AUGUSTA — If there is an early favorite heading into this week’s Masters, Phil Mickelson may have seen him up close and profitable.
“Rickie Fowler and I were partners (Tuesday), and he went on a tear,” he said. “He shot 30 on the front nine, he eagled 13, he birdied 17 and 18, threw another one in on 15, I think. He just played remarkable golf. It was fun to have him as my partner.”
With his good fortune, Mickelson and Fowler beat Jason Dufner and Dustin Johnson with a little money on the line.
How much money changed hands? It wasn’t disclosed, but it was more than $5. That much is known because of a $1 bet Mickelson lost to a patron at the back of the sixth green.
“He was mouthing off about ‘hard shot, get this up and down, no chance — blah, blah, blah,’” Mickelson said. “And it wasn’t that hard a shot, and I should have gotten it up and down, and I did hit a good shot. I had a 7-footer straight uphill, and I missed it, and I had to pay him. That’s what happens when you lose” Mickelson was then asked if he always carried dollar bills.
“I had to get a $5 from a caddie,” he said. “I don’t (carry small bills).”
Harris English and Chris Kirk both believe the time is coming again where a first-time Masters player will be wearing a green jacket — if not this year, then very soon. The last time a first-time player won the Masters was
Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979. The only other two to accomplish the feat were Horton Smith, in the tournament’s inaugural year of 1934, and
Gene Sarazen in 1935.
“Yes, the experienced guys like Phil Mickelson,
Adam Scott and Sergio Garcia, who know every inch of the place may have an advantage,” English said. “But there are 24 really good players here. Obviously they are good enough to win because they got here.”
Kirk was a little bit more specific.
“I wouldn’t expect the rule that first-timers don’t win the Masters to last another five years.”
English is one of the players being talked about as the one who could break the first-time slump, and by the looks of the tee times for Thursday and Friday, he should be playing in a comfortable grouping.
English will play with former Georgia teammate
Russell Henley, joining Lee Westwood in Thursday’s final threesome.
“Yeah, that should make it easier,” English said. “I’ve played a lot of golf with Russell. It should be fun.”
Kirk was the last player off the course Tuesday evening.
He was getting some pointers along the way from perennial Masters favorite Ernie Els, but Els isn’t the only one who will offer Kirk advice this week.
Kirk’s caddie is Scott Tway, the brother of former Wheeler High School standout and PGA champion Bob Tway. Scott Tway has caddied in 15 previous Masters.
Charlie Rymer, a Georgia Tech graduate and former PGA Tour professional who serves as a Golf Channel analyst, is looking forward to the NCAA championships later this spring, and he’s hoping to see his Yellow Jackets contending for a title.
“I can’t believe, with all the success, that Georgia Tech hasn’t won a national championship yet,” he said.
Rymer believes that could change this year, particularly with former Harrison High School star Ollie Schniederjans playing as well as he has been.
“I know they are playing well. I know Schniederjans is having a good year, and they just won (the Valspar Invitational) down in Florida.”
Rymer and the Golf Channel will televise the NCAA championships at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan., from May 23-28.
Augusta National chairman Billy Payne
was the driving source behind bringing the 1996 Olympics — which featured the stadium that would become Turner Field as its centerpiece — and he’s an Atlanta Braves fan. But Payne is staying as far away as he can from offering an opinion on the Braves’ move to Cobb County.
“There’s no way I’m touching that one,” he said.
Scott served Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer
and the rest of the former champions bugs at Tuesday night’s annual champions’ dinner. No, they aren’t real bugs. They’re Moreton Bay bugs, an Australian-style lobster. “The bugs are here,” the Australian Scott said. “I picked the bugs because I like them. They are one of my favorite foods back home. I thought it would be nice to have something really local to serve. Hopefully, the other guys can get past the name and enjoy a nice bit of our seafood from home.”
Also on the menu was Pavlova, a meringue-style pudding with fruit that Scott’s mother makes.
The chefs at Augusta National were going to try their hand at Pam Scott’s
“This is going to be, maybe, a little trickier for them,” Scott said. “Hopefully, they get it right.”