Teddy Greenstein: The Masters would have teed off this morning. Here are 11 vivid memories from the last 11 years at Augusta National.

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A boring day at the Masters is like sushi at McDonald’s — it doesn’t exist.

I remember thinking, “Not much going today,” during the opening round in 2016. And then Ernie Els — World Golf Hall of Famer Ernie Els — six-putted the first green at Augusta National.

The place produces memories unlike any other.

This would have been Masters week, featuring a Champions Dinner menu selected by Tiger Woods. Instead we’re settling for greatest-hits TV coverage, Kevin Na’s Instagram feed and the promise of a one-of-a-kind fall Masters. Proposed dates: Nov. 12-15.

I’ve covered every Masters since 2009. Here are my 11 strongest memories from those 11 events, a mix of much-celebrated accomplishments and some inside-baseball stuff.


1. The hug heard ‘round the world

Feel free to accuse me of recency bias, but after Tiger Woods completed perhaps the greatest career comeback in sports history last April, he embraced son Charlie by the 18th green. It was a mirror image of his 1997 bear hug with his father, Earl.

Side note: I didn’t actually witness the hug, as thousands of spectators horseshoed the green. One fan put it like this: “At least we’re going to hear the ending.”


2. No Jordan-esque finish

After Jordan Spieth birdied No. 9 to take a five-shot lead in the final round in 2016, a spectator cracked: “He has to shoot left-handed to lose this one.”

The defending champion went from green jacket to straitjacket on the back nine, dumping two balls into Rae’s Creek on No. 12 and handing the title to little-known Danny Willett. “Buddy,” Spieth told caddie Michael Greller, “it seems like we’re collapsing.”


3. A ful-Phil-ling story

The 2010 Masters opened with the focus on the philandering Tiger Woods. It closed with Phil Mickelson winning his third green jacket while deriving inspiration from wife Amy, who was battling breast cancer.

The signature moment in Mickelson’s final-round 67 came when caddie Jim “Bones” Mackay tried to talk Lefty into laying up on No. 13. Mickelson instead threaded a 6-iron off the pine straw through trees for what CBS analyst Nick Faldo immediately called “the greatest shot of his life.”


4. Better than Powerball

I won the media lottery in 2010, receiving an invitation to play Augusta National on the Monday after the Masters with a couple of friendly reminders: 1) Wear pants, not shorts, and 2) Don’t drive down Magnolia Lane more than an hour before my tee time.

I hit a decent 3-wood on my first drive, but it ended up in the deep fairway bunker. I was there for a while. Long story short: It’s the only round I’ve ever played where I didn’t keep score or bet even a buck.

Side note: When I called my sports editor, Mike Kellams, to tell him the good news, he replied: No, we need you back Monday to help cover the Cubs home opener. As I pleaded my case, ESPN’s Gene Wojciechowski, a former Tribune sports writer, began to chuckle. Nice practical joke, boys.


5. Say cheese

The pimento cheese sandwich is as iconic as the green jacket, and patrons can get one for a mere $1.50. I explored this tangy tradition in 2017 and came away with a quote I never will forget. NBC’s Jimmy Roberts said that in decades of covering the Masters, he never had tried one. But as for the peach ice cream sandwiches, “They are like cocaine to me.”


6. Rule No. 1: Know the rules

Saturday mornings are normally a time to decompress after 14-hour workdays. Not in 2013. We woke up to social-media postings that Tiger Woods faced disqualification after an illegal drop one day earlier.

The craziest part: Tournament officials allowed Woods to sign for a 71 even after he acknowledged having violated a rule by moving 2 yards back before dropping on No. 15. It took a TV viewer, later revealed to be former Champions Tour player and USGA and PGA Tour official David Eger, to point out the infraction.

Many felt Woods should have done the honorable thing and withdraw. Instead red-faced club officials docked him two shots.


7. Like Tiger Stadium on a Saturday night

Augusta National has no electronic scoreboards, and cellphones are banned. Reliable scoring updates often come from other spectators or your own ears. I was walking along the No. 1 fairway during the final round in 2012 when I heard a roar that could have knocked down an oak tree.

“Someone made eagle,” I told my walking mate, the Sun-Times’ Rick Morrissey.

“I think he did one better,” he replied.

That last line might be embellished (I wasn’t taking notes), but Louis Oosthuizen really did make a double eagle on No. 2, knocking home a 4-iron from 253 yards. And it gave him the tournament lead. But it wouldn’t last …


8. The happy hooker

Oosthuizen lost to Bubba Watson in a sudden-death playoff after the lefty defied the laws of physics from the right of the 10th fairway. He curved his ball about 40 yards, using a gap wedge off the pine straw from 144 yards.

“If I have a swing,” Watson told caddie Ted Scott as they approached his ball, “I have a shot.”


9. The power of negative thinking

In 2009 Sergio Garcia complained that Augusta National was too tricky and the wet turf yielded an excess of mud balls: “I don’t care. I just come here, play golf and go home.”

After a third-round 75 in 2012 he whined: “I’m not good enough. In 13 years, I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to play for second or third place.”

Oh, really? Garcia somehow won the 2017 Masters, his first major in 74 tries.

“Now maybe I’m the best player to win only one major,” he said with a grin.


10. A sojourn to paradise

Berckmans Place is golf’s equivalent of behind the velvet ropes. A weekly pass costs $6,000, but once inside, your money is no good. The menus at the five restaurants do not have prices, and don’t try to tip the caddies guiding you on the replica greens: “Play this out to the left. There’s 11 feet of break.”

In 2016 I got a taste of the VIP hospitality off the fifth fairway, a spot where Augusta National members Lynn Swann and Condoleezza Rice have appeared to spread good cheer. As one visitor put it: “It’s Xanadu. We came for a cocktail and stayed for 3 1/2 hours.”


11. Local flavor

Patrick Reed is nicknamed “Captain America” for his superhuman Ryder Cup play. He led neighboring Augusta State to two NCAA golf championships. Yet his 2018 victory was met with tsk-tsks and golf claps, not hooting and hollering.

The galleries were well aware of his complicated backstory, which includes estrangement from his parents and the scarlet letter “C” for cheating. Playing partner Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland received louder ovations, and Reed took note.

“Fueled my fire,” he said.


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