Walter Mencken 9 a.m., May 23
Want to watch a golfer get stupid right before your eyes?
CBS TV shows a lane lined with magnolias. At the end is a vague yellow something or other on a grassy mound and a white two-story building behind. Music comes on, a plunky piano. The announcer says "Augusta."
To non-golfers, the scene looks antebellum: a semi-colonial mansion at the end of a canopy of trees so thick the sun barely flecks the pavement.
That view is correct, as far as it goes. The trees were planted before the Civil War, and a much smaller version of the house - originally part of a nursery - stood on that spot.
Your golfer, who may fall blithering to the floor, sees Chartres Cathedral. And may even croon along with the piano: "Augusta, your dogwood and pine, they play on my mind...like a song."
If you aren't careful, the golfer will regale you with Too Much Information. The lane leads into the Augusta National Golf Course, home of the Masters Tournament, first of the year's four majors. The road's almost too short for a par four, 330 yards long, and there are 61 magnolias. The yellow thingy's the Masters' logo: a map of the United States made from manicured pansies, and a flag poking out from Augusta, Georgia.
Only players and corporate mucky-mucks - and only the highest-heeled of the latter - get to drive down Magnolia Lane (spectators enter far to the right and come out at the big scoreboard off the first fairway). No one anywhere on earth drives slower, as if each hunched over tree were a sacred icon.
The first time Tiger Woods made the drive, as an amateur in 1995, he called it "the perfect entrance to a golf club."
Fulton Allem, another pro, said when you enter the lane, "your hair stands up. It happens to everyone. And the person who combs his hair best wins the Masters."
So whose coif will best heed the comb?
Tiger Woods has allergies. Augusta National is Pollen Central in the spring. Tiger Woods has won four Masters. It rained at some point during each of his victories, knocking down the pollen.
Rain's in the forecast for Thursday and Friday.