Live from The Masters - the real winners of Masters week
What. A. Week.
It began with a star-studded field of 97 golfers; among them, 19 past champions (including five multiple champions), a further 13 major winners, and six wide-eyed amateurs.
They hit countless balls on the range, putted and chipped from every conceivable angle on Augusta's glass-like greens and contested a hit-and-giggle par 3 tournament, before battling the course, and each other, over four gruelling rounds of major championship golf.
At the end of it all, a familiar name sat atop the Masters leaderboard as Bubba Watson clinched his second Green Jacket in three years following a brilliant final round on Sunday.
PLAYER OF THE MASTERS
Gerry Lester "Bubba" Watson - trailed Jordan Spieth by as much as three shots during the final round, before a blistering back nine took him to a second Masters title.
Have you ever wanted to go to The Masters?
Packages for 2015 just released
Flights, Accommodation, Golf & Masters Tickets
But you know all of this...
...so to wrap up a truly remarkable seven days of life as an Augusta patron, here is my unofficial list of winners who didn't get the handshake from Billy Payne in the Butler Cabin.
Favourite hole:While the trio of holes that make up Amen's Corner typically get the plaudits, there are few more breathtaking experiences within Augusta's grounds than making the trek down No. 10. The 495-yard par-4, called "Camellia", features 105-feet in elevation change from tee to the swale short of the green. Standing at the top of the hill is like hanging from the peak of a roller coaster before making the descent into one of the most beautifully framed par 4s in the world of golf.
Best spectator view point:With so many great spots on the course to watch the action, it's a tough one to call. One of the most popular spots all week was the grandstand behind the par-3 12th. Here you can watch the approaches and shots around the 11th green, the ever-exciting tee shot to 12, and the drives coming back on 13. With the stadium-like atmosphere (not to mention the nearby concession stand) this is almost Augusta's version of the party hole at TPC Scottsdale. My personal favourite vantage point was to the right of the 13th fairway, where thrills are assured as many players go for the tempting yet dangerous par 5 in two. Recommendation: park behind No.12 until you catch a group you fancy, then follow them down 13 before returning to base.
Highlight: You know when something special happens at Augusta, no matter where you are on the course, by the almighty roar of the patrons. There was no bigger roar heard throughout the week than the one inspired by Jordan Spieth's chip-in from the front bunker on the par-3 4th. It was the calibre of shot we've seen propel the likes of Tiger and Phil to the title in recent years. While it wasn't to be for the 20-year-old in his first try at the Masters, you have to think his time will come.
Best day to attend the Masters: Call me crazy, but for a first-timer to Augusta, you'll actually get the most from your visit by attending one of the practice days. Every golf lover wants to have their photo taken in the iconic spots within Augusta's grounds and with a no camera policy on tournament days, Monday to Wednesday is your only chance. It's also a far more relaxed atmosphere on the first three days, making it easier to walk the course, get closer to the players, perhaps snag an autograph and bask in the beauty of Augusta. The par 3 tournament is really special to watch as the players break from their steely personas to enjoy the experience with their families. Wednesday is therefore a must for me.
Favourite Augusta treat: It has to be the Pimento cheese sandwich. So I wasn't exactly doing cartwheels after my introduction to "the caviar of the south", but by the time I'd consumed about my fourth for the week, the glorified cheese-sanger had grown on me. Best accompanied with a cup of local ale and you'll have enough energy to chase your favourite golfer for hours.
STAT OF THE MASTERS
Over the last dozen years, six times a left-hander has slipped his arms into the Green Jacket.
|Jordan Spieth ... a star of the future||Camellia ... Augusta's roller coaster 10th||Augusta favourite ... Pimento cheese on white|
Best Masters gift item: The gift shop boasts every style of hat and shirt imaginable, but I found the safest option to be a set of snazzy Masters ball-markers. They'll set you back about $17. Not everyone wants to brandish the iconic Augusta logo without having experienced it for themselves, but this is a modest yet stylish memento which your golfing buddies can actually use and might inspire them to one day make the pilgrimage themselves!
Best eat: The sign out the front of TBonz Steakhouse boasts "Voted best steak in Augusta for the last 26 years". While I'm yet to verify, I certainly can't deny the fact they cook one hell of a steak. Couple that with the overly-friendly southern service, the buzzing vibe and the fact it's a popular hangout for golfers and their caddies, and you've got the recipe for a top night dining out.
Favourite nightspot: Crowds of patrons filter from the course to the nearby Hooters each night, but if you want an authentic Augusta night out, then do as the locals do – head to the Surrey Tavern. This happening little watering hole is packed with character, from the English-inspired front of the bar to the golf photos which adorn the walls at the entrance. It's also one of the few live entertainment venues left in town. Grab a beer or some local scotch and settle in for a night of great tunes.