AUGUSTA, Ga. – A large but mostly quiet and reserved gallery is watching Tiger Woods play a practice round at Augusta National Monday morning.
In advance of his 2 p.m. press conference, Woods was going through 18 test holes, playing with Fred Couples. There weren’t many other golfers out on the course, although there was a helicopter hovering high over Augusta and, presumably, Woods during part of his front nine.
No one walking with Woods could detect any insults from the crowd; there were a few “welcome back’’ shouts but it was more gawking than noise-making.
Meanwhile, in what seems to be an unprecedented move, Augusta National has pre-approved certain media outlets, including The Star, for attendance at the 2 p.m. shindig. The press room holds about 225 reporters, plus a few more standing room, and there has been a limit put on the number of attendees. For instance, a wire service with three reporters here might get one or two seats, but not three. A paper with two writers present likely will get one seat. It’s that kind of winnowing.
Reporters on “the list’’ were given a numbered ticket – somebody bet me a 3-9-5 trifecta at Woodbine whenever they can get a nine-horse field – and that brought back memories of showing up at Augusta and being given a numbered ticket for the lottery to play the course the Monday after the final round. (Those who have won within the past seven years are ineligible to enter again.)
All seats for the 2 p.m. show are on a first-come, first-served basis, with doors opening at 1:15 p.m. and closing at 1:50. Why all these rules are in effect remains a mystery, considering Woods isn’t likely to say anything of earth-shattering consequence about his car wreck of last Nov. 27, or his marital situation, absence from competitive golf or 45 days of treatment for an undisclosed condition or problem. But we all shall see.
Woods arrived at Augusta Sunday and played nine holes with Mark O’Meara, his close friend and also a former champion, but did not take any questions.