AUGUSTA – They master pretty much everything at the Masters. That is clear on a Tuesday morning walk at Augusta National after the storm.
Bringing nature to heel is something of a fetish in these parts, where they keep the grass a tight weave of perfect green and invite the squirrels to frolic elsewhere.
On a bright and cloudless Tuesday, a review of the grounds reveals they have almost done it again, these powerful people determined to control their environment as completely as an artist does his canvas.
If you listen carefully you can almost hear the soft whirl of the sub-air system that wrings the Augusta National greens like a sponge, the Monday rain evicted like any other intruder.
There is no trouble at all hearing the drone of the tractor-towed blower as it worked back and forth on the next fairway, sweeping off each fallen pine needle and scrap of leaf. Your kitchen floor should be so clean.
Still more racket in the distance, mowers nipping at grass already cut to a jeweler’s specifications.
Great pines might fall in the gale – which fortunately didn’t happen when Monday’s weather swirled through – and they’d get cleaned up in a blink, like so much loose straw.
Ah, but, there is something missing at this Masters. This is a bit paler shade of April, for the spring came early and the azaleas have peaked ahead of schedule. The scenery director at this tournament has fallen down on the job.
The vista behind the 13th tee box is not the explosion of red and orange and pink that it usually is. The stands of blooming azaleas that define places like the hillside walk down from the tee box at No. 6 and the long border down No. 2 are bare. There are little patches of stubborn brightness here and there, but nothing like the wash of color we have come to expect.
And face it, azaleas after they bloom, are as plain as skim milk.
The dogwoods are doing the best they can, but they are not built to carry this week.
Legend had it that they would ice the azaleas on the property in the advent of an early spring in order to get them to bloom on command. But even that alleged excess could not have saved the flowers in such warmer times.
It’s reassuring, perhaps, that the Masters people can’t control all, that nature can still thumb its nose at wealth. Still, I miss the backdrop.
I guess the golf will just have to fill in this year for these gaps in agronomy.