[PHOTO: courtesy Masters Tournament/Augusta National]

Greetings from Augusta National. Australian Golf Digest has arrived and the hallowed turf in Georgia is looking extra hallowed as the practice rounds for the 88th Masters began. We’ll take you around the grounds for things we’ve noticed on a beautiful, sunny, solar eclipse-affected Monday (US time).

Cameron Smith

Having withdrawn before the second round of LIV Golf Miami last week due to food poisoning, Australian fans were nervous to find out if his Masters hopes took a hit. Smith was out at Augusta National for about an hour on Monday afternoon, putting and chipping. Although Smith looked like he was struggling to read the break of the practice putting greens, his speed was still dialled. And from the 25 minutes of pitching your correspondent saw, his short game has not lost any touch. He will play a practice round on Tuesday, probably with Adam Scott. On Wednesday, he’s showing Victorian amateur Jasper Stubbs around the course in a practice round.

Tiger Woods

Tiger showed up early Monday morning and played a practice round with Will Zalatoris. Woods’ limp appeared less severe than it did last year, when an ankle injury became too painful and forced his withdrawal before the final round having made the cut for a record-equalling 23rd time. “He played great today,” Zalatoris said. “He outdrove me a couple times so there was some chirping going on. So, you know, he looks great. He’s moving as well as he can be. Again, with everything he’s gone through, it’s pretty amazing to see how good he’s swinging it.”

Woods warms up before a practice round Monday with Will Zalatoris.

Merchandise tent

Your correspondent has been covering the Masters since 2017, which admittedly is not long in the grand scheme of golf media, but the lines for the merchandise shop are longer than I’ve ever seen. Several reporter colleagues told me the queue on Sunday, while the Drive, Chip & Putt final was being played, was longer than two-and-a-half hours. That’s believable considering that on Monday, the line snaked from the entrance to the shop, which is towards the first fairway, all the way around the merchandise building and up the main entranceway to the end of the practice fairway. A rough guess is it was more than 500 metres long and five or six people wide at every point. It looked like the queue to get into the Vatican in the middle of a European summer.

Old school

Many aspects of Masters week are incredibly old school, and that’s what makes it such a beautiful sporting event. The slow growth in beer prices from the 1980s, the pay phones on the course, the no-mobile-phones policy. It can also be difficult and frustrating when technology we all rely on is removed from us for an entire day. Take it from one patron who appeared to have lost contact with his wife. We’ll leave his surname out of it, but a hand-written note was stuck to a noticeboard near the driving range that was displaying the practice round tee-times. “Jim [Surname] message. Call wife.” Make sure you call her, Jim.

Solar eclipse

With a total eclipse set for Monday afternoon, Masters patrons were handed custom solar sunglasses as they walked into Augusta National. The sunnies are made of green paper with a Masters Tournament logo on each side; no doubt they’ll go viral in the golf world and everyone will want a pair. About 76 percent of the sun was blocked at about 3 o’clock this afternoon. Augusta National released a statement saying the eclipse is expected to hit the course from 1:45pm to about 4:20pm. “During the eclipse, please do not look at the sun without appropriate solar glasses. We ask that you exercise caution and be aware of your surroundings while wearing the glasses.”

Zalatoris is certainly a fan – of the sunglasses and the eclipse. “I found a couple of Masters eclipse glasses, which I will be keeping those for absolutely the rest of my life. Those will be some collectables that will be in my office forever. Yeah, I guess we got about four or so hours so I’ll be watching it.”