By Ann Liguori
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Tuesday morning, April 3:
Azaleas have come and gone!
One ‘Major’ element is missing at Augusta National this year. Because it has been so warm in Augusta, the azaleas, which normally burst with color during Masters week, have come and gone! Spectators coming to Augusta National for the first time will not see the property in all its usual, colorful splendor.
On Monday, for the first practice round, temperatures reached the nineties. That’s as warm as I can remember it being here. With temperatures warm here most of the winter, spring came early in Augusta and so did the blooming of the azaleas. If you’ll be watching from home, you’ll see a lot of green, but not pinks and reds.
Against ‘the grain’:
The warmer temperatures have made the fairways as lush as can be. As I walked the course yesterday, late in the afternoon, the mowers were out in full force. They always cut the fairways from green to tee which fights the grain, making it so the ball does not bounce and roll as much as it would ‘with the grain.’ Steve Ethun, the Director of Communications for Augusta National, says the way their full-time staff maintenance team cuts the grass makes for “more of a cleaner appearance.” Ethun told me that “the players may tell you different but the way we cut the grass, we do it for aesthetics.” Yes, the players will say that the way the grass is mowed, from green to tee, prevents the ball from getting further roll, thus making the course conditions more difficult.
Top Player in the World talks about the course conditions and temperatures he prefers:
Luke Donald, the top-ranked player in the world and looking for his first Major title in this his 8th appearance at The Masters, says he prefers the temperatures to be hot and the fairways fast here. “As long as I’ve been coming here, no matter how warm or how cold it is, the course doesn’t play too differently. Obviously, with the forecast temperature being reasonably warm this week, the ball will fly a bit further but the ground just seems to be the same. I’ve never really played this course where it’s really fiery, in terms of the fairways. Obviously, with the grass coming into us, you don’t get a lot of roll, but certainly I would personally prefer if it was a warmer week.”
Luke Donald feels really good about this course. “Having a good short game is very important around here, having a good feel around the greens… What happens most weeks, the guy who putts really well is going to have a chance and that’s been a strength of mine the last few years.”
The forecast for the week calls for afternoon showers and thunderstorms today, rain and possible thunderstorms Wednesday through Friday, with temperatures cooling by the weekend to the mid-seventies. No rain is in the forecast for the weekend.
Be sure to catch Ann’s reports on WFAN with previews starting Wednesday. For more information on Ann, visit her web site at www.annliguori.com