The point of all this walking and climbing is to get me to my favorite viewing point, which is the grassy bank behind and above the tee at the par-3 6th. Described in a 2009 SPORTS ILLUSTRATED article as "Augusta National's most thrilling spectator perch"—never mind by which writer—the 6th tee provides a penthouse perspective on one of golf's more intimidating short holes.
"From the treetop tee," SI's astute correspondent continues, "golfers launch iron shots over a ravine so deep that it conceals a busy crosswalk and hundreds of spectators seated on a grassy slope. The slippery green provides most of the terror—downhill three-footers can turn into uphill 30-footers—but I prefer the tee box. Stand close and you can pick up snippets of conversation as the players wait for the green to clear; and when they finally strike their shots, you can almost feel the club in your hands as your eyes follow the ball all the way down."
My sentiments exactly. In fact, I find the tug of the 6th tee to be so strong that I have to limit myself to 30 minutes per visit, lest I lose the thread of the actual competition.
But what, you ask, of Amen Corner? Where does an accredited scribe position himself to witness Larry Mize's stunning victory chip-in on 11 or Fred Couples's Velcro-aided par on 12 or Phil Mickelson's off-the-pine-straw-through-the-trees miracle six-iron on 13?
Honest answer: at a table in front of a 60-inch flat-screen in the press-building lunchroom.
Two reasons for that. One, writers covering the Masters tend to swarm around the high-def displays on Sunday, lest we miss what CBS is showing live to the world. Two, my tower is gone.
O.K., it wasn't my tower. Painted Masters green and situated between the 12th tee and the 13th fairway, it was a mini-grandstand atop a steel pole that WORKING PRESS badge holders accessed by means of a steel ladder. The view was not only sensational, it was also panoramic. I'd have Seve Ballesteros arm-pumping his way across the 11th green to a deafening roar. I'd have Tom Watson and Ian Woosnam taking practice swings practically under my nose on the 12th tee. Across the pond I'd have Greg Norman and a handful of marshals searching for his ball in the shrubbery behind 12 green. Farther right I'd see Ben Crenshaw teeing off from that private patch of lawn that is the 13th tee, and if I turned around I'd have a down-the-barrel view of Chip Beck preparing to hit his third, with a wedge, into the sprawling grandeur of the 13th green complex and surrounding grandstands.
"That tower," I told anyone who would listen, "is the hands-down, don't-argue-with-me, best spot in the world for watching tournament golf." And nobody argued with me.
But a few years ago, after the course had endured one of those off-season Fazio stretchings dictated by changing times, I strolled down to Amen Corner and then stopped, blinking in disbelief. My tower was gone—uprooted and cast aside like some pesky weed. I couldn't even pinpoint the spot where it had stood. The terrain had been reconfigured to provide more space for seated patrons and enhanced security for the golfers. Which I recognized as a good thing, once I had stopped bawling.
So these days, although I no longer describe Amen Corner as "dead to me," I spend little time there. You'll find me behind the green at the par-3 16th, where a tall man can always find an unobstructed view.