but, hey, the credit crunch does not appear to be affecting the fantasyland that is this week at Augusta.
Take the room I stayed in at the Partridge Hotel here on Friday and Saturday evenings. I paid $149 for the privilege. Checking out on Sunday morning I innocently asked what my room would cost this week. “Oh, that would be $1,000 a night sir,” said the man swiping my credit card. Are there any rooms available? “No sir, we have been fully occupied for this week since last year.”
To recover from all this I took myself off to the lawn area in front of the clubhouse where I bumped into the always-admirable Jose-Maria Olazabal. After a chat about Seve and how the great man is doing – fine, relatively – I asked Ollie if he could clear up the continuing confusion over whether or not he has agreed to be Monty’s assistant captain for the 2010 Ryder Cup.
“No, I am sorry I cannot,” he grinned. “Monty has not asked me to do anything up to now.” But he says he has, I counter. Olazabal’s response was to hold his arms wide and shrug his shoulders. Spoke volumes I thought. What is it about the Ryder Cup captaincy that seems to be driving our men slightly barking in recent times?
Anyway, the sauvignon blanc remains as good as ever, as does the peach cobbler available in the clubhouse where Jim Furyk was in typical friendly form. Furyk really is one of the best of the American stars, a nice bloke with an interest in many things away from the golf course. He tells me he is playing well and that he feels as confident as ever. Just in case, I have placed a few quid on him.
When I relayed this fact to R&A boss Peter Dawson, the old boy snorted and told me that he felt everyone should keep an eye on Ben Curtis. “Everybody may have thought it was a one-off when Ben won The Open, but he’s won several other tournaments since and I feel that he has the game to win at least another Major before he is done.”
So, yes, a few pounds have now gone on Curtis. Well, I had to do it. Don’t you agree?
By the way, best quote yesterday came from the teenage lips of Rory McIlroy. Asked by an American journalist if he felt overwhelmed when he walked into Augusta National, the Belfast star grinned and said that, no, he didn’t. “Don’t get me wrong,” he added. “I’m very excited to be here, but overwhelmed, no. I can’t afford to have feelings like that if I want to do well this week. I have to try to think about this as another golf course and another golf tournament.”
That’s my boy. Keep it going Rory…
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Bill has been part of the Golf Monthly woodwork for many years. A very respected Golf Journalist he has attended over 40 Open Championships. Bill was the Observer's golf correspondent. He spent 26 years as a sports writer for Express Newspapers and is a former Magazine Sportswriter of the Year. After 40 years on 'Fleet Street' starting with the Daily Express and finishing on The Observer and Guardian in 2010. Now semi-retired but still Editor at Large of Golf Monthly Magazine and regular broadcaster for BBC and Sky. Author of several golf-related books and a former chairman of the Association of Golf Writers. Experienced after dinner speaker.
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