- Bob Harig, Senior Golf Writer
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AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The Sunday ceremony at Augusta National is not exactly the one that players in this week's Masters dream about, but Adam Scott, still glowing from his victory a year ago, enthusiastically took part.
Wearing his green jacket, Scott mingled on the lawn in front of the clubhouse, not far from the huge oak tree that shades most of the area. Around him were a bunch of 10- and 11-year-old boys who had just competed in the first Drive, Chip & Putt Championship.
Scott posed for photographs, signed autographs and handed out trophies. It was perhaps not on the "to-do" check list of the defending Masters champion, but Scott, good guy that he is, obliged.
The Sunday before Masters week is typically a slow, sleepy, peaceful day. For some reason, the media has always been allowed in on the last day members can play the course, while a slow trickle of tournament competitors arrive to check in and get a look at the surroundings in relative serenity.
But Masters officials started a new tradition Sunday with the skills competition that they announced a year ago, with 88 kids having qualified from around the country getting to partake on the pristine driving range and on the course's 18th hole.
"I think it's fantastic," said 1987 Masters champion Larry Mize, who had arrived for a practice round. "It's a great thing. I can't imagine how they must feel. I'd have had a hard time getting the ball off the ground.
"I think it's incredible. It's better than I could have imagined. I think it's great for the kids and great for golf."
As is customary at the Masters, little was left undone. For example, a bio for each of the participants was prepared, and all were asked what they would serve at the Champions Dinner if they won the Masters.
Said Raina Ports of Akron, Ohio, who competed in the girls' 7-9 division: "Hot dogs, hamburgers, baked beans, mashed potatoes and ice cream." Safe to say, that is not what Scott is serving.
Scott returned to Augusta National on March 24, his first visit to the club since winning a year ago. He played a practice round with, among others, Nick Price, and his coach, Brad Malone, was along for the journey.
"It was just a good, fun day," Scott said. "It was nice to come here and have a hit and not have to do too much. I thought it was good to do that.
"I was reminded by my coach as we were walking down 10 to stop and think about the last time we were walking down the 10th fairway and how it all was. That was a nice moment. I think it was nice of him to do that actually, to stop and smell the flowers for a second."
Scott, of course, won the tournament in a playoff over Angel Cabrera by holing a 12-foot birdie putt in sudden death at the 10th hole, all of which made his first trip around the course this year emotional.
"Absolutely, very much," he said. "Walking down there the last couple days thinking about it ... huge emotion. It's had an incredible impact on me the last year. The response. Talking about it. Reliving it. It's been nice, even these last couple days as well."
So imagine the feelings of those kids who got to meet Scott, or see Watson or simply enjoy the experience of hitting balls and rolling putts on the Augusta National course.
To illustrate how much things have changed: It wasn't long ago that television coverage of actual tournament rounds was restricted to just a few hours. On Sunday, Golf Channel had four hours of live coverage of the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship.
As part of the new competition, Augusta National sold tickets via lottery for a limited number of spectators -- perhaps about 4,000 -- to enter the gates Sunday and watch the event on the driving range and at the 18th hole. No one was permitted past the area of the first and 10th tees and 18th greens -- that's always been the case on the Sunday prior to Masters week -- but nobody seemed to mind.
They were here, they could take in the sights and sounds -- as well as spend their money in the bustling merchandise pavilion.
Then there was Matt Every. Two weeks ago, he won the Arnold Palmer Invitational, which not only got him his first PGA Tour victory but also a first invitation to the Masters.
Every, 30, had been here once before, during the 1997 Masters won by Tiger Woods. Every was in eighth grade. After coming up from his home in the Jacksonville, Fla., area last weekend, Every returned on Saturday, and is doing his best to not be overwhelmed.
"Trying to get as much knowledge as I can," said Every, who also had another problem to worry about.
"Tickets," he said. "I'm trying to figure out how to handle that."
That's no easy task. Masters competitors are given eight, making for some tough choices.
Done with his ceremonial duties, Scott -- wearing his green jacket -- stopped to chat for a few minutes, seeming to relish being back at the place that brought him so much joy a year ago.
"I've been here a few times and relived what happened last year and it's been fantastic every time," he said. "I'm going to have to get on with the job soon enough, but it's been a nice few days taking it in."
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