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If this is Augusta, where are the bloomin’ azaleas?

This is not good. Thanks to all that early spring weather and a Mother Nature, who is clearly in a silly mood (alcohol might be involved), the azaleas have come and gone from Augusta National Golf Club.

The azaleas!

Now, how is a man supposed to write about the Masters if there are no azaleas? I’ve written more about Augusta’s azaleas than about Arnie and Jack combined.

OK, the course is greener than green and in perfect condition as Thursday’s opening round approaches, lovely even without its corsages.

Amen Corner still is grinning down there in the valley, knowing it’s going to break some more hearts this week. The pines still stand tall, with the warm, sweet April breezes tousling their heads. The bunkers still gleam like wicked smiles.

Galleries ebb and flow across the course, hunting Tiger and Rory and Phil, heroes honing their games. Stars of bygone days stand on the clubhouse lawn with agents and coaches and equipment reps and some media riffraff.

Everything pretty much is the same, except for the flowers.

The defending champion seems to fit this scenario. He is pleasant, nice looking, quality draped all over him, but he is like Augusta National without the Technicolor.


Remember him? Schwartzel? From South Africa?

Charl Schwartzel. One of the last guys picked in your office pool last year. Birdied the final four holes to win a Sunday shootout with Jason Day, Adam Scott, Luke Donald, Geoff Ogilvie and, ahem, Tiger Woods. He was so intent on trying to win, he didn’t realize he had birdied the final four. “You get caught up in the moment,” Schwartzel said.

Happens to me all the time.

This win came as no great surprise to those who had been paying close attention. He and Phil Mickelson are the only players to make the cut in every major the past two seasons. Only Schwartzel has finished among the top 18 in each of the past seven majors.

He’ll tell you consistency is his thing. That’s a good thing if you’re a player, but you’re not going to drag a lot of patrons away from stars such as Woods, McIlroy, Donald, Mickelson, Lee Westwood. They get the ink, the TV time.

Doesn’t bother me, says Schwartzel. “I know if I play my game, I can compete.”

If Schwartzel is white bread, his menu for Tuesday’s champions’ dinner that he hosted, was anything but. Among the listings was Monkey Gland Sauce. Yum.

Schwartzel laughed when he was asked about it. “There’s no monkey in it and no glands,” he said. “It’s just a nice sauce.”

We knew that. Didn’t we?

By the way, someone just came in and said he had seen an azalea. All is not lost.