The Masters: Saturday Augusta high five

April 12, 2014 

Fred Couples heads to the green on No. 16 after his tee shot during Saturday's third round of the Masters.

GERRY MELENDEZ — GMelendez@thestate.com

Observations, random thoughts and things we learned on Saturday at the Masters.

1. MY FAVORITE HOLE

It’s No. 13, no doubt about it. The 510-yard par 5 is called “Azalea” for good reason – there are 1,600 azaleas from tee to green. It has turned into one of the easiest holes on the course, ranking as the 17th hardest hole through the first two rounds (only the par-5 No. 8 played easier). That’s despite Augusta National purchasing land several years ago from neighboring Augusta Country Club to push the tee back. If you can draw the ball around the dogleg, you’ve got a short iron into the green. Dustin Johnson hit a 9-iron into the green on Friday. Still, the beauty and the risk-reward nature (you can make an eagle with a good second shot or a bogey if you wind up in a tributary of Rae’s Creek) make it my favorite and one of the best designed in the world.

2. INTERNATIONAL FIELD

Australia led the field in players making the cut. Five players from down under, including defending champ Adam Scott, were playing Saturday. That is, unless you consider the state of Georgia a foreign country (and some Gamecocks and Tigers fans do). Six from Georgia schools (three from Georgia – including Bubba Watson – and three from Georgia Tech) made the cut. Next would be the four players from Scandinavian countries – two from Sweden, one from Denmark and one from the Netherlands (my favorite – Joost Luiten).

3. FORMER CHAMPS

What if they played a Masters and a senior tour event broke out? That’s because the Masters champions have lifetime exemptions – as long as they are able to remain competitive. Former champs Jose Maria Olazabal, Sandy Lyle, Bernhard Langer, Vijay Singh, Larry Mize and, of course, Fred Couples might be getting a little long in the tooth, but they can still play. Some might say that having so many past-their-prime players might weaken the field, but if they can make the cut, they deserve the chance to play. It’s another tradition that sets the Masters apart.

4. THIS AND THAT

Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke has lost a lot of weight. He must have cut back on the Guinness. ... Maybe it’s just me, but the galleries seem to get more serious on the weekend – just like the golfers. ... The only similarity I can think of between Augusta National and Darlington Raceway – both hosting big events Saturday – is the sloping bank in the dogleg on the 13th hole is as steep as the third turn at Darlington. ... Jamie Donaldson of Wales was nursing a burn on his arm – the result of a barbecuing accident. ... Sitting next to me in the press building was Martin Loulamb, a reporter from Paris, who is here to cover Frenchman Victor Dubuisson, who missed the cut. It’s his first Masters, but he says it “feels like home” because he has watched the tournament on TV for 20 years.

5. FOOD REPORT

Thumbs up for the BBQ sandwiches ($3) and the pimento cheese sandwiches ($1.50). Thumbs down for the Masters club ($2.50) and the veggie wraps ($2.50). In an informal survey, patrons responded: BBQ “better than ever,” pimento cheese “classic,” Masters club “yuk,” and veggie wrap “tasteless.”

Rick Millians

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