Inside the Augusta Cocoon

Craig Jones, Allsport, Getty Images
Craig Jones, Allsport, Getty Images

When Tiger Woods announced he'd make his comeback at the Masters, a British bookmaker immediately installed him as a 4-1 favorite. A surer bet also available for gambling types online -- even though the odds make it a virtual coin flip -- is whether Woods will have to step away after addressing the ball because of a heckler.

Having been to Augusta several times, I'd say it's not likely to happen. And certainly not more than once.

It's not that I'm absolutely sure no one will heckle him. If someone does, though, that's when the truly stone-cold lead-pipe betting odds kick in. There's a 100 percent chance that person will be escorted out, never to return. And a 99 percent chance he or she will be dunked in Rae's Creek on the way just for good measure.

A Trip Down Magnolia Lane

Tiger Woods has chosen the Augusta cocoon for obvious reasons. And reminders of why will present themselves to him as soon as he turns off Washington Rd. onto Magnolia Lane -- a paved entry to the Augusta biosphere named for the 61 magnolia trees that form a canopy stretching 300 yards to the clubhouse. [Image courtesy of Flickr user drod5044.]

That drive down Magnolia Lane was usually when the great golfer Lee Trevino started fidgeting. Trevino skipped the Masters for a few years and later admitted it was a mistake. But the exclusivity of the place always made him feel uncomfortable.

Merry Mex, as he was known, knew if he weren't a golfer he wouldn't be welcome anywhere near the place except through the kitchen. So Trevino refused to use the clubhouse even to change his shoes in the early to mid-1970s, choosing instead to use the trunk of his car as a locker.

Tiger Woods never knew that Augusta National. The club invited its first African-American member in 1990, years before Woods played at Augusta. For him, Augusta National is a safe haven, a place where he has not only won four times but where everything around him promises, as always, to be as controlled as a movie set. Once he parks his car, he'll go to the clubhouse. But not just any clubhouse.

Upstairs, above the one where invited golfers will dress, Woods will share a clubhouse with the past Masters' champions. Even the privacy at Augusta demands more privacy.

Media Relations

Woods will meet the media on the Monday after Easter. The issuing of media credentials is more limited at Augusta than at other tournaments. Not that TMZ or other outlets that made such an industry of the Woods scandal would've ever been welcome inside for the Masters anyway. But the credential application deadline passing before Woods announced his return allows the club to tell any number of media outlets, "Sorry, too late."

A club member emcees the player interviews at Augusta National. So when Woods does meet the press, he'll have a friendly face beside him orchestrating the proceedings. To say the treatment the emcee gives a guy like Woods is deferential doesn't quite cover it.

I've joked that usually by the time the interview is completed, Woods' shoes are spit shined, his ironed golf shirt collar is given turndown service and he's leaving a tip for the 30-minute chair massage. But I'm really only ruling out the the tip.

The media is allowed inside the ropes at most golf tournaments. Not at Augusta. At Augusta, everything and everyone conforms.

Lunch Break

The prices for Augusta National's famed pimento cheese sandwiches and egg salad sandwiches haven't changed in years. They are wrapped in green paper, the litter under express orders to blend in should a gust of wind send it flying off for a tour of the course. [Image courtesy of Crazy Alex Luck.]

For the Birds

I began covering the Masters for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in the mid-1980s. I shared a handful of Masters tournaments with my co-worker and friend, Dave Kindred, winner of the Red Smith Award and long-time columnist for Golf Digest.

"(The Masters) is closer to what it started out to be than any sports event in the world," Kindred wrote me recently. "Bobby Jones wanted to invite his friends to his place. Still does. It's his place, not Budweiser's, not Traveler's, certainly not CBS's (it's the only sports event, I'd guess, that takes LESS money than a network could be muscled into offering).

"In exchange, it sets the rules of commercial time, use of network promotions, maybe even the bird sounds. There is less commercial signage at Augusta National than on the zipper of any NASCAR hero suit. I can say that because there is NONE. Nobody does that. Not even Wimbledon, where there's a Rolex sign at Centre Court. Good God, Augusta tapes over the Coca-Cola logos at the concession-stand soda fountains. Coca-Cola, the elixir of Atlanta!"

Once, Kindred tells me, he was hard-up for an early-week column. He watched workers mow the fairways. The precision impressed him. He thought he could make a column out of it. So he waited for the tractor/mower man to finish.

"Except when I stopped him, he said, 'No comment,'" Kindred remembered.

Kindred's reference to the "bird sounds" was in response to my mention that some reporters for years have walked around the grounds of Augusta National at a Masters tournament hearing the sweet songs of birds celebrating spring. Yet, some contend, they never actually see any birds. Were they donning camouflage?

Now that's control.

The Masters' Slogan Clearly Isn't "Have it Your Way"

"¢ In 1966, Jack Whitaker of CBS refers to the golf fans standing around the green as a "mob." Augusta National prefers "patrons." Whitaker isn't invited back.

"¢ In 1994, Gary McCord of CBS, looking for a way to get across how fast the Augusta National greens are says the club "doesn't cut the greens, it uses bikini wax." He said the lumpy terrain looks "like body bags." That was his last Masters. They don't just eject hecklers at Augusta. They eject golf announcers, too.

"¢ When Lee Trevino balked at the $90 badge fee for his son one year, he vowed never to return to Augusta. Masters tournament chairman Hord Hardin wrote Trevino, saying, "We'll miss you but we'll try to go on without you."

"¢ But by far the most glaring example of how insular Augusta can be, and also how it handles controversy, happened when Martha Burk took aim at its male-only membership policy in 2003. Representing the National Council of Women's Organizations, Burke wrote a letter to Augusta National Chairman Hootie Johnson urging the club to open its door to women members.

Three weeks later, Johnson wrote her back, calling her letter "offensive and coercive." He said the club would admit women on its own timetable. He evoked the old south by saying the club would not act at the "the point of a bayonet."

Burk put pressure on Masters sponsors to cut ties with the event. Augusta answered in a truly remarkable fashion, by putting on a commercial-free telecast. Burk arrived at Augusta National with a couple dozen supporters to protest during the tournament. They were further marginalized by the crazies -- a cross-dressing clown and a KKK member among them.

Crowd Control

Augusta National refers to the people who walk through its gates to watch the Masters as "patrons." Not fans. That's short for fanatics. Not galleries. Patrons. Every hole has a name associated with its predominant tree or shrub. So No. 1 isn't only No. 1. It's Tea Olive. No. 3 isn't just No. 3. It's Flowering Peach.

Golfer Mac O'Grady, who enjoyed a reputation as, shall we say, a free spirit -- OK, OK, his nickname was "Whack-o Mac-o" -- explained his poor play one year by saying he was "overcome by the biophilia" (an appreciation of life and the living world).

Golf fans are overcome by it, too, which is partly why the Masters ticket is so cherished. In the old days, tickets remained in the same family forever, but somewhere along the way the club revoked its family-succession plan. Tickets had to be used by the person named and could no longer be handed down or handed off to relatives.

When Kindred worked in Atlanta, he lived in the small town of Newnan, Ga. So did long-time Masters "patron" and cartoonist David Boyd. Boyd once quoted his aging mother to Kindred for a column.

"I visited her in the nursing home," Boyd told him. "Mother said to me, 'Every night I go to bed praying to die. Every morning I wake up praying thanks I'm alive. The Lord's keeping me alive for some reason. Only thing I can think of is the Masters tickets.'"

The story has long persisted that Augusta's membership never knows what its yearly dues are. Members are billed at the end of the golf season, the idea being that if you feel the need to ask what you're going to owe you're not Augusta material.

So if extra security is needed for Tigers Woods, I'm betting the club will probably be able to scrape it together.

10 Reusable Gifts for Your Eco-Friendliest Friend

Disposable tea bags can't compete with this pla-tea-pus and his friends.
Disposable tea bags can't compete with this pla-tea-pus and his friends.
DecorChic/Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

By this point, your eco-friendly pal probably has a reusable water bottle that accompanies them everywhere and some sturdy grocery totes that keep their plastic-bag count below par. Here are 10 other sustainable gift ideas that’ll help them in their conservation efforts.

1. Reusable Produce Bags; $13

No more staticky plastic bags.Naturally Sensible/Amazon

The complimentary plastic produce bags in grocery stores aren’t great, but neither is having all your spherical fruits and vegetables roll pell-mell down the checkout conveyor belt. Enter the perfect alternative: mesh bags that are nylon, lightweight, and even machine-washable.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Animal Tea Infusers; $16

Nothing like afternoon tea with your tiny animal friends.DecorChic/Amazon

Saying goodbye to disposable tea bags calls for a quality tea diffuser, and there’s really no reason why it shouldn’t be shaped like an adorable animal. This “ParTEA Pack” includes a hippo, platypus, otter, cat, and owl, which can all hang over the edge of a glass or mug. (In other words, you won’t have to fish them out with your fingers or dirty a spoon when your loose leaf is done steeping.)

Buy it: Amazon

3. Rocketbook Smart Notebook; $25

Typing your notes on a tablet or laptop might save trees, but it doesn’t quite capture the feeling of writing on paper with a regular pen. The Rocketbook, on the other hand, does. After you’re finished filling a page with sketches, musings, or whatever else, you scan it into the Rocketbook app with your smartphone, wipe it clean with the microfiber cloth, and start again. This one also comes with a compatible pen, but any PILOT FriXion pens will do.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Food Huggers; $13

"I'm a hugger!"Food Huggers/Amazon

It’s hard to compete with the convenience of plastic wrap or tin foil when it comes to covering the exposed end of a piece of produce or an open tin can—and keeping those leftovers in food storage containers can take up valuable space in the fridge. This set of five silicone Food Huggers stretch to fit over a wide range of circular goods, from a lidless jar to half a lemon.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Swiffer Mop Pads; $15

For floors that'll shine like the top of the Chrysler Building.Turbo Microfiber/Amazon

Swiffers may be much less unwieldy than regular mops, but the disposable pads present a problem to anyone who likes to keep their trash output to a minimum. These machine-washable pads fasten to the bottom of any Swiffer WetJet, and the thick microfiber will trap dirt and dust instead of pushing it into corners. Each pad lasts for at least 100 uses, so you’d be saving your eco-friendly friend quite a bit of money, too.

Buy it: Amazon

6. SodaStream for Sparkling Water; $69

A fondness for fizzy over flat water doesn’t have to mean buying it bottled. Not only does the SodaStream let you make seltzer at home, but it’s also small enough that it won’t take up too much precious counter space. SodaStream also sells flavor drops to give your home-brewed beverage even more flair—this pack from Amazon ($25) includes mango, orange, raspberry, lemon, and lime.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Washable Lint Roller; $13

Roller dirty.iLifeTech/Amazon

There’s a good chance that anyone with a pet (or just an intense dislike for lint) has lint-rolled their way through countless sticky sheets. iLifeTech’s reusable roller boasts “the power of glue,” which doesn’t wear off even after you’ve washed it. Each one also comes with a 3-inch travel-sized version, so you can stay fuzz-free on the go.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Countertop Compost Bin; $23

Like a tiny Tin Man for your table.Epica/Amazon

Even if you keep a compost pile in your own backyard, it doesn’t make sense to dash outside every time you need to dump a food scrap. A countertop compost bin can come in handy, especially if it kills odors and blends in with your decor. This 1.3-gallon pail does both. It’s made of stainless steel—which matches just about everything—and contains an activated-charcoal filter that prevents rancid peels and juices from stinking up your kitchen.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Fabric-Softening Dryer Balls; $17

Also great for learning how to juggle without breaking anything.Smart Sheep

Nobody likes starchy, scratchy clothes, but some people might like blowing through bottles of fabric softener and boxes of dryer sheets even less. Smart Sheep is here to offer a solution: wool dryer balls. Not only do they last for more than 1000 loads, they also dry your laundry faster. And since they don’t contain any chemicals, fragrances, or synthetic materials, they’re a doubly great option for people with allergies and/or sensitive skin.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Rechargeable Batteries; $40

Say goodbye to loose batteries in your junk drawer.eneloop/Amazon

While plenty of devices are rechargeable themselves, others still require batteries to buzz, whir, and change the TV channel—so it’s good to have some rechargeable batteries on hand. In addition to AA batteries, AAA batteries, and a charger, this case from Panasonic comes with tiny canisters that function as C and D batteries when you slip the smaller batteries into them.

Buy it: Amazon

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From Ear to Eternity: When Mike Tyson Bit Evander Holyfield

Evander Holyfield (L) and Mike Tyson (R) compete in their rematch in Las Vegas on June 28, 1997. The bout would make sports history.
Evander Holyfield (L) and Mike Tyson (R) compete in their rematch in Las Vegas on June 28, 1997. The bout would make sports history.
Focus On Sport/Getty Images

As the 16,000 spectators began filing out of the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, following a night of fights on June 28, 1997, MGM employee Mitch Libonati noticed something strange on the floor of the boxing ring. He later described it as being roughly the size of a fingernail, with the texture of a piece of hot dog or sausage.

It was no concession stand remnant. It was a piece of Evander Holyfield’s ear.

Wrapping the morsel of flesh in a latex glove, Libonati hurried backstage, where Holyfield was conferring with officials and doctors after his opponent, Mike Tyson, had been disqualified for biting him on the left ear. In all the commotion, Libonati wasn't allowed inside the room. But Michael Grant, one of Holyfield’s training partners, accepted the ear fragment on Holyfield’s behalf.

Libonati’s discovery was the climax to one of boxing’s most controversial and bizarre evenings, one in which "Iron" Mike Tyson—the most famous fighter of his era—meted out a savage reprimand for what he perceived was dirty fighting on the part of Holyfield. The ear-biting far exceeded the brutal underpinnings of boxing and added to Tyson's reputation as a frenzied combatant both in and out of the ring.

 

Mike Tyson’s collision with Evander Holyfield had started when the two were just teenagers. On the amateur circuit, they had sparred together—not quite knowing the heights each would achieve, but understanding the other would be a formidable obstacle if they were to ever meet as professionals.

Evander Holyfield (L) had success against Mike Tyson (R) early on.Focus On Sport/Getty Images

Tyson was a prodigy, having won the heavyweight championship of the world in 1986 at the age of 19 and dominating the division up until an upset loss to James “Buster” Douglas in Tokyo, Japan, in 1990. Holyfield was the lighter fighter at cruiserweight (190 pounds), moving up to the heavyweight division in 1988 and gaining respect for his trilogy with Riddick Bowe.

Long before that fateful night in 1997, Tyson's personal life had started to overshadow his accomplishments inside the ring: An allegedly abusive marriage to actress Robin Givens darkened his image in the media and ended in a very public divorce after just one year. In 1992, a rape conviction sidelined the fighter for more than three years while he served out his prison sentence.

When Tyson returned to the ring, he rattled off a string of wins against fighters not quite at his level, including Peter McNeeley, Buster Mathis Jr., Frank Bruno, and Bruce Seldon. Holyfield had stepped away from competition in 1994, but as Tyson knocked off inferior opponents, talk of a bout with Holyfield intensified. Finally, the two met in Las Vegas on November 9, 1996, with Tyson a 17-1 favorite over the semi-retired Holyfield.

Holyfield would prove his doubters wrong. Through 11 rounds of action, he outmaneuvered and outclassed Tyson by negating his opponent's power with movement and volume. Holyfield also landed headbutts that were declared unintentional, but to Tyson seemed deliberate. Before the fight could see a 12th round, Holyfield knocked Tyson down and earned a technical knockout victory.

 

While it was an undoubtedly disappointing moment for Tyson, an upset in boxing virtually guarantees a lucrative rematch deal. Both men agreed to meet a second time, with Holyfield earning $35 million and Tyson getting $30 million. Tyson’s camp, however, insisted that the referee from the first bout, Mitch Halpern, not be booked for the second, because Tyson felt he failed to call the illegal headbutts. The Nevada State Athletic Commission didn’t want to be seen capitulating to Tyson’s demands, but Halpern stepped aside voluntarily. So referee Mills Lane took his place.

Evander Holyfield (L) and Mike Tyson (R) first met as amateurs.Focus On Sport/Getty Images

Before a huge crowd full of A-list celebrities like Sylvester Stallone and a then-record 1.99 million households that had purchased the event on pay-per-view, Tyson and Holyfield met for a second time at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on June 28, 1997. While Holyfield took the first round, Tyson appeared fit and adaptive, and came out blazing in round two. Then, just as Tyson had feared, Holyfield’s headbutt struck him again.

The clash of heads opened a cut over Tyson’s right eye, which threatened to obscure his vision as the fight went on. It also opened a reservoir of frustration in the fighter that would manifest in a spectacularly violent way.

Coming out for the third round, Tyson had forgotten his mouthpiece and had to go back and retrieve it—a foreshadowing of things to come. His aggression was working against Holyfield, but with 40 seconds left in the round, the two clinched up. Tyson moved his mouth so it was near Holyfield’s right ear. With his mouthpiece still in place, he clamped down on the ear, ripped the top off, and spat it along with his mouthguard onto the canvas.

Holyfield jumped up in the air in shock and pain. Referee Mills Lane was initially confused by what had happened until Holyfield’s trainers, Don Turner and Tommy Brooks, yelled out what Tyson had done. Lane called for a doctor then told Marc Ratner, the executive director of the athletic commission, that he was going to end the fight. Ratner asked if he was sure. Seeing Holyfield was bleeding from his ear but otherwise ready to fight, Lane waved the two men back into competition.

Incredibly, Tyson bit Holyfield a second time, this time on the left ear, before the round ended. This time, Lane was aware of what was happening and had seen enough. Before the start of the fourth round, he disqualified Tyson.

 

That was far from the end of it. Realizing he had lost the fight, Tyson grew incensed, shoving Holyfield from behind and pawing at the security guards who had stormed the ring in an attempt to restore order.

After the bout, Tyson didn’t appear to be overly contrite. He explained that he was frustrated at Holyfield headbutting him without being penalized, and said he had lost control.

An emotional Mike Tyson reacts to his disqualification loss to Evander Holyfield.Focus On Sport/Getty Images

“Listen,” Tyson said. “Holyfield is not the tough warrior everyone says he is. He got a nick on his ear and he quit.”

Tyson believed his retaliation was justified. “This is my career," he said. "I’ve got children to raise and this guy keeps butting me, trying to cut me and get me stopped on cuts. I’ve got to retaliate. What else could I do? He didn’t want to fight. I’m ready to fight right now. Regardless of what I did, he’s been butting me for two fights. I got one eye. He’s not impaired. He’s got ears. I’ve got to go home and my kids will be scared of me. Look at me, look at me, look at me!”

Two days later, Tyson issued a tempered apology in an effort to minimize the consequences, but it was too late. In addition to losing his boxing license in the state of Nevada, Tyson was fined 10 percent of his purse, or $3 million, which was thought to be the largest fine in sports at the time.

 

Tyson could never entirely shake the stigma of his actions. When a lucrative bout with Lennox Lewis was being planned in 2002, the fight ultimately ended up taking place in Memphis, Tennessee; Nevada refused to restore Tyson's license following a press conference brawl between the two men.

Tyson ultimately continued competing through 2005, when he lost his last bout to Kevin McBride. Holyfield retired in 2011. Earlier this year, the 54-year-old Tyson expressed a desire to return to the ring. The fighter once known as "The Baddest Man on the Planet" is scheduled to fight Roy Jones Jr. on November 28, 2020. Yet Holyfield, now 57 years old, remains a possible future opponent.

The two have occasionally interacted in public in interviews, with Tyson expressing remorse and Holyfield admitting he briefly thought about biting Tyson on his face right back. The pair even filmed a spot for Foot Locker in which Tyson “gave” Holyfield the missing piece of his ear.

In reality, Holyfield never did get his ear back. After Mitch Libonati handed it over to Michael Grant, the piece somehow fell out of the latex glove while being transported to the hospital.

Many fighters talk about leaving a little piece of themselves in the ring. It’s usually metaphorical. For Evander Holyfield, it was simply the truth.