Last August we were in a restaurant celebrating my victory in
the Greater Vancouver Open, my first win on the PGA Tour, when a
man came over to congratulate me and said, "You're going to
Augusta!" We all looked at each other--me; my wife, Karen; my
caddie, Andy Portilla; and his wife, Betty--and it hit me: After
10 years on the Tour and at age 36, I was finally going to play
in the Masters.
I can't honestly say that playing the Masters was a lifelong
dream. Growing up in Irving, Texas, my brother Bill and I
planned to be rodeo cowboys. After I fell off enough horses, or
after enough horses fell on me, I switched to golf. I knew if I
played well enough, I would get to Augusta sooner or later.
Turns out it was later. Now that my first Masters is behind me,
I have to admit, it was worth the wait. Here's how it went.
Instead of going home to Scottsdale, Ariz., after the Players
Championship, I went to Orlando to practice and work with David
Leadbetter. I had a couple of different ways to get to Augusta.
I could've driven with Karen and our two-year-old, Brandel Jr.,
whom we call Little B, but seven hours in a car with a
two-year-old is not an option. Or I could've flown commercially
to Atlanta, changed planes and gone on to Augusta. Considering
the mountain of luggage I had to deal with, that wasn't a
pleasant prospect either.
David gave me the idea for option number 3. He suggested a
private jet. The flight would last an hour and a half and cost
$4,500. I figured I was going to Augusta for the first time and
was already down about 10 grand for tickets and the two houses
I'd rented for the week, so what was a few thousand more? Karen
couldn't believe it when I told her I had chartered a jet.
"Honey," I told her, "you can't take a pocket knife into a
FRIDAY, APRIL 2: We got to our rental house about 9 p.m. I made
a run to a grocery store for essentials, which included a
12-pack of Guinness. I'm going to Ireland in a couple of weeks
with my best friend, Jack Harden, to play some of the great
courses there. I needed to start training for the trip, so I
turned on the TV, poured myself a Guinness and drank a toast to
our arrival in Augusta.
SATURDAY, APRIL 3: I was halfway down Magnolia Drive almost
before I knew it. It wasn't quite the way I envisioned my first
visit to Augusta National. What happened was, Little B was
throwing a fit in the backseat. Karen was trying to quiet him,
and I was trying not to drive the courtesy car--a Cadillac
Escalade, which is more like a courtesy tank--into one of the
magnolia trees. My son was upset because he hadn't wanted to
leave our rental house. The owners obviously have children.
There were toys in every room, and Little B had gotten pretty
excited: "Daddy, toys! Daddy, cars!" He had found a plastic
hammer set that he loved. It got to be noon and time to go to
the course, which meant that we had to take him away from his
new toys, and he started wailing. Forget Augusta National,
Daddy, there's a hammer set upstairs.
It was quiet at the club, and nobody was there to greet me. As I
walked into the locker room I noticed a plaque that read,
GENTLEMEN ONLY. You see those in other places, but here you get
the feeling they mean it. There were three or four waiters in
the men's grill, and they must've been studying the Tour's media
guide. "Mr. Chamblee," one of them said, "would you like lunch?"
I thought, Man, these guys are good. They ought to know a Nick
Price or a Greg Norman or a Davis Love, but me? There are
90-some guys in the tournament, and even I probably don't even
know 15 of them.
After eating, I ran into Tom Watson, who was going out for a
practice round. He wanted to know if I'd like to join him, but I
had to take a pass so I could regrip my clubs. I had changed the
grips the day before, but they were too thick. Later I kicked
myself. My first Masters, and I turn down a chance to play with
Tom Watson, who has won here three times. What was I thinking?
I changed the grips myself in a back room. It was looking as if
my first round was going to be just me and my caddie when Bob
Estes, another Tour player from Texas, asked me to play. Bob is
a nice guy who likes to talk. When we got to the 1st tee, he
said, "This is it! Your first tee shot at Augusta National. What
do you think? What do you feel?" I was just trying to relax. I
knew it was my first tee shot, and, yeah, I was juiced. For the
record, I drove into the left rough.
The front nine at Augusta National is pretty good, but the first
time you play the course you can't help but think about the back
nine. When I reached the 11th fairway, where you can see the
11th green, the 12th tee, the 12th green, Rae's Creek and the
13th tee--Amen Corner--I thought, Somebody please take a
picture. I hadn't been playing well up until then, but I hit a
seven-iron to six feet at the 12th, then ripped a drive around
the corner at 13 and hit a five-iron to the middle of the green.
The whole back nine is like playing golf in a museum. The first
tournament I remember watching on TV was the 1975 Masters, the
one in which Jack Nicklaus made that long putt at the 16th and
ran around the green. History kept tugging at me all the way
around the course. I thought about the long putt Ben Crenshaw
made at the 10th hole in '85, and Jose Maria Olazabal's six-iron
shot there when he won in '94. At 12 I remembered Seve
Ballesteros hitting an eight-iron, posing and saying,
"¬°Belleza!" That's Spanish for beautiful. Every time I imitate
Seve for my buddies back home, I always say, "¬°Belleza!"
I won $50 from Estes. In the locker room I met two guys from
Brazil and another from Holland who were the captains of their
countries' golf organizations and had a beer with them. They
invited me to play in the Dutch Open and some tournament in Rio
de Janeiro, which reminded me of how much I love this job. I'm
lucky to be here, play Augusta National and get paid to do it.
This is my hammer set.
SUNDAY, APRIL 4: Today is Easter, and I had promised to take
Karen to church and have an Easter-egg hunt for Little B, so I
turned down an invitation from CBS producer Lance Barrow to play
with some members this morning. When I went over to the course
later in the afternoon, I ran into Lance, who introduced me to
the guys I would've played with. They're going to set the pins
for the Masters, he said. It's my first Masters, and now I've
turned down practice rounds with Tom Watson and the guys who'll
set the tournament pins? I felt like hitting myself with Little
MONDAY, APRIL 5: The best thing about the Masters is that every
day gets off to a perfect start. I'm talking about breakfast. I
love basted eggs, which nobody knows how to make. When I sat
down for breakfast today, the waiter asked me how I wanted my
eggs. Do you know how to baste them? I asked. Absolutely, he
said. They were terrific. New rule: I'm having breakfast here
every morning. They also have a big box of warm Krispy Kreme
doughnuts, which are legendary in the South. I stared down a
Krispy Kreme today and won. I didn't eat it. Yesterday I lost
the staredown. I also saw Tim Herron--Lumpy--having a Krispy
Kreme moment. He had his hand over the box, and it was actually
shaking over the choices, when he suddenly veered off and
grabbed a banana. He looked over at me and said, "Boy, that was
close!" I like Lumpy.
Today I got together with Glen Day. At Bay Hill he had told me
that he had gone over to Jack Nicklaus's house--he's a friend of
Jack's--and asked him how to play Augusta National. This is
Glen's first Masters, too. Jack asked him which hole. Glen threw
down the yardage book, and Jack went through every hole, drawing
diagrams. I told Glen, "You and I are playing a practice round
together." Glen brought the book with him, and we went over
Jack's advice on every hole. Most of it was common sense,
really. The surprising thing was how conservative some of Jack's
strategy is. What does it tell you when the greatest player in
the world plays a hole conservatively? It tells me it's a pretty
Take number 6, the 180-yard par-3. When the pin is on the left,
Jack always aims for the tier on the right side. The ball will
kick off the tier and feed to the left. If you've got your name
on your bag, you figure you ought to be able to go right at the
pin, but Jack always aims over to the right. At 13, the dogleg
par-5, Jack picks out a certain tree on the far side of the
fairway and tries to hit a draw. If it doesn't draw, he figures,
There were no earth-shattering secrets from Jack, but I did come
to one realization: To get close to a lot of the pins, you have
to work the ball one way or the other and play off the slopes on
the greens. That explains why the Masters champions are always
TUESDAY, APRIL 6: I had breakfast at the course. Basted eggs,
naturally. I played a practice round with Estes, Andrew Magee
and Billy Mayfair and hit the ball a lot better. I played to the
middle of the 6th green, per Nicklaus's instructions, and came
within a few inches of an ace. At the 13th I made a 50-foot putt
from the back of the green for eagle. At 15 I hit a good drive
and a three-iron to 12 feet. I was putting well and thought, I'm
going to make this one, too. But Magee and a couple of the
caddies got all over me. "What are you doing? You can't make two
eagles today!" they said. I'm not superstitious, but they were
right. I missed the putt, pushing it a foot.
After we hit our tee shots at the 16th, the par-3 over the pond,
the gallery egged us on to try to skip a ball off the water onto
the green. So we walked to the front of the tee and tried it
with three-irons. Estes skipped his a couple of times but stuck
it in the bank on the other side. Magee's shot sank in the pond.
I hit a beautiful three-iron that skipped once hard, jumped up
and rocketed onto and over the green, where a guy in the gallery
scooped it up and put it into his pocket real quick, like he
expected it. The crowd went nuts.
That evening Karen and I got dressed up to go to the first-time
Masters players dinner. It's held at the Eisenhower Cabin, which
is nicely appointed. It looks like a great place to play cards
all night. I had on a coat and tie. Karen wore a silver-sequined
thing that had some members stumbling over the furniture to come
say hello. The members here are just the nicest people. We've
all heard stories about this club being stuffy and having strict
rules, but in fact it's just the opposite. The members are
friendly, outgoing and delightful hosts, and they give the
tournament an informal feel that I really like. I asked for a
Scotch, and it came in a glass the size of a mason jar. We might
have been the last to leave since we had such a pleasant evening.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 7: I practiced in the morning and had lunch in
the clubhouse with Jack Harden. Let me fill you in about Jack.
He played on the Tour in the late '60s and early '70s but
eventually went into real estate and has done well. His dad,
Jack Sr., was also a golf pro and played with Ben Hogan. At one
time Jack Sr. was the pro at River Oaks Country Club in Houston
and gave lessons to some of the astronauts. One of them, Alan
Shepard, asked Jack Sr. to make him the club he would eventually
take to the moon. Along with the club, he gave Shepard three
range balls with the words PROPERTY OF JACK HARDEN printed on
them. A lawyer told us that if you drew a line between those
three balls, wherever they are, the land between the lines
belongs to Jack's dad.
Anyway, after lunch I got a jumpsuit for Jack so he could caddie
for me in the par-3 tournament, but first I had to stop in the
golf shop and buy a carry bag. Jack didn't want to lug my big
Tour bag around the par-3 course, and I didn't want to have to
administer CPR in front of 25,000 people.
We stuck six-iron through sand wedge in the small bag and were
heading to the range when Ken Venturi walked by. He looked in my
bag and said, "I never realized you were this long, Brandel."
I told Ken, "Didn't you hear? I've picked up 40 yards."
On each tee a club member in a green coat gives you the yardage.
"It's 113, sir. One-one-three." Very official. The hard part is
missing the fans, who sit right on the edge of the greens. I
nailed a lady on the 2nd hole. When I got to the green, I asked
her how she was doing. She said, "I was doing better five minutes
ago." I was going to give her my ball after putting out, but
Magee, who was playing with me and Chris Perry, started needling
me and I forgot. I felt bad about that for the rest of the day.
It's too bad the par-3 tournament isn't televised. Lots of
players have their kids caddying. The course is prettier than
Augusta National itself, if that's possible. After we played two
holes, Jack said, "Forget Augusta National. I want to be a
member at this course."
Jack was too busy enjoying the round to do a lot of caddying.
Then he turned into a philanthropist and started giving balls to
kids. I told him to be careful because the last two holes have
water on them. He said, "Then you better suck it up because
you've only got one ball left." He had given away the rest. I
didn't lose the ball and shot 28 for the round.
THURSDAY, APRIL 8: The birds woke me up again today. You don't
need an alarm clock in Augusta. You've got birds. Their chirping
is a pleasant sound to wake up to, but I can never get back to
sleep. I went to the course early--I had a 9:18 tee time--and
spent 45 minutes chatting with Colin Montgomerie, whom I played
against when I was at Texas and he was at Houston Baptist.
Colin's a charming guy, and funny. At one point we were
discussing all the attention being paid to David Duval and Tiger
Woods, and he said, "I suppose we should all just go home then.
I have no idea what I'm doing here."
I had a good pairing. I was with Olazabal, a former champ. He's
fun to watch. I like his swing, and he's an absolute wizard
around the greens. Bill Glasson was also in our threesome. He's
an intimidating fellow. If this were a thousand years ago and
the Tour were a tribe, he would be our leader. He could
single-handedly scare the hell out of any enemy.
I wasn't that nervous. I played real well but missed a couple of
easy birdie putts. Who doesn't at Augusta? At the 13th I aimed
at that tree, just like Nicklaus said I should, but didn't hit a
draw. I had 216 to the pin. It was a good yardage for my Zoom.
That's a PRGR club I carry that's a combination two-iron and
four-wood. It looks ugly but hits pretty shots. Sometimes you
hit shots and wonder if they're going to be good, but I knew the
whole way that that one was a dandy. It rolled over the edge of
the cup, I think, and stopped about four feet past the hole. You
win a piece of crystal if you make an eagle in the Masters, and
as I lined up the putt I had to get mad at myself. "Would you
forget about the crystal and concentrate on making the putt?" I
said. I made it.
Jose Maria tied me on the hole. He hit a low, line-drive second
shot that actually skipped across Rae's Creek and somehow ran up
the bank onto the fringe, from where he ran in a 30-footer.
After he hit the second shot, he put his hand over his face,
then waved at the sky to thank god, making the crowd laugh.
After I made my putt, he said, "Good eagle." I said, "Good eagle
to you, too." He said, "No, no, no. Your eagle was good. Mine
On the 14th tee I realized that Ollie and I were tied for the
lead at three under par. I wasn't excited or nervous about that.
I can't explain it, but I just wanted to go play some more golf.
I bogeyed the 14th when my sand wedge shot came up short and spun
off the front of the green like a yo-yo trick, but I finished
with a birdie at 18 to shoot 69.
I didn't think a 69 was that big of a deal. I figured somebody
would shoot 66 or 67, but the media wanted to talk to me. First,
I did an interview from a podium outside the press center for the
TV cameras. I told them, "This is the best round I've ever played
at Augusta National." I thought that was kind of funny but nobody
laughed. The next question was, "What do you think of the changes
to the course?" That was tough to answer, since I hadn't been
That evening my Aunt Amy fixed a terrific dinner--grilled
chicken, corn on the cob and banana pudding. We watched the end
of the day's play on TV while we ate. I was waiting to see if
anybody would beat my 69--for selfish reasons. The low round
each day gets a piece of crystal. Little B was sitting at the
table playing when I noticed a familiar odor. Dirty diaper, I
told Karen. If you'll change it, you can have the crystal. I
thought that was a pretty good trade. Besides, it's a rule in
Augusta: If you're leading the Masters, you don't have to change
FRIDAY, APRIL 9: Good news: When I woke up this morning, I was
still leading, so yesterday wasn't a dream. Bad news: I felt
like a rookie today when the traffic got me. I rented a house
five minutes from the course just so I wouldn't get stuck in
traffic, yet it took me 45 minutes to get there today, and
because I was driving a car with a big Masters logo on it, I
couldn't even pick my nose because everybody was staring at me.
More bad news: By the time I arrived, it was too late for
breakfast. My new best friend, Chris the waiter, told me the
kitchen was closed. No basted eggs. Could I get a junior club
sandwich? I asked. Sure, he said. I guess they made those in the
laundry room. I ate with Justin Leonard and Ernie Els. Ernie had
walked in, spotted a table of guys sitting around, said, "Hello,
you wankers" and sat down. Everybody likes Ernie.
I've been talking to a couple of security guards every day when
I walk in from the parking lot. I guess they thought I was a
complete chop because today they were all excited, going,
"You're leading! You're leading!" It didn't sound like "Hey, way
to go, you're leading." It was more like "I can't believe you're
Sharing the lead after one round of a major really didn't mean
that much to me. It's nice, sure, but it's only one fourth of
the tournament. I would hate to have "once led first round of
Masters" be the highlight of my career. Besides, I wasn't the
leader for long. I got passed even before I teed off. Then I
bogeyed the 1st, 5th and 7th holes. It was windy. I knew it was
going to be a tough day.
I made a rookie mistake at the 2nd hole. I tried to whip my
drive around the corner of the trees on the left, like a hero.
It went a little too far left. I figured it would be in the pine
needles, but when I walked down the slope, I saw the hazard
stakes. There's a little stream hidden among the azaleas. I
asked Andy if he knew there was a hazard down there. He said no.
We played four practice rounds, and I never even looked over
there. So now I was dead. I had to take a drop in the pine
needles and hit this snap-hook four-iron just to get back in the
fairway. I pulled it off--it was a wonderful shot. Then I hit
maybe the best wedge of my life and made par. I remember hearing
the old Masters line that if you miss number 2 left, there's a
Delta ticket counter down there because you'll be flying out of
town on the weekend, but I didn't know there was a stream hidden
there. Stupid rookie.
I was about to hit my second shot at number 7 when I heard a
thwok! A ball ran up about 10 feet behind me. It was my pal,
Magee, who had yanked his tee shot off a tree at the 3rd hole.
He walked over, and after I had hit to the green, he said, "Way
to hit it, good shot. Go knock it in." He still had about 240
yards and 240 trees to the green. I looked at his ball and said,
"I don't know what to say to you." He laughed. Naturally, when
he found me in the clubhouse later, the first thing he said was,
"Made 4 on 3." Amazing.
I didn't want to be one of those first-round leaders who blew
up, so I was pleased that I played well enough to bring it back
on the back nine. I birdied the 13th with a really nice
bump-and-run up the slope onto the green. I was walking down the
fairway on the next hole when all of a sudden I felt a presence
next to me. It was Glasson. He said real quietly, "What did you
hit that chip with?" It was the first time he had talked to me
all day. I told him it was a six-iron. "Do you always use
six-iron?" he asked. I said no, but I had watched Jose Maria use
it the day before so I had practiced the shot. I had tried it on
the 3rd hole and gotten that one up and down, too. It's a nice
I hit the pond at 15 with my second shot but hit another good
wedge to make par. I also saved par out of the front bunker at
the 17th and finished with a 73, which was pretty good after my
start. I was tied for seventh.
I watched a good round. Jose Maria made everything and shot 66
to take the lead. On the 5th hole he made the best putt I've
ever seen. He had a 10-footer straight downhill with three feet
of break. He took the clubhead back an inch--barely got the ball
moving--and rolled it right in the heart. ¬°Belleza!
I didn't putt as well. I was working on some downhillers on the
practice green later when Lee Janzen came by. "Why are you
working on downhill putts?" he asked. "You're going to have an
uphill putt on every hole...right after you hit your first
putt." I laughed. Good point.
SATURDAY, APRIL 10: It's tough to talk about what happened
today. My chances to win the Masters pretty much blew up in my
face. I had a late tee time, 1:30 p.m., so I gave Karen a break
and spent all morning with Little B. We read books and played.
The hammer set took a hellacious beating. Once I got to the
course, I was way too late for basted eggs so again I went for
the junior club sandwich, which is what everybody orders. (If
they were out of everything else that's listed on the menu, no
one would ever know.) I sat at a table with Els, Leonard, Monty,
Steve Elkington and Davis Love. While I was waiting for my food,
I started reading last week's SI story about David Duval, which
was a terrible article to read before playing golf. I came close
to crying. I had to put it down, and I wondered if the others
could see the tears in my eyes. Then Davis said, "Did you read
the Duval story?" I told him I had almost started crying. He
said, "I cried this morning." Then Elkie said, "I cried last
night." After that I didn't feel so bad.
I hit it great on the range, didn't miss a shot and made a
couple of early birdies to go to four under. I was in good
position, only three behind the leader, Olazabal, when I walked
up to my drive in the 8th fairway and noticed that a piece of
mud was stuck on the back of my ball. I could've gotten a full
three-wood close to the green, but because of the mud the ball
might have gone anywhere, so I hit a three-iron instead. My ball
jumped left and hooked into the trees, where I was dead. There's
no worse feeling than playing smart and still stepping on your
you-know-what. I'd rather screw up while going for it. That's
what I was thinking as I played the next five shots to make a
Nothing much good happened on the back nine. I missed the 12th
green for the third straight day. During my first practice
round, with Bob Estes, I hit a seven-iron that stopped next to
the hole. The following day I hit an eight-iron to the middle of
the green. I guess those shots were blind luck, the golf gods
playing games with me. In the tournament I've been over the
green twice and in the front bunker once. Still, Nicklaus says
he tries to play number 12 in two over for the week.
At 13, I ended up in the left bunker on a downslope with the pin
tucked close on a ledge. Bogey. I birdied 14 and had a chance to
go for 15 in two again. You live with the Zoom, you die with the
Zoom. I hit a good shot but found the water for the second
straight day. Another bogey. The 16th was the killer. The pin
was back left, and my ball landed by the hole but went over the
green. I shot 75 and ended up eight strokes back. I doubt I can
win the tournament, although if Steve Pate can make seven
birdies in a row, anything is possible.
After the round I went to the practice green and made every
single putt for five minutes. Couldn't miss. It made me even
madder. Jack finally said, "It's perfect. Let's go have a beer."
So we sat on the veranda and watched a fleet of mowers come down
the 1st fairway. I timed them. They mowed half of the 1st
fairway in 45 seconds. I tried to figure out which mower General
Patton was riding. When I went to get us two more beers, a
security guard was standing in front of the counter with his
arms crossed. "Sir, this line is closed," he said. "Are you a
member?" I said, "No, I'm a player." He said, "I'm going to ask
you again, are you a member?" Oh, I get it. I said, "Yeah, I'm a
member." He said, "Where's your green jacket?" I said I left it
in my locker. He said, "Fine, you can have a beer then."
Speaking of green, I took two Heinekens.
Speaking of lying, even though this was a disappointing day, it
was still more fun than what I usually do this week: figure out
SUNDAY, APRIL 11: Jack and I know exactly how many magnolia
trees there are on Magnolia Drive. As we drove down it today, he
counted the left side and I counted the right. There are 28
magnolias on the right and 32 on the left for a total of 60. You
probably didn't know that.
I had a special game plan today--get some basted eggs. I hadn't
gotten to the course in time to have breakfast for two days in a
row and hadn't played well. Today I slept in and again arrived
too late for breakfast but told Chris, the super waiter, that I
would not take no for an answer. I needed my eggs. They almost
worked. I shot an even-par 72 on a gusty day when scores were
high. The trouble is, I came up a stroke short of making the top
16, which would've earned me an invitation to next year's
tournament. I missed a four-foot par putt on the last hole that
would've gotten me in. I played with Craig Stadler, who offered
to sell me his birdie at 18 because he had a good idea that I
might need it. Walking off the green, he said, "Good playing
today. Two things make that a good round. One, it was really
windy. Two, you had to play with me."
I made it a point to soak in all the sights and savor the round.
I finally birdied the 15th hole. I found out how you play 17. It
opens up from the 15th fairway. Not many people know that.
Actually, I hit a tree with my drive. It wasn't the Eisenhower
tree--let's call it the Nixon tree because it sent my ball way
right. I was left with 229 yards to the front of the green. It
was a perfect Zoom. I hit the best shot of the day and
two-putted for par from the front fringe.
Yes, I'm bummed that I missed the top 16, but I'm not going to
let it ruin my memories of the week. In golf there's only one
guy who's completely happy each week. Everyone else can find
something wrong if they want to. Are you supposed to be
miserable if you finish second in the U.S. Open?
I loved having my family and friends here. I almost felt like I
was on vacation. A few times I thought, I get to play Augusta
National today. Never mind that it's the Masters, I get to play
Augusta National. I hope I get another chance. I guess I'll have
to play my way onto the top 50 on the World Ranking, the top 30
on the money list or win again to get invited. If I don't,
that's O.K., too. Little B and I will always have the hammer set.