What a week it’s been here in Augusta. Before today’s first round there had been more for the media to cover here than any time in my memory of working this event, which goes back to 1986. All the anticipation and hype of Tiger Woods’ return from his troubled winter led us to arrive Monday morning at 6 a.m. I’ve been to the Masters many times, but it had always been after sunrise. I arrived before most of the folks who actually work here. That’s okay, because when the grounds opened at 8 a.m. I was on the front row, as Tiger teed off his first official practice round. A security detail walked the entire 18 holes inside the ropes, while uniformed security and Richmond County (Augusta) law enforcement officers were walking among the spectators. I even peeked at a cheat sheet that security had with pictures of each of Tiger’s alleged mistresses and famous attorney Gloria Allred. So far, haven’t seen any of these fine folks. The press conference was special because I was one of only 205 members of the media who received a ticket to attend. I didn’t get to ask a question, but that’s fine. Just being in the room at a historic moment was good enough for me–this time. Thought after that everybody was ready to move ahead and play golf. Wrong. Masters Chairman Billy Payne blasted Tiger on the eve of the tournament. It sent shockwaves through the press center and left us wondering what would be next. That evening I met AJ Calloway from EXTRA, the tabloid TV show that airs on our station. He was in town for the Masters, but had tickets not media credentials, as the Golf Club would not grant media requests from the tabloid shows. Then on Thursday, it was time to play. Just as Tiger walks to number one tee to begin, a plane flies overhead with a banner reading, “Tiger: Did You Mean Bootyism??” Someone was making fun of Tiger’s personal issues that threaten his marriage, and the fact that he has promised to return to his religious teachings. Tiger would later say that he never saw the plane, and I believe him. He attacked the Masters course and showed flashes of the form that has made him the world’s best golfer, and very wealthy. All this and today’s only Thursday. Tiger will start round two just two shots out of first place. Not bad for a man who really needed to play. The weekend should be great theater here.
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