Peyton Manning shoots 77 at Augusta National with John Elway and John Fox

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) and executive vice president of football operations John Elway talk near the end of the game against the Oakland Raiders at Sports Authority Field. The Broncos defeated the Raiders 37-6. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

John Elway can teach Peyton Manning a few things on the football field, as well as at Augusta National. (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

Playing golf and heading out on a USO Tour sound like a far better way to spend a few months than undergoing intensive rehab following potentially debilitating neck surgery.

At least, that’s the way Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning sees it. The legend spent all of last offseason trying to figure out whether he’d be playing for a team not named the Indianapolis Colts for the first time in his illustrious career (or even playing any football again for that matter). However, his preparation for Year 2 in Denver has been quite a bit more enjoyable.

First, the 37-year old was able to fulfill a career-long desire to make an appearance on a USO Tour as an active player, according to Sam Farmer of the LA Times. In March, Manning visited troops in Afghanistan and Europe. He also hopped aboard the USS John C. Stennis, an aircraft carrier positioned near Iran.

Manning was also able to toss around some passes with select military personnel, but he is not always thinking football. Once he returned home, it was off to the golf course. First, he hit the links in Denver, where he bagged a hole-in-one on the Castle Pines Golf Club.

“I made one in college, but I was with some buddies,” he said. “This was the first one I’d ever seen go in. In college, we looked in the bunker, the woods, everywhere, and somebody said, ‘It’s in the hole!’ It’s a little anticlimactic.

“But the guys I was playing with this time, they were so excited. I mean, I was excited, but you’ve seen me when I throw a touchdown; I’m kind of ho-hum. These guys went nuts.”

Manning then took in Augusta National, along with coach John Fox and executive vice president of football operations John Elway.

More low-key were the rounds at Augusta last weekend, when Manning joined Elway and Fox, whose friend hosted the three for 36 holes on Saturday, and 18 more on Sunday. Elway shot 79, 74 and 72, and Manning’s best round was a 77.

As for Fox, well . . .

“I played horribly,” the coach said. “I started out as a 14-handicap, but after they saw the way I was playing, they moved me to a 20.”

Broncos fans are just hoping Fox is able to coach the team up a littler better than he golfs. The Broncos enter 2013 under massive expectations to make a return trip to the playoffs and advance to the Super Bowl.

As for Manning, fans should be thrilled to see their signal-caller feeling relaxed. The future first-ballot Hall of Famer claims that he is primed for some of his best football.

“What I’ve known about playing quarterback in a town, it’s a routine,” Manning said. “There’s football, then it’s going to play golf with your buddies, taking guys to a baseball game, speaking to schools, giving out money here in Colorado.

“Last year, I didn’t do any of that. So that makes me more comfortable doing that. It’s the hat a quarterback has to wear. Does it guarantee you’re going to win games? Not necessarily. But I usually play better when I feel more comfortable.”

MORE MANNING: Peyton pranks offensive lineman at Colorado Rockies game