AUGUSTA – The forecasters were calling for an inch or better of rain here Monday, but the early birds among the practice round ticket-holders were treated to merely an annoying, eyeglass-spotting mist.
It looked more like Pebble Beach out there than Augusta National, and the marine layer was thick. Weather-warning signs posted around the course foretold of worse conditions to come. Shortly after 10 in the morning, the sirens sounded, informing the fans of strong storms on the way. Shortly thereafter, patrons were told to leave the course.
Casual golf fan update: Tiger Woods is still not playing in this Masters.
Back in the good ol’ days – 2013 – you had to get here early to catch Woods on the course for a practice round. Someone else had to fill the role of first off, and those honors Monday went to two guys who symbolize the new generation of players who can blow it by Woods off the tee – Gary Woodland and Bubba Watson.
Monday also was the first chance for the public to get a look at the new 17th fairway, now without the defenses of the Eisenhower Tree. No sign that the old loblolly pine that bedeviled a President’s tee shot was ever there, except for the slightest lines in the grass – like glass etchings – where new sod was laid.
“Going to be a lot of birdies here this year,” said one long-time gallery marshal. In last year’s Masters, the 17th played as the sixth-most difficult holes.