It's the surest indication that summer is finally here. The shadows lengthen on the closely cropped sward amid the vibrant azaleas – thousands of miles away in Augusta. The sight of those idyllic fairways is enough to make anyone turn away in disgust from their own unkempt lawns and wallow in a late-night dreamland, where mowers drive themselves and sprinklers dance while servants bring you cocktails on the terrace.
Even the "rough" at Augusta is shorter than your average cricket square in mid-April. When the coverage switches from BBC2 to BBC1, it is entirely appropriate that the five-minute time lag is filled by doom-laden reports on the British weather.
Augusta is a fantasy, the Disneyland of golf. It just doesn't look real. You could imagine little bunny rabbits and chipmunks capering under the trees, were it not for the fact that the groundsman has surely shot them all. The only wildlife on view apart from the Tiger was a couple of turtles next to one of the improbably serene lakes, but they didn't move for several hours, so they were probably dead too.
There are endless vistas to act as backdrops. But the one they keep using is a classic white clapboard house with a big veranda and a wisteria in full bloom. It became a source of some fascination, like the setting of some gothic tale of the Deep South. An old lady sits alone on the stoop, perhaps working her way through a mint julep or five. But she never moves. Has she been killed by the groundsman too? Was that the price to be paid after she objected to an ESPN cameraman setting up camp outside her home?
Peter Alliss is in full bloom as well, describing Gary Player as "the old Queen Mother propping up the list" or chuckling that "Kenneth James Choi is at the 18th – I don't know what sort of Christian names Koreans have" – look it up, Pete, it's Kyung-Ju, and he's a committed Christian whose ambition is to build his own church.
Alliss tells us that Colin Montgomerie is "probably tucked up in bed, or in the gym. He's got his nuptials coming up in two weeks' time". The image of a sweaty Monty, for whatever reason, intrudes upon the setting. It's just a relief that we don't have to watch him trying to play in front of all those American spectators. Even the wildlife special that is Monty-baiting rather loses its appeal amid such tranquil surrounds.
With ghostly echoes of Blanche Dubois dropping her hanky in the fecund darkness of a southern soirée, as always there's the flower of British youth flattering to deceive. Even Ian Poulter restrained his dress nonsense in the presence of gentility.
But his hole in one did bring a Monty moment of a different sort – a Panesar-like spasm of hopelessly misguided high-fiving. There are still a few things the Americans can teachus, even in a cultural throwback such as Augusta, and happy hand-slappingis one of them.Reuse content