Augusta: A tournament like no other
By Phil Noble
It was the author Mark Twain who wrote “Golf is a good walk spoiled” and although the persistent rain that dogged the final round play at this years Masters certainly made it tough for both players and photographers alike, the amazing photographs at the final hole of regular play and the subsequent thrilling playoff certainly ensured our “good walk” wasn’t ruined.
I was lucky enough to be asked to return to the Augusta National golf club this year for my second Masters tournament. Along with my Reuters colleagues Mike Segar, Bryan Snyder, Mark Blinch and 24 year Masters veteran Gary Hershorn, who would edit our pictures, we pitched up again at the Mecca of golf to cover a tournament unlike any other.
At most other golf championships we cover, photographers are allowed to work inside the ropes that hold the spectators back, making the job of following play and getting into a good position to photograph the golfers a relatively easy one. At Augusta however, we are accorded no such privilege, the hallowed, well manicured and vibrant green turf being preserved only for those playing in the tournament, meaning we are in with the spectators, or in the case of Augusta, the ‘patrons’.
With tens of thousands of golf fans all vying to get a view of their heroes, moving around the course and finding a clear vantage point is more challenging than usual, but once you’ve got your ‘masters head’ on and a bunch of “Excuse me”, “Would you mind awfully if I…” and a liberal sprinkling of “If I kneel can I squeeze in front of you?” in your camera bag the course offers a wealth of angles and pictures unlike anywhere else.
The course is a work of art with towering Georgia pines providing the scaffolding for the miles of vibrant green fairways and greens to roll through. Throw into the mix a splash of vibrant azalea pinks and purples and a hint of dogwood and wisteria all bathed in amazing Georgia light and you have a breathtaking vista in which to photograph golf.
Sadly as the final round unfolded the Georgia sunshine gave way to weather more akin to that which I usually cover soccer in back in the UK as heavy and persistent rain set in.
The on-the-course battle between Argentina’s Angel Cabrera and Australia’s Adam Scott was mirrored off the course with photographers battling the elements to keep themselves and their cameras dry whilst still trying to capture the enthralling end to the tournament.
In rapidly failing light Scott bravely holed out on the second playoff hole and after trudging soggily back to the clubhouse we handed off our disks of the jubilation and waited for the presentation of the famous Green Jacket.
By this time the rain had finally eased. The tournament was over. Now all that was left was to get out of our saturated clothing and try and dry off our equipment… all par for the course I guess you could say.