Imagine a perfect spring day in Augusta, with blue skies, wispy white clouds – colorful azaleas – and a stiff breeze through the pine trees. It’s a great day at the Masters™ and the spectators are loving it. Sarah and I have been fortunate to attend as spectators in many of the last 25 years.
Last week, Thursday’s round of the tournament featured Jordan Spieth firing a first-round 66, consisting of six birdies and no bogies.
Christopher Clarey of The New York Times wrote, “On screen, Augusta National looks majestic because of the flora, the water hazards and the color palette, from bleach-white bunkers to fairways a… deep green… But in person, much of the course’s majesty resides in the panoramas: the long views through the big trees, vistas made possible by all the rises and falls in a golf-scape that is broader and more open than expected.”
Ovations greeted 66 year old Tom Watson at every hole in the second round on Friday, a heartfelt send off for the two-time Masters champion after playing the Tournament for 43 years. He nearly made the cut this year.
Twenty-two year old Jordan Spieth shot a 2-over-par 74 on Friday in a windy, brutal second round. He carried a one-shot lead into the weekend over Rory McIlroy, the number three-ranked player and a four-time major champion. But then McIlroy fell out of the picture.
Jordan Spieth was still the story on the next blustery day under clear blue skies, breaking Arnold Palmer’s record for most consecutive rounds led at the Masters, but Spieth double-bogeyed twice on the second nine, including on the 18th hole, and fell back to the rest of the field for the second straight day after holding a lead of four or more during the day.
"It wasn't ideal," Spieth told CBS about the bogey, double-bogey Saturday finish. "Climb back nicely to get to -2 on the day, even par, I thought was a fantastic score. Two-under with three holes to go, I figure par-par-par and I got really wayward from there."
The defending champ was leading by just one heading into Sunday that began as a chilly morning. The last defending champion to hold a 54-hole lead or co-lead was Tiger Woods in 2002; Tiger's win is also the last time anyone has won back-to-back championships.
In a stunner, a surprise ending, England’s Danny Willet shot a final round 67 and was the beneficiary of then-leader Spieth’s trouble at the 12th. Willett became the first Englishman to win since Nick Faldo in 1996.
Spieth came off 18, donned the green jacket he had won in 2015, and then helped Danny Willett put on his own jacket – several times, for the worldwide TV audience and for the crowd outside the clubhouse. It was a solemn moment for Spieth and his followers, and a joyful moment for Willett. A headline and story in the Washington Post proclaimed the next morning, “He lost the Masters, but Jordan Spieth’s athletic grace can inspire us all.
And so ended a great Masters Week at the National, with pimento cheese and other sandwiches at $1.50 to $3, and where a coffee and breakfast can be had for $5-6. Every one of the army of volunteers and employees of the Tournament is courteous and more than pleasant. As Bobby Jones himself wrote, “It has been the aim of the Augusta National Golf Club from the inception of the Masters Tournament to provide as many facilities and conveniences for the spectator as possible.”
Here’s the surprise ending: An inspiration!
A few months before the Masters, Sarah said, “Donald, you said the Order of St. Helena has a new Convent and Guest House in North Augusta. Why don’t we stay there?”
With hotel rooms running triple or more their normal rates, and with my desire to see and experience the stunning new Episcopal Convent and Guest House, we made a reservation. I am embarrassed to tell you the nightly cost.
As it turned out, we were the only guests for the week in the eight bedroom, eight bath Guest Quarters! It was the cleanest and quietest accommodation in the Augusta area, for sure.
I was privileged to worship with the sisters of the Community several mornings, and to enjoy their hospitality, grounded in prayer and care.
I was surprised to have been drawn to that Community, and to be inspired there. Inspired to offer to preach at the Church of the Holy Comforter in Augusta on Masters Sunday, and to have that offer accepted. There too, Sarah and I were the ones who received inspiration, hospitality, and care. Another surprise!
Thanks be to God.
The 2017 Masters Tournament is April 3-9.
Sorry, I have no badges for that event. But email me for info on accommodations.
Photos available from Donald Fishburne and at
Augusta National Golf Club www.masters.com
The Order of St. Helena www.osh.org
The Church of the Holy Comforter http://www.holycomforterchurch.org/
By Donald Fishburne