By John Garrity
Monday, April 13, 2009

AUGUSTA, GA. — This was supposed to be a column about woodpeckers and azaleas. "Get to the golf course late," the assignment editor told me. "Go out and follow Graeme McDowell and Aaron Baddeley for a couple of holes. Take a nap under a pine tree. Then drag your worthless butt back to the media building and write about it."

The idea was that I'd be doing what any respectable, retired golf writer does on Masters Sunday — very little.

I was game. I retired from my position as a senior writer at Sports Illustrated on January 1, giving up a life of fast cars and five-star resorts for the pensioner's lot of AARP-discount exercycles and Grand Slam Breakfasts. But I continue to work for SI and GOLF Magazine on an occasional basis, getting paid by the word. (Even the little bitty words, such as "a" and "an." I repeat: "a" and "an.") I've been at Augusta National all week, reporting on and writing a story about the second-oldest living Masters champion, 86-year-old Jackie Burke, Jr.

So I set out this afternoon fully intending to waste the day. I arrived at Augusta National fashionably late — 3:30 p.m. — and made a bee-line for the media cafeteria, hoping to score a second lunch. Nibbling cheese cubes, I jotted a few ideas down on a napkin:

Find course superintendent, ask why my lawn has bare patches

Hang out with gatehouse guards at Washington Rd. & Magnolia Drive

Twitter Billy Payne re 2010 press parking

But don't get the idea that I was going to "mail it in," as we say in the typing club. I planned to empty my notebook of good early-in-the week material, such as this quote from 1957 Masters Champ Doug Ford:

"In the fifties those old wooden shafts would get loose when we'd play in the desert, so I'd put them in the toilet overnight to swell."

Ford, apropos of nothing, is 87.

Anyway, I was ready to wander out amongst the pines when the roar of distant crowds started rattling the windows. "Phil is out in 30!" one of my newspaper pals yelped as he ran by. "Tiger eagled 8!" burbled another. In the cavernous press room, a hundred writers were typing furiously on their laptops, glancing sideways every second or so to follow the action on their desktop monitors. Another twenty or so stood in the scoreboard pit, staring up at the jumbo telescreen.

What can I say? I blew off the assignment. "If Charlie calls," I told my erstwhile fellow-employees, "tell him I'm trying on sweaters at the souvenir shop."

What I actually did was flip open my notebook, fire up my laptop, and plant my worthless butt in a back-row chair to catch the conclusion of one rip-roaring Masters.

Don't get me wrong, it's great being retired. But if you've got a car-chasing dog, you don't tie him up by the freeway.

Oh, before I forget. Anybody know the way to Denny's?

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