AUGUSTA, Ga. -- At Augusta, one of the great privileges afforded members of the press is access to the clubhouse. This means that when the gallery is 40 deep surrounding the 18th green, the best move for a writer of average height wishing to see the final putt is to head to the bar. Permission to enter such a sacred space, the intimate social hub of clubs everywhere, feels improbable. Yet the guard looks at the color of my credential approvingly. In I go.
Over the shoulders of green jackets, TV screens are in fine view. There are even empty seats at a few tables. Shawn Spieth sits with his other son, Steven. The largest screen is in an antechamber beside the locker room. When two young ladies kneel to the floor, a member insists they take his white armchair.
While Sergio Garcia stands over his putt to win the Masters in regulation, the bartender scooping ice for more Azaleas sounds like an avalanche. He’s been working hard and isn’t about to break now. When Sergio misses on the low side, his manager, Carlos Rodriguez, rises to leave—more calmly than anyone could be expected—to attend to the playoff. Two teenage boys munching goldfish at the bar eye the drinks.
When Sergio lines up his putt to win on the first playoff hole (two putts to win, actually), the vibration of a cheer rattles the windowpane. Which is odd, because Sergio is just now drawing the putter back. Damn the seven-second delay of TV.
An older man from the Spanish contingent erupts, beats his chest once and points to the ceiling, “Happy birthday, Seve! Happy birthday.”