It was the best of weeks, it was the worst of weeks.
With all due respect to Charles Dickens and his 1895 novel A Tale of Two Cities, this best describes this particular week of my life.
A year ago, it was the best of times.
I was driving down to Minneapolis to meet up with former Daily News sports writer Jason Feldman on our trip to the 2008 Masters. It would be a fun-filled week of rubbing elbows with the top golfers and the top golf writers in the world.
We would go to Sticky Fingers, a local barbeque joint, twice, yes, twice and have all the chicken and potato chip sandwiches we could eat. I would nearly run over Tiger Woods in the club house, yes, the Augusta National Clubhouse. And we would be a minute late for our flight and miss it, speding 14, yes, 14 hours in the Atlanta airport.
Even the missed flight couldn't keep the week from being in my top three sports weeks ever. If you are counting at home, the other two are the 2005 Masters and the 2007 Masters.
The anticipation of heading to Augusta is almost as good as actually being there.
Even the practice rounds are great. Acutally, the practice round on Wednesday is one of my favorite days of the year. Maybe second to championship Sunday.
The partrons are the kings of the course that day. Plus, the par 3 contest, one of the greatest noncompetitive tournaments I have been to is played. There is so much more access for the average fan on the final practice round and everybody is there. Arnold Palmer and his army of fans are there. He won't be around after the first day anymore, so Wednesday is usually the final time he is on the course. Jack Nicklaus is also there. Last year, Jack, Arnie and Gary Player played together during the par 3 contest which was a little piece of golf heaven.
Then, there is the tournament itself.
I have tried to explain what it is like there to everybody who asks about it. No, I don't think the course is that much better than other championship courses. No, I don't think the drama is that much better than say a U.S. Open or British Open. No, the crowds aren't like they can be at the U.S. Open. But there is something different about being at Augusta.
I call it the holy land for golfers.
There is just a different feel there. Everywhere you look, something reminds you of the past. Bridges named after famous shots or multiple winners, buildings that names never change, series of holes with its own distinctive name and a course that is relatively the same every year. You know you are at the Masters.
Which brings me to this year.
It is the worst of times.
This time around, I will not be heading down. Instead, sports writer and former friend (just for this week) Chris Bieri is covering the tournament. So, for a week, I will mope around and curse his name and watch on television hoping something great or amazing doesn't happen.
I hope for a bland tournament, Tiger and Phil never get paired together - no big roars, no holes in one, no eagles. Just bland golf.
OK, it won't be. It's the Masters and even "boring" years are fantastic. And Chris deserves a good week since I went two years in a row.
Besides, I have been lucky enough to go to three and will be headed back again.
That will be the best of times.
(Michael Linnell is the sports editor for The Minot Daily News. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)