Masters first round
When: 3 p.m. Thursday
Where: Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta
“It’s been a dream of mine to be in contention with Tiger Woods in a major championship at Augusta … to try and take Tiger down on the back nine of Augusta,” Jordan Spieth said Tuesday.
Wednesday, the 21-year-old got a chance at a dress rehearsal when an unexpected visitor asked to attend his practice round, the last before the 2015 Masters begins Thursday.
“I knew I was going to play with Mr. (Ben) Crenshaw, it was going to be his last practice round, which was special in itself,” Spieth said Wednesday after the Par 3 Contest. “When Tiger and Joey (LaCava, Woods’ caddie) came over on the range and asked if they could join us – they were playing solo – we said bring it on.”
And so it begins, an anticipation decades in the making.
Built around the Woods promise that “all facets of (his) game have come around” in Tuesday’s press conference, there’s a general optimism around his chances that was non-existent a week ago.
His game, and his long-ailing back, have looked sharp and non-combative in practice rounds, but they haven’t faced Masters pressure. Plus, it’s been a full, drama-filled 10 years since the four-time champion last slipped on Sunday green, and his recent missed cuts and withdrawals leave plenty of the “can he win” questions to flashbacks of hope.
“I won the Masters when Jordan was still in diapers,” Woods quipped Tuesday, referring to his 1997 victory.
Asked to confirm, Spieth brought it back. “Let’s see, I was 3, almost 4. So I don’t know, are kids still in diapers at 3? Pull-ups, maybe.”
Walking the second nine Wednesday morning, Crenshaw, Woods and Spieth represented three distinct generations of golf’s greats. This weekend, those generations could go head-to-head, something Tiger’s yet to do at the Masters with Spieth or Rory McIlroy or Rickie Fowler or any of the other 20-somethings as the hills come alive on Sunday afternoon.
“Sunday or Monday, I watched some highlights of the 2005 Masters,” Spieth said this week, reflecting on another of Woods’ wins. “That shot he hit on 16 against Chris DiMarco, that chip shot that he made, is arguably the best shot that’s ever been hit in the game of golf. I just remember watching that shot over and over and over again, and there’s a magic he brings to this tournament.”
The game is better when Tiger is relevant. His words have made him relevant this week. Now, his game must respond.
So what was the message between Woods and Spieth down the home stretch Wednesday? Spieth shared the dream.
“Let’s get after this thing and make it happen again on Sunday.”
Divots of Masters history:
– Jack Nicklaus, at 75 years old, made a hole-in-one on the fourth hole of the Par 3 Contest on Wednesday. “It was my first ace in forever,” the Golden Bear said.
– Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne revealed a commemorative piece of art containing a section of the Eisenhower Tree on Wednesday. One will be sent to the Eisenhower Presidential Library, and another will remain at Augusta National. The tree was killed in a 2014 ice storm, but seedlings have allowed its genetics to remain.
– Nicklaus, Gary Player and Arnold Palmer will serve as honorary starters Thursday at 7:40 a.m. ESPN’s television coverage begins at 3 p.m.
Vince Johnson is in his seventh year covering the Masters. You can follow his coverage on Twitter @vincejohnson.