Nothing in golf is more enchanting, more intimate, more mysterious
than Augusta National on Sunday afternoon, when time grows slow,
but never slow enough, and all little things suddenly grow big.
On Sunday, at half past four, Tiger Woods, three shots out of the
lead, smoked a three-wood off the 10th tee and handed the club to
his caddie, Steve Williams. If you were standing beside the tee,
you could have heard their words.
"Shot," Williams said.
"Thanks," Woods replied.
That is exactly what they said.
Around that same time Jim Nantz and two security guards walked
from the CBS studio in the basement of Butler Cabin to the TV
tower beside the 18th green. Meanwhile Linn Strickler, an
old-school Tour caddie whose work was long done, walked the
course along with the spectators. In back of the giant leader
board behind the 18th green a man named Marty Banks stood on
green scaffolding and posted a bogey for Phil Mickelson. "Way to
go, Phil," Banks mumbled sarcastically, realizing that Mickelson
would not be winning the tournament and Banks would not be
winning his Calcutta. Charlie Mize, Larry's father, watched his
son finish 25th as his mind drifted to the Sunday 13 years ago
when his son came in first.
At half past five in the players' locker room, an attendant
handed Dudley Hart his shoes in a plastic bag marked with the
Masters logo, a map of the U.S. with a flagstick marking Augusta.
"You want the same locker next year?" the attendant asked.
"That's fine," said Hart. "I'm not fussy."
"Or would you like to be upstairs?"
Upstairs is the Master Club Room, the changing room for former
winners. "I've got to earn my way up there," Hart said.
The Master Club Room was empty. Down the hall, in the library,
was Craig Stadler, the '82 winner, who watched on TV while
sipping a refreshment, in no rush to go anywhere. Where else
would anyone want to be? The Masters is unique that way. The pros
don't rush home when their day is done, as they do at other Tour
Below, in the Grill Room, Jim Furyk also watched things unfold on
television. So did Bob Rotella, the golfing psychologist, sitting
solo at a corner table. One of his clients, David Duval, two
shots out of the lead, burned the lip on a birdie putt. Rotella
groaned. All the while a busboy, oblivious to the trauma,
collected luncheon condiments off the table, the Durkee Famous
Sauce, the Aunt Nellie's Old Style Sauce, the McIlhenny Tabasco
Brand Pepper Sauce. These sauces with their odd names, even they
are part of the mystery of the National.
In other parts of the clubhouse and in the cabins, housekeepers
cleaned telephones and linen closets, because telephones and
linen closets are on the housekeepers' Sunday maintenance list.
David Gossett, the lone amateur to make the cut, checked out of
the Crow's Nest, the clubhouse attic dorm space for amateurs,
and waited for a ride by the front door, talking about his
fourth-round partner, Jack Nicklaus.
The end was near. Vijay Singh was striding up the 18th fairway,
tall and broad-shouldered and fixing to win. A valet brought a
green sport coat, size 46L, from the clubhouse to the practice
green for the awards ceremony. In the employee dining room 13
kitchen workers, all of them black, watched on TV as the
winner's final putt disappeared. The room was a mess, with
plates stacked high on a plastic trash can, chicken bones on the
green carpeted floor, half-eaten pieces of blueberry pie on
napkins. Singh's arms went up, as did the clenched fist of a kid
in a busboy's white jacket as he said, "All right, nigga!" A
cook came out of the kitchen and sang, in the tone of a Negro
spiritual, "Well, well, well, well. Another year done gone." A
man in a blue blazer, a chauffeur, came through the dining room,
bellowing, "Vee-Jay Singh is the thing!"
Two schoolgirls, kitchen workers for the week, walked over to the
time clock. "I saw Tiger Woods," one of them said.
"What did you say to him?" the second girl asked.
"I said, 'Goodbye, Mr. Woods.'"
That is exactly what they said.
It was 7:01 p.m. Another Masters Sunday at Augusta National was
over. The girls punched out and left.
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER Singh's victory was wildly popular in certain quarters of the club, as well as with the player's nine-year-old son, Qass.