It was a nice drive on Wednesday morning heading into Augusta National for the first time. But to my surprise NO Magnolia Lane. I found out later that it’s a private road inside the complex and it’s not for public use. So maybe I’ll get to see it before the end of this week but the rest of the place is Masterful! Whatever you’ve seen on TV multiply it by several as it’s a spectacular golf course with the ambiance like any other.
I first got some preview interviews for the tournament and that included getting some time with all of ‘The Big 3′ Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player who were to again also hit the ceremonial first tee shots on Thursday morning to get the Masters officially underway.
Arnold was sitting with his wife and another couple eating so I didn’t want to disturb them. But it was also likely the only chance to say hello so we briefly chatted ‘off the record’ and I asked him if he was still excited about playing in the Par 3 contest. He said he enjoyed it but joked that he just didn’t want to embarrass himself. I told him nothing could embarrass him, that people just loved to see him whatever state his game was in? And he was about to stand up for this picture but I insisted that he stay seated as it was just kind of him to do it. He always makes you feel as he’s known you forever and that’s part of his special charisma.
Then I saw Gary Player doing a few interviews and I jumped into the scrum before he was able to give me a few minutes alone. And he had some very interesting comments on several subjects including how he’d love to have 10 minutes alone with Tiger Woods which would likely produce more major championships.
And I was about to head to the start of the Par 3 contest when I fortunately noticed Mr. Nicklaus standing alone signing an autograph and I quickly walked up and asked if he could give me a few minutes for a brief interview? He’s always been gracious with his time and I didn’t take advantage of it just asking a few questions to get his impressions before the start of tis special tournament in which he’s won 6 green jackets.
And then it was off to the Par 3 contest to watch a few groups before heading back to the Media room to send my interviews to the station…all that after my computer had crashed (fortunately to eventually be brought back to life for this special week of work).
The following are some of my Masters preview interviews leading into Thursday’s first round. And you must know that all of this would not be possible if it wasn’t for California native Derek Ernst, who’s a Masters’ rookie and is the answer to the question—so how did Ted Sobel finally get his first credential to this tradition unlike any other?
He was a first time invitee from my region (California) after winning the Wells Fargo Championship last year at Quail Hollow and my application was approved to work this tournament to cover Derek along with the rest of the event of course. I met Ernst at Riviera Country Club before the start of the Northern Trust Open in February and we chatted about me being his official stalker at Augusta and it’s now a fun story for both of us.
Ted Sobel with Derek Ernst at Riviera in February:
Jack Nicklaus with Ted Sobel on Wednesday at the Masters:
Gary Player with Ted Sobel on Wednesday at the Masters:
Mark O’Meara 1998 Masters champ with Ted Sobel on Wednesday at the Masters:
Johnny Miller (NBC analyst) with Ted Sobel on Wednesday at the Masters:
Vern Lundqvist in his 30th year on TV calling the Masters with Ted Sobel:
I then wandered the course for the first time simply taking in what I had only seen on my television all those years. And of course Amen Corner (holes 11-13) were just as I had envisioned. I took these pictures as the grounds keepers prepped it for major tournanement play only hours away.
I spoke with 2 caddies about the green conditions and they equally admitted that it would be just as the tournament always tries to accomplish…speedy and ready for only the better putters in the field. So let the play begin already!