Greetings from the veranda

April, 6, 2011
04/06/11
11:11
AM ET

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The first decision of the week: coffee or vodka?

The second: bacon, sausage or country ham?

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Augusta National
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesAugusta National Golf Club

I'm on the veranda of the Augusta National clubhouse. Wednesday morning, a little chill in the air that will burn off when the sun rolls up. One bird sings. I wish I knew what kind it was. It's delicate but loud, and it puts its energy into a series of individual, clean blasts. In the clubhouse behind me, not 10 feet away, a guard stands post at the Champions Locker Room. Outside, the eight tables -- the best tables in all of golf -- are slowly filling up, with men standing at the balcony, kings in their castle, looking out on the course, which stretches out green, bordered in pastel. The table is white. The chairs are arched for comfort and made of wicker.

This is my job. Life is pretty ridiculous sometimes.

For golfers, this is a week filled with stress, with a chance to change their lives forever. Will Tiger reclaim something he's lost? Will some new golfer announce himself to the world? For reporters, it's also a stressful week. In journalistic paper-rock-scissors, deadline trumps azaleas every time. But for fans, the few who come here and the millions who watch on television, this week is magic. So that's what you'll find in this space this week. Postcards. Small windows into the magic. A series of answers to this question: What is it like to go to the Masters?

So, I am sad to report, I choose coffee. Don't judge. A younger me would have been on drink three. But I am here representing ESPN. Vodka breath and a tomato moustache seem at least a little unprofessional. Plus, I have to type.

(True story: Several years ago, I was on the side of a fairway here, leaning in to see a shot, and a guy kept checking out my press badge. Finally, he stuck out his hand and said, "Hi, I'm George Bodenheimer." He is, if you don't know, president of ESPN and ABC Sports. I've never been more relieved to be taking notes and not sneaking a cold beer.)

The veranda clubhouse menu is simple. Five items, four sides. I go with the clubhouse breakfast: eggs over easy, a biscuit and, of course, The Decision.

Pork.

What part of the pig would I like this morning? Choosing a pork is like choosing your favorite Beatle. It tells a lot about a man, and about the kind of day this will be. I go with country ham. I am not a follower, and I am not afraid of salt.

The coffee arrives. Men in green jackets find their way up here, to the members-only veranda, starting their week as well. The soundtrack is its own kind of music: the bird every so often, and the beautiful sound forged blades make when they jingle in a bag, and the low hum of whispered conversation, a staccato burst of laughter, and the wind in the tall limbs of the big oak tree throwing shadows.

The steam rises off the green cup in front of me.

The Masters week has begun.

Wright Thompson | email

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
Wright Thompson (@wrightthompson) is a senior writer for ESPN.com and The Magazine. He has been featured in seven editions of Best American Sports Writing and lives in Oxford, Mississippi.
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