Under the tree with Beefy
Under the tree, Thursday lunchtime - Hanging out under the oak tree in front of the Augusta clubhouse is what the cool kids do so I adopted the old motto, even if you can beat them, go and join them anyway.
'The tree' is the place where the media, the players, the stars, the hangers-on and anyone else with the right pass mix in an orgy of chat and mutual back-slapping.
It's a no-man's land where anyone is fair game to be approached for an interview. They don't have to agree, of course.
So I approached cricket legend Sir Ian Botham. And he kindly agreed.
Beefy is here as a guest of Ian Woosnam and has been to the Masters seven or eight times before.
But the eight-handicapper finally got to open his broad shoulders on the hallowed turf on Sunday with young Woosnam.
"So what did you score?" asks I.
"I shot 93, which Woosie said was pretty good for your first time around, so I'm happy with that, really quite delighted.
"There were a couple of silly mistakes otherwise it could have been a bit better but great fun. According to the boys the greens were slow as well."
What was the hardest part?
"When you stand on the green and the hole is over here (pointing left) and Woosie says hit it over there, 90 degrees away. Remarkable, great fun, thoroughly enjoyed it. I hope to get another chance, possibly with Woosie again one day."
Impressions of Augusta on your first visit?
"The thing that strikes everybody and hits you hardest is how undulating it is - TV tends to flatten it out.
"When you walk down 10 or up 18, it's very hilly. A wonderful course. The way the place is set up and the whole ambience is really quite sensational.
"It's one of the great tournaments. It's just different - when you see how it all works and falls into place, everyone abides by the rules, no questions asked, you don't see people running on the course, there's no mobile phones or you'll get escorted off by the sheriff. Very, very impressive."
"McIlroy's a real talent. In his first season, to walk in and win in Dubai was remarkable. Why not him? He's young, has no fear - there's no reason for him to fear this place because he's never been here before."
By now Beefy's table had become free for lunch so I finished up by asking which he would choose out of cricket and golf if he could have his time again.
"If I could be as good at golf as I was at cricket I'd take golf because you can do it forever."
Once a sportsman, always a sportsman. And that's why we go to the tree.
TESTING THE SNAKEPIT
Behind the 18th green, late Thursday morning - Scurried down to join the throng in the media pen/potential snakepit behind the 18th.
This is where the TV boys snatch quick interviews and the written press grab quotes from players who are not being taken to the media centre for a formal news conference.
I thought I'd make my debut in the 'pit', as only I call it, nice and early to see England's Ross Fisher after he shot a round of 69 in his first Masters.
He seems like a good guy. He appeared to be quite fresh and relaxed still, not with that thousand-yard stare that some of them have after battling through 18 holes of a major, especially at a place like Augusta.
He was even relaxed enough to tease BBC TV man Shane O'Donoghue for not wearing a tie. He held up the pink number around the neck of the guy from Star Sports as an example. As I'm not on TV my shorts-and-trainers combo passed Fisher's sartorial eye.
He was on our flight over here, you know. Very unassuming. Squeezed into economy like the rest of us.
Here's what he had to say: "I'm reasonably delighted. It's a shame to finish a round the way I did after birdieing 16 to get to five under. Unfortunately a couple of loose shots cost me two bogeys.
"I'm slightly disappointed, if you can be with a 69 but it's my first Masters so to break 70, I'm pleased.
"I was having sneaky peaks [at the leaderboard] all the way around. I birdied two and three so I saw my name on the boards. Then I got to three or four under and thought, 'I could get used to this'. But it's all very well seeing it up there now, I want to keep it there come Sunday afternoon.
"The greens are so fast, so slopey, but I think I only had three or four scary putts. Apart from that I hit the ball in pretty decent positions.
"This is the tournament I dreamed of as a kid, then an amateur and a pro and to get into the world's top 50 and be able to play here is a tremendous achievement. I practised here a while back but nothing compares with coming in the gates on Monday, and seeing the place and all the people."
One to watch, I reckon. And a trouble-free first visit for me. Those elbows will need sharpening for the weekend, though.
PICKING THE WINNER
Augusta, Thursday morning - To help you sift through all the confusing plot lines ahead of the Masters I've done some legwork and quizzed the great and the good of the golfing media.
Here's who they reckon will win, followed by a player they each think will feature prominently at Augusta this week:
Winner - Phil Mickelson because he's won two of the last five. He's driving the ball better then ever and his short game has improved.
Watch out for - Retief Goosen. He's started playing well again and always seems to play well at Augusta however ragged his game is for the rest of the year.
Winner - Padraig Harrington. He's enigmatic, unpredictable and completely unfazed by anything.
Watch out for - Stewart Cink. He's played here a lot of times and gets overlooked. Is a better player than most people think.
Winner - Padraig Harrington will win the Masters because he's ready, he's playing well, he's putting well and he's thinking well.
Watch out for - Oliver Wilson is due a good week. He's an extremely talented player and he knows this course very well.
New York Times
Winner - If I really had to pick a winner it would be Tiger Woods.
Watch out for - Sergio Garcia, Ernie Els and Stewart Cink will be three who will go well. Garcia has got to win a major sometime and comes here completely under the radar. Cink played well here last year and has been playing better and Els could do well, especially if Tiger Woods doesn't really shine.
Winner - Padraig Harrington. Coming into form and he's found a driver. I just think he's got that look in his eye. I've seen that look before at Royal Birkdale and Carnoustie.
Watch out for - I quite fancy Oliver Wilson to do well. He's a great scrapper and gets up and down and that's what you need here. The course isn't going to play as long, which gives him a chance.
BBC Sport commentator
Winner - Tiger Woods. Coming back from injury it couldn't have gone any better. Getting through his first event was his first concern, then at Doral he was very good tee to green and his short game at Bay Hill was breathtaking. He's got to be the red-hot favourite.
Watch out for - Henrik Stenson. If you take Woods out of it you can pick 30 who have got a really good chance. Stenson has done his time. He's got the power and had an impressive victory at Sun City.
Winner - Phil Mickelson. Even though he missed the cut last week, his game suits this. I'm not convinced Tiger Woods is going to be quite match sharp enough and I think Mickelson will win three or four Masters at the very least.
Watch out for - Retief Goosen. He's also coming back to form, has a good record this year and we've seen what a good scrapper he is when he won his two US Opens.
Former European Ryder Cup captain and BBC Sport commentator
Winner - Tiger Woods. Completely. He's the best there's ever been and he's fresher than ever.
Watch out for - Rory McIlory. A great player. He's fearless, 19, got nothing to be scared of, hits it a mile and great control.
BBC Radio 5 Live
Winner - Retief Goosen. He's a proven major winner on difficult greens and has shown he can score well at Augusta. Is in form after winning the Transitions Championship so should not be lacking in confidence.
Watch out for - Henrik Stenson. He hits the ball high, showed encouraging form in Houston and has the expertise of Fanny Sunesson on the bag.
Winner - Tiger Woods. I hate to say it but I think Tiger Woods will win. If the weather holds it will be hard to bet against the greatest player of my generation, especially two weeks after he won at Bay Hill.
Watch out for - Hunter Mahan. The Euros remember him from the Ryder Cup, right? He has a well-proven temperament to play here, solid ball striking and he's patient.
And seeing as it's my blog:
BBC Sport golf blogger
Winner - Phil Mickelson. Loves it at Augusta - not that Tiger doesn't - and is in arguably the form of his life, especially with the driver. Despite winning at Bay Hill, there's the tiniest shred of doubt in my mind about Woods.
Watch out for - Geoff Ogilvy. Playing with supreme confidence, doesn't get too fazed, generally overlooked and has the bonus of not needing to get a major monkey off his back.
ARNIE'S ARMY RIDES AGAIN
Augusta, by the 1st tee, Thursday morning early - Extricating myself from slumbers at ridiculous o'clock I willed myself to the course to observe the ritual of watching the first tee shot.
Golden early morning sunshine danced off the white clubhouse as those with the right passes gathered under the old oak tree to await the start of the 73rd Masters.
Patrons were straining at the leash but were kept off the course until 0730 when the marshals (sorry, gallery guards) orchestrated a coordinated opening of the ropes.
"Come on down," cried one, in the manner of Leslie Crowther on the Price is Right, at which point battalions of speed walkers (no running allowed, of course) hared off to different parts of the course, armed with green folding Masters deck chairs.
"Must keep one part of the foot in contact with the ground at all times, Olympic rules," said a wag.
A bigger crowd than you see at some lower league footy matches had gathered to watch the great Arnold Palmer hit the first tee shot as honorary starter. Arnie duly arrived to cheers and whistles at 0745, clad in a yellow shirt, dark pants, a nice new Masters belt and white shoes.
Augusta chairman Billy Payne took to the tee for the introductions. "A fierce competitor, a man who is well loved around the world, a man who has been the face of golf for the last 50 years. Ladies and gentlemen, join me in welcoming Mr Arnold Palmer."
Arnie teed up his ball and exchanged an inaudible gag with Billy, which everyone laughed at anyway. He took one-and-a-half practice swings (I was about to count to two but he didn't get that far) and addressed the ball with his modern, big-headed driver (what would they have made of them when he first started out in the game, I wonder) and an extremely athletic stance for a man of 79.
"Oh well," he sighed as he took a last look up the fairway. We were on tenterhooks.
Bosh. He got a good one away, decent distance with just a touch of fade, into the right side of the fairway. He seemed well pleased and his smile warmed up the still cool morning air.
"Ladies and gentlemen, the 2009 has begun. Have a good week," said Billy.
Hold on to your hats, folks. We're off.
BE THE BALL, DANNY
New Zealand's Danny Lee is one of the new crop of exciting teenage hotshots in golf and a man you should start getting to know.
The South Korea-born 18-year-old won the US amateur last year, taking over from Tiger Woods as the youngest ever champion, and clinched the European Tour's Johnnie Walker Classic, still as an amateur, in February.
Lee, who says his English isn't perfect, will turn pro straight after the Masters. But judging by his press conference earlier this week, he's a bit of a character and a star in the making. He's a flavour of the likeable Lee.
Q. Could a guy like you, at your age and with your lack of experience win this week?
A. I'm having really bad nerves at the moment. Seriously. I was really shaking and wasn't swinging properly.
Q. I'm worried about you being nervous. Will you get your nerves under control if you smack it the first time?
A. Still having nerves from the media stuff.
Q. All friends, Danny.
A. I'm trying to think this is all friends and when I get nervous I can't really talk properly because my nerves are breaking down and I'm having a stomach ache, too. I'm serious.
Q. Can you describe what your time in the Crow's Nest is like? (The loft room in the clubhouse for amateurs to stay in)
A. I'm there with the British amateur champion (Reinier Saxton) and Drew Kittleson, who I played in the US amateur final. I thought it was really flash rooms but you can barley fit in there and they are really steep stairs. But it's great history and I'm sleeping where Tiger slept, so that might help me play better.
Q. You were one of the last ones on the range the other night. What were you working on?
A. I wasn't really working on my swing. I was just trying to hit the ball straight. Finally, it worked out so I left.
Q. Johnny Miller has been quoted as saying you can contend this week. Is that too much pressure?
A. I went to the amateur's party and some people have been saying that. It gives me extra pressure. I don't know why people think I'm so good at golf. Because I won the US Amateur?
Q. I see you're wearing a Masters sweater. What sort of souvenirs are you collecting this week?
A. I just bought this because it's so cold out there.
Q. I see you're not teeing off until two o'clock on Thursday afternoon.
A. You serious?