BBC BLOGS - Rob Hodgetts
IN ASSOCIATION WITH
« Previous | Main | Next »

Under the tree with Beefy

Post categories:

Rob Hodgetts | 05:01 UK time, Thursday, 9 April 2009

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."

'Both' revealed he has had wagers on Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy this week, though he didn't say how much and I didn't ask. That's like asking a man what colour underpants he's wearing.

"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.

Ross Fisher

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:

Mark Reason
Sunday Telegraph

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.

John Hopkins
The Times

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.

Brian Keogh
Irish Sun

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.

Bill Pennington
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.

Tiger Woods shares a joke with Robert Karlsson

Lawrence Donegan
The Guardian

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.

Ken Brown
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.

David Facey
The Sun

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.

Sam Torrance
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.

Iain Carter
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.

John Marvel
Golf Digest

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:

Rob Hodgetts
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.

Danny Lee

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?

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Hope your partly right Rob. My money is on Ogilvy, got him at 20-1 and i'm quietly confident but as always it really depends what mood Tiger is in. An on form Tiger is virtually unstoppable and a joy to behold.

  • Comment number 2.

    As much as I'd love Padraig Harrington to win his fourth major at Augusta, I find respected golf journalists predictions based on "thinking well" (Brian Keogh- Irish Sun), noticing "he's got that look in his eye" (Lawrence Donegan- The Guardian), and being "unpredictable and completely unfazed" (John Hopkins
    The Times) utterly ridiculous.

    Harrington suprised many at the USPGA, and is undoubtedly a contender, but I agree with Ken Brown's view that there are at least 30 in with a shout if Tiger wasn't there......which he is!!

  • Comment number 3.

    I'm on Zach Johnson at 40's (each-way with the layer paying out 6 places!) and I'm glad that he hasn't really been mentioned by many. He's not the biggest hitter of the ball but what he lacks in distance he makes up for in accuracy and his short game is excellent.
    I've also took the 6/4 about there being a hole in one as I am sure there will be at least one!!

  • Comment number 4.

    PontiusPartridge,

    couldn't agree more, although my favourite of the comments is from Iain Carter with "He hits the ball high". Stenson will be fuming that his secret weapon has been exposed to all his competitors - hit the ball high, like all great plans it's just so simple.

  • Comment number 5.

    I fancy Robert Karlsson... very patient player and his putting ability is outstanding. Beyond that I've gone for an Ian Poulter each-way... just because he's been there or thereabouts in a couple of the previous majors and might use some of the Ryder Cup spirit he had, playing in the US last year.

  • Comment number 6.

    Ogilvy hasn't a hope and Tiger has a relatively poor strike rate here compared to courses like Bayhill and Firestone. Only one man for me this year Padraig Harrington, goes well at Augusta with 2 top 10's in the last 2 years and now has an amazing nerve in the majors. If Paddy goes head to head with someone up the back 9 on Sunday then it's 3 down 1 to go for the Paddy Slam. Also i expect to see McIlroy high all the leaderboard all week.

  • Comment number 7.

    The Korean, KJ Choi to go close!!

  • Comment number 8.

    I'll be looking out for a few players this year. Ian Poulter has always been a favourite of mine, as has Luke Donald. I'll have my eye on McIlroy too, he's destined for greatness. I fancy a couple of Americans to do well also. Hunter Mahan. Very glad John Marvel chose him as a player to watch. I have him down to suprise a few. Also, Anthony Kim, another good player. And, of course, Tiger. He'll be there or there abouts, without a shadow of a doubt.

    And why has nobody mentioned Camilo Villegas? He's in a tough threesome but I'm sure he'll do well.

  • Comment number 9.

    I agree with John Hopkin's and Bill Pennington's assessment of Stewart Cink.

    A very under-rated player, whose record in the Major Championships is excellent.

    Perhaps the fact he has never been a prolific winner on the PGA Tour prevents him from being recognised as one of the better players who has yet to win a Major.

  • Comment number 10.

    Alvao Quiros

    The Spanish Sensation - shot 68 in the second round last week after a first round disaster

    Hits the Ball Miles and Miles and chips and Putts like the former Spanish Sensation Seve

  • Comment number 11.

    Tano,
    Each of Stewart Cink's five Tour wins has come the week following a Major.
    He'll just be using this week to warm up for Hilton Head!

  • Comment number 12.

    If Ogilvy is in one of the last groups out on Sunday then I think this tough Aussie will close the opposition out. He remains cool under pressure and has the game for this course.
    If GO isn't there or thereabouts then its got to be Tiger's Masters.

  • Comment number 13.

    I've backed 4 Aussies Oligivy, Scott (due a major) Baddeley and Appleby plus KJ Choi. Strange to hear Wayne O' Grady saying no Aussie has ever won it, I never realised that, could be an omen, here's hoping.

  • Comment number 14.

    It does seem as if Tiger being back has brought the best out of Phil Mickelson, and he seems to be more relaxed than ever so lefty is my pick. I just think the chances of a three in the row for Harrington are fairly remote. But for one to watch, Paul Casey could have another good week after winning last week.

  • Comment number 15.

    Has everyone forgotten about Steve Stricker. Ok so hes not the favourite choice, but he's always there or there abouts at the masters he's always appeared to like Augusta. A mate has money on Greg Norman, what a waste of £2, cant see him making the cut honeslty.



  • Comment number 16.

    Each way bets on Alvaro Quiros and Pat Perez both + 100/1 shots , feel
    thats where the value lies.Have a feeling Ernie will go well.

  • Comment number 17.

    I'd love Garcia or Scott to win. They are both due a major and they've both come in under the radar and can make the most of it. I hope its not one of the favourites!

  • Comment number 18.

    MB2009: Stricker? There or thereabouts??

    Where? Or Whereabouts??

    Best finish 10th, missed as many cuts as he's made. No chance.

  • Comment number 19.

    I fancy Danny Noonan, chased hard by Ty Webb....

  • Comment number 20.

    Ah come on, has no one spotted the outrageous form that Gary Player is in, I mean he had a hole in one in the par 3 tournament, admittedly it was his third shot after putting it in the water but it was just as hard to do. He's making a mockery of 10,000-1 odds for the tournament, put a monkey on him, you can't lose!!

    http://pgatourist.blogspot.com/

  • Comment number 21.

    PontiousPartridge - I have to say, I know what Brian means. I've seen that look too, and don't forget, Woods hasn't come up against Harrington mark II yet in majors. Obviously Ken's right, there are lots of realistic contenders - but for the purposes of this game we had to nail a few down.

    LinekerLegend and Mathletic - good shouts on Johnson and Villegas.

    Kwini - like your Cink gag. And MB2009 - Stricker. Really?

    Stables - What about the Dalai Lama? Big hitter, the Lama - long.

  • Comment number 22.

    I think the one golfer Tiger wouldnt like to see on the back nine is Harrington . Go for 4 Padraig .

    As for Cink I think he might go close again this week hence my pick in GWS game although like Kwin said he has won the week after a major hopefully he can peak for the right week soon and get a major his game deserves.

  • Comment number 23.

    Oh and by the way I think Harrington will clinch the third leg of the Paddy Slam .

  • Comment number 24.

    Or Doctor Frankenpuffs....

  • Comment number 25.

    Rob,

    Any idea why Danny Lee didn't play a competitive tournament in the States to prepare for the his first trip to Augusta National. I'm sure he would have received sponsors invites because of his profile.

    He appears very daunted by the challenge facing him this week and perhaps a few rounds against some of the world's best would have eliminated the nerves somewhat.

    Rory McIlroy, in contrast, has played four very difficult courses across the pond and is far more confident heading into the Masters after performing admirably each time.

  • Comment number 26.

    The smart money has to be on Tiger or Phil. But i think that we would all love to see Norman walk away with it. K

  • Comment number 27.

    what a surprised the live video feeds aren't working again...

  • Comment number 28.

    Tano - Danny said he really wanted to play Bay Hill but had a really bad cold from the New Zealand Open and pulled out. He says he's not sure what exemptions he's got when he turns pro, but he might also having been saving an exemption for when he can make money towards his card.

  • Comment number 29.

    Thanks Rob, hopefully he's feeling fit and ready for the challenge ahead.

  • Comment number 30.

    Have patience, Nedwin, they're working on it. Furiously.

  • Comment number 31.

    If I had any money, I'd put it on Ian Poulter. This is his type of course and it's time for him to realise his potential.

  • Comment number 32.

    No one seems to have mentioned Sean Ohair - I have just got on at 28-1 each way. He is putting better than anybody and is in form - He'll be in the top 5. Ian Wagstaff in New Zealand

  • Comment number 33.

    Great blog, Rob, you lucky devil! Keep us all posted.

  • Comment number 34.

    Just watch Nick Watney.A dark horse ,I know, but he is in good form and "knows" what it is like to be in contention.As an Irish exile my heart says Harrington,I WISH.

 

BBC iD

Sign in

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.