Augusta's calm before the storm

April, 3, 2011
04/03/11
4:50
PM ET

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- There is no gallery, no fanfare, no stress.

It is -- if any of us could imagine such a thing -- what a typical spring day might be like for an Augusta National member.

The grounds are in perfect condition. The golf course appears inviting. A smattering of players tee off at their leisure.

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Tiger Woods
AP Photo/Dave MartinTiger Woods hit practice balls on the range at Augusta National on Sunday.

The difference, of course, is that some of those players are professional golfers getting ready for one of the biggest tournaments of the year. Oh, and they let early-arriving media come in, too.

It is a rare look at Augusta National Golf Club, both private and public at the same time, the day before it opens to the masses and what will be the 75th Masters.

On Monday, the gates will swing wide early in the morning and spectators who secured badges for the day via a lottery will come streaming in, causing enormous lines in merchandise pavilions, restrooms and concession stands.

On Sunday -- the one before the big final-round Sunday -- members are allowed to play the course for the last time, and several take advantage in what is an eerily serene setting.

And a smattering of players are out on the course, as well. Former Masters champions Ben Crenshaw, Tom Watson and Fuzzy Zoeller were playing in near perfect weather conditions. Rory Sabbatini, K.J. Choi and Dustin Johnson were on the property.

And so was Tiger Woods, using Augusta National caddie Jay Thacker instead of his usual man Steve Williams.

Woods, playing with Ryder Cup teammate Jeff Overton, played the back nine in the morning, took a break for lunch, then headed back out to the play the front side after some ideal chit-chat with a few loitering reporters.

Afterward, he briefly spoke about some different pin placements on the par-4 17th and the overall shape of the course. And said that he had a good week of practice. "Everything is on track," he said, before heading to the driving range for more practice.

Woods spent about 30 minutes hitting balls, then visited for a few minutes with Johnson before heading out.

When he -- and all the other players -- returns on Monday, Augusta National will be a much different place.

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.

Bob Harig | email

ESPN Senior Writer

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