I have to remind myself that this is still just my sixth Masters appearance and it takes time to get to know how to play Augusta.
Last November was a career-best for me (tied 25th) and the whole experience will stand to me. I was paired with Tiger Woods, made the cut for the second time and I feel like I’m figuring out how to play the place a little bit better than I used to.
It was different playing Augusta in the Autumn. The two-tee starts, the interruptions to play. I wouldn’t use the lightning delay or the darkness creeping in earlier as excuses – that’s part of the game – but 27 holes in one day at Augusta is a tough old slog. A different type of challenge.
It’s hard to believe we’re already back at Augusta, six months after Dustin Johnson strode away with the 2020 title. Two US Masters in six months.
I actually travelled up to Augusta a few weeks ago with Lee Westwood and his son, who will caddy for him this week, for some practice rounds. That was the first time I’ve done that. A couple of members invited us up and it was nice to play Augusta outside the ‘bubble’ of tournament week. I’d never seen it like that before.
The course was in unbelievable shape. It was firm, fast and ready for the this week’s tee-off. Nobody’s expecting -20 to be the wining score this time. It’s going to play a lot more difficult.
Playing with Tiger
When you look at it objectively, we’ve actually had a lot of Majors since last July. Generally, I try not to build up the Masters in my head too much or get too hyped up about it.
Mind you that didn’t happen last November after I got drawn with Tiger Woods!
I didn’t have a sleepless night or anything but I’d be lying if I didn’t say there wasn’t a little bit of first-tee nerves. It was a pretty cool experience and something that I’ll have as I grow older to show my kids and my grandkids. I’ll look back on it with fond memories and hope he’s back playing at some stage because competing with him was pretty incredible.
The US Masters is one of the biggest tournaments in the world and it is such a big deal. It just seems to get way more attention than the other Majors.
As a player, I’m just trying to produce my best form at it. My driving and how I tackle the par 5’s will be key again this year.
I got here last Sunday and have been pleased with the way I’ve hit ball over the last couple of days in practice. There’s no getting away from it – you have to do everything well at Augusta and I know I have to produce my ‘A’-game to compete.
I believe I can.
How’s the form?
I wasn’t in the best of form before the Players Championship at Sawgrass (finished eighth), but it’s amazing what one good week does for your confidence! I went into that back nine at Sawgrass on Sunday and definitely thought I had the chance to win – and that was a nice place to be.
The Honda Classic wasn’t so good. I had a bad weekend, but was there or thereabouts for a lot of the tournament and despite being beaten twice at the WGC Match Play, I felt like I played quite well. Even from practicing last week in Florida, I’m pleased with where my game is at.
There doesn’t seem to be one stand-out contender going into the week. Dustin Johnson was in great form last year and justified it with an outstanding victory and there was also a lot of noise about Bryson DeChambeau. It seems more open this time. Obviously, Justin Thomas won the Players Championship at Sawgrass and played well here last season.
The first page of the world rankings always contains plenty of players you’re going to have to beat if you want to be crowned US Masters Champion.
That’s the plan this week again.
- Golf tips: A McIlroy win would be a Masters surprise and that’s why he’s the pick
- Golf tips: Justin Thomas among 5 to fly in US Masters at Augusta
- US Masters 2021 field in full and who has the best Augusta record?
- Golf tips: Early thoughts on contenders and outsiders to go well at Augusta