What I think about when I think about Augusta
The Masters. Augusta. Three words but 1,000 images. What's yours?
What do you think about when you think about Augusta? I asked a number of key men this week what came into their minds. Here's what they said:
It's like being sucked into the most perfect picture that has ever been painted. Everybody gets excited going there. It tests you to the highest, most intense level. It's an amazing, electric atmosphere around the golf course. There are so many little bits that make it up to be the best event of year. Maybe because it is the same course year in, year out, we know the shots we need, we've seen shots that have or haven't been pulled off - you know the dangers and it creates that buzz.
My mind invariably drifts back to my first impression in 2003 when I played a practice round the week before the tournament. What struck me was the openness and how the ninth and 18th greens were just in the middle of a vast space. It was incredible to see it with no crowd to distract you from its beauty. Walking down the 11th fairway, when you can see the 11th green, Rae's Creek, the 12th green and 13th tee - that picture is Augusta right there in my head.
Ian Woosnam, 1991 Masters champion
I think of the biggest memory of my life, of that final round, holing the winning putt and slipping into that Green Jacket - my ultimate dream. I think of the last hole where I drove it over the bunker, then the ball being on the outside the right lip, the perfect line for a right hander and it couldn't have been any better. It is the highlight of the year for me and I'm very lucky to be a part of it. Even if I wasn't a player, I'd always go back as a spectator. It so spectacular, the old place is like the Garden of Eden.
The stunning views around the Augusta course set The Masters apart. Picture: Getty
Going down Magnolia Lane is just one of those experiences - it makes you smile. Augusta is so perfect, no-one should try to copy it. But all that beauty hides danger lurking everywhere. It's one of those golf course that takes precision to another level. You're not rewarded for good golf shots, you're rewarded for great shots. But as soon as you hit a bad one, it's one of the most penal golf courses on the planet. The examination you're given as a golfer is unlike any other. It's incredibly difficult but that's what makes it fun.
It is more an impression than anything specific. Augusta always looks great and there is a sense of excitement about returning. As the first major of the year you want to be playing your best. Specific thoughts don't happen until a few weeks before and then it is more about the atmosphere and the feeling of going there rather than technical details related to playing the course. That's pointless because it changes so much. The course you play two weeks before is not the same as the one you see in the week of the tournament.
Peter Alliss, BBC TV golf commentator
It's a very interesting place and I still love it after 40-odd years. I think of myriad things - the greenery, the colours, the crowds. The weather makes it - and I've seen it atrocious - but if it's nice, and the azaleas are in bloom it is quite stunning, like the Chelsea Flower Show. I've never found a single weed.
The clubhouse has grown but it is still very attractive and comfortable - not glitzy - just like a country club. You would think, given the surrounds, everything is served in Waterford Crystal, but it is more likely to be in plastic mugs.
It has a wonderful feel - there are no signs, no advertising, no big grandstands. I always marvel at how they control all those people with just a bit of string. Possibly some trepidation at putting a foot wrong. But the course is an oasis. The surrounding area is quite unattractive with fish and chip shops every 20 yards and huge neon signs.
Craig Connelly, Paul Casey's caddie
The thing I think about is that white suit. And how hilly the course is. But mainly the suit. It is pretty thick so you can get really hot. At least you can pack light - a couple of pairs of shorts and some T-shirts to wear under it. Hand luggage, tops. The Masters is physically tough as a caddie, but it is more mentally gruelling. You can't relax for a minute. The players are trying to land it on a 4ft x 5ft area - anything outside of that could be trouble so we have to be on our toes. I was pretty overawed the first time I went but I've been enough times now and can concentrate.
The club looks after us very well. In the new caddie house there is always food, showers, flat screen TVs. We stay in houses in Augusta rather than hotels and tend to cook in as you can't get a table anywhere before about 10pm. But the main thing for me is that I'm going there with someone who really believes he can win
Michael Vaughan, former England cricket captain and BBC TV golf reporter
For me, the Masters does what Wimbledon does for tennis. It's the start of summer and makes you desperate to get out and play golf. I've been to most sporting occasions - FA Cup finals, Champions League finals, Olympics, the Ashes, of course - but there is nothing that beats the Masters. Lord's is great and has that hush but the Masters is unique. It is not corporate and the rules on running, no mobile phones and no cameras makes it special. When I was playing cricket I wouldn't have swapped the Ashes for a Green Jacket but now I wouldn't mind one. I reckon I could make it look good.
This will be my second time there - I caddied for Lee Westwood in the par-three contest two years ago. My job will be waiting around the 18th and interviewing the players. I will be nervous, but I know quite a lot of the Europeans. I'm sure they'll get a surprise when they see my ugly mug.
Andrew Redington, photographer, Getty Images
I think of those amazing views of manicured grass, azaleas and bridges around Amen Corner. Augusta is unique because we have to shoot from outside the ropes with the spectators. A tough gig. The final putt is the key picture so I'll be hoping to nail a good one. And the Green Jacket stuff, too.
The second shots on 10 and 13 can make some really nice pictures, especially late afternoon when the shadows make stripes across the fairways. The one picture I'd still like to get is someone playing out of Rae's Creek. It does happen, but you need plenty of rain, a playable ball and a bit of luck.
A few years ago I actually got to play the course on the Monday. It was surreal. I walked around with a huge smile. I played quite well, too, which is nice - I shot 89 off a seven handicap. The whole flight home I was just holding the scorecard and grinning.
Chubby Chandler, manager of Lee Westwood, Charl Schwartzel and Darren Clarke
I just think how green and how hilly it is. It is also the anticipation of our guys getting to Thursday morning in good shape - whether they are primed and ready or whether they are nervous or have a problem with their game. I also have a lot of meetings with people from all over the world. A lot of business is done under the oak tree outside the clubhouse. We'll have food and drink every night in our "hub" house - we have clients there and the players drop by. It's not too intense a week but I wouldn't say it's fun either. It's an interesting combination of work and the adrenaline of guys playing.
Lee's whole year has been aimed at this and I would be amazed if he is not somewhere round about on Sunday evening. Charl will defend very well. The course suits him, and the Champions Dinner will be an unbelievable occasion where he will be full of pride and reminded of what last year was all about. And Darren? Who knows? How he practises seems to bear no resemblance to how he plays. As long as he enjoys going there as Open Champion and knows he's got five more years at the Masters he'll be fine.