My Masters Thursday timelineApril 6, 2017
It's finally here, but the build-up to the live action can involve a lot of mental disintegration. Masters veteran Mark Townsend explains how he gets through the opening day of the major season
6.36am: I wake before my children in a state of confusion, excitement and mild anxiety. I’ve experienced this before and it’s a sensation that I’m familiar with – while I am desperate for 1 o’clock to come around, I want the world to stop now. It’s the first day of the Masters and I’m a bit all over the place.
I immediately pick up my phone, as I do every other day. This has become a daily ritual, probably more of an illness, and I scroll through Twitter to make sure that nothing has happened in Georgia in the past six hours. I put my earpiece in, open up YouTube and gently meditate over what the next four days have in store for me.
7.48am: My latest emotion is one of disappointment – over the BBC’s poor preview of this year’s tournament.
I wonder if I have changed. I have changed. I know I’ve changed. In the 80s, this might have been the best bit of TV going as Steve Rider would fire up a barbecue with Sandy Lyle and Co. Now it’s been replaced by a series of underwhelming interviews and all from underneath the big tree for the 10th year running.
It is slightly made up for by Ken Brown’s lack of effort to dress smartly – it’s nice to see Ken again after all these months – and a brief glimpse of any players strolling past in the background but, in truth, it’s left me a bit disillusioned.
8.23am: I give myself a bit of a talking to. I’ve waited too long to let the BBC and their lack of interest in the sport to get in the way of my enjoyment.
I check my bets and content myself that I have limited my selections to just five. I’m pretty sure four of these are the same as the last six years but we know all this. I’ve got a mental block when it comes to betting and I might well go to my grave convinced that Justin Rose is a future Masters champion.
8.26am: I find £3 in a William Hill account that has somehow got overlooked in all the excitement and pop another £1.50 each-way on the Hampshire superstar.
10.28am: In the past two hours I have attempted to memorise the next two days’ tee times and arranged my leaderboard by highlighting my Five to Follow, on both my laptop and phone, to give myself the immediate thrill of seeing Paul Casey in a tie for 41st rather than having to scroll down…and down.
10.42am: I spend three minutes daydreaming about Adam Hadwin’s chances of a top-20 finish.
11.08am: I scour the internet to see if there are any images of players arriving on the property but, given it’s just gone 6am local time, there’s nothing new to look at. I need something new in my head to think about.
11.58am: Lunchtime. An hour earlier than usual, but I need to decompress. I can’t keep pace with my own head.
My early start has left me gasping for fresh air and so I take myself to the driving range. For the next 50 balls I play Augusta National – just drives and approaches, even I’m unable to recreate the putting – and I blaze round in an opening 69.
A perfect start, just a modicum of interest from the worldwide media and a bit more from the local press and I’m safely inside the top 15 – and I haven’t even had the best half of the draw. Me and the rest of Team Townsend can now spend the afternoon “watching the other guys struggle”, said with a knowing chuckle, from our rented accommodation while maybe having a little snooze.
“Yeah, I didn’t sleep too great,”, I say with another chuckle and a slight American twang. I’ve only been in the States six days.
With my media work done I pop to the bakery and treat myself to a turkey salad sandwich.
12.45pm: I refresh Twitter and both leaderboards, the latter being one of the strangest things I’ve done today as nobody is due to go off for 15 minutes, for any news of the drive-in.
Details are sketchy but Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus have got their drives away and nobody got a TrackMan out to get the real numbers out there. I now daydream about old Arnie Palmer’s warm smile, soft eyes and gentle thumbs up. I feel a bit sad.
1.04pm: We are underway, thank god. Daniel Summerhays has found the left intermediate.
I spend the next four-and-a-half hours refreshing the leaderboard approximately twice a minute.
I flirt with the red button but, with no player anywhere near the 15th or 16th, there is nothing to see here and then I find myself in Amen Corner. But all the charm, dazzle and brilliance of those three holes built up over the past 38 years quickly evaporates as we see one shot every three minutes and it’s generally a chip from the side of the 11th green.
I then become increasingly irritated with colleagues who have refreshed their leaderboards a split second ahead of me, informing me that Casey is already over par.
Yuta Ikeda is the only player in red figures and I silently berate myself that I should have seen this coming.
He’s won 14 times in Japan, the man is a bloody machine and I’m on Casey and Rose and Mickelson and Oosthuizen and Leishman for the umpteenth year running.
The familiarity of the whole thing hits me square in the face: this happens every year, I’m pathetic.
I shallow out my breathing and try to get my day into a more enjoyable and less forced rhythm.
5.30pm: I drive home at the rate of knots so I can be reacquainted with my phone and family – in that order.
6.56pm: Bedtime is passed off in a blur of limbs, nappies and my phone being juggled to see how Leishman has fared at the seventh. The Gruffalo’s Child is read in record time after cleverly missing out every other page. Two small people look genuinely confused at what has just happened and the light is off amid lots of shushing.
7.03pm: And so to my favourite armchair and the dulcet tones of David Livingstone. Within the first three minutes I soon remember that this is the longest hour of the year. We won’t get live action, other than more players walking past in the background, Butch telling us how to play the 15th and a glimpse of how Ikeda got to three under at the seventh, until 8pm.
8.01pm: Finally. Live golf. OK, go away now please.