Flowers in the shape of the Augusta National logo.
Fred Vuich/SI
Wednesday, January 25, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga., April 7 — Magnolia Lane ends at a clubhouse, yes, but before that is a raised grass circle, sort of like a giant pitcher's mound, where tourists gather amid yellow flowers in the shape of Augusta National's logo.

The site has seen so much camera clicking that it ought to have its own lights and make-up lady. On Saturday, before his round, Mark Calcavecchia stood arm-in-arm there with family and friends. His golf bag lay to the side, unguarded.

The winner of the PODS Championship in Tampa last month on the strength of a third-round 62, Calcavecchia had played in 16 Masters coming into this week. He would seem to have a lot of golf left in him, but he's 46. His body is, by his own admission, a wreck. Who knows when he'll be back?

To watch him getting his picture taken was to be reminded that Augusta still means something to these guys, the same thing it's always meant.

Amid the griping that the Masters feels like a U.S. Open, that the fans have no occasion to loose a cheer and rattle the pines like they did for Jack in '86, Augusta is still Augusta.

It was very cold and dry this weekend, bucking the traditional Masters weather of warm and rainy. The winner was named Zach, not Phil or Tiger. Black all but blotted out red on the scoreboard.

But writers still huddled in the cavernous press pavilion to bang out their stories. Everyone was still eating the usual stuff for lunch, hot dogs and plain sandwiches, no lettuce, in the top-floor concourse behind the lettered rows of press tables.

The place still smells of smoke, still boasts the same goofy green carpet, still features the old photos of old writers.

Washington Road still hums with commerce, $1 bottles of water plus free pink lemonade and eternal salvation from Whole Life Ministries.

And the fastidious neatness of the place lives on, with small armies of course workers appearing out of nowhere to re-rake the front and back bunkers after they were visited by Rich Beem and Niclas Fasth, respectively, on the 12th hole.

After Calcavecchia's brief photo session, he went inside to get ready for his 1:40 tee time, a stack of souvenir flags in his left hand. Maybe he would get them signed by Tiger, or by Phil, or by no one in particular, whomever he could find in the player dining area just off the locker room.

You couldn't help but be reassured that Augusta was still Augusta. You just had to look past the golf.

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