Playing Augusta National is top of most golfers’ bucket list. Here, Editor Brendan James, answers questions on what that experience is like having done so on the Monday after the 2014 Masters, via the tournament’s media ballot.
What was more memorable … driving down Magnolia Lane? Or standing on the 1st tee?
Hard to split the two … probably the short drive down Magnolia Lane simply because it’s over before you know it, so you absorb it just a little more.
RIGHT: Our man knocks in his short birdie putt on the 7th hole after a 9-iron approach. PHOTO: Mark Hayes.
Witnessing the course during the tournament then playing with few people around, how different is the atmosphere at Augusta National the Monday morning after The Masters?
The first thing I noticed were the gallery ropes. They had been taken down overnight. Augusta is a serene place when there are no crowds, especially when you get down to the bottom of the course – holes 12 and 13 as well as 15 and 16 – which buzz with roars during the tournament.
What was your favourite hole to play?
I love the short par-4 3rd … what a green complex. You need to be so precise with your approach, even from close range. It is the perfect example of what players are talking about when describing “missing it in the right spot”.
The back nine par-5s were also a lot of fun to play, as you might expect.
Were your nerves on the 1st tee the most you have ever experienced?
They were jangling nicely. It gave a real insight into how a player must feel standing on that tee playing the opening hole of The Masters.
"Was one over through eight holes, which surprised the hell out of me. The shank disaster on the 12th hurt." - Brendan James.
You had a memorable moment on the famous 12th, tell us about it.
You start thinking about the 12th hole as you walk down the 10th fairway. By the time you make that short climb up to the tee from the 11th green, the excitement is at its peak.
I was, perhaps, too excited. I put a quick swing on it and shanked my tee shot. Standing over the second shot from the 13th fairway, my caddie, Butch, smirked when he said: “I can’t give you a yardage because I’ve never been here before.” I then put my next shot into Rae’s Creek … Jordan Spieth-style. Made the same score, too.
Just how quick were the greens running on the Monday you played?
The greens had been rolled and the dew removed so they were pretty fast. Probably a shade under 13 on the stimp at the start of the round, and a shade over 13 deep into the back nine.
What is something that surprises about actually playing arguably one of the most famous courses in the game?
Watching play from outside the ropes gives you a greater appreciation of the change in elevation than it does on TV. But when you are inside the ropes and looking down at your ball sitting well above your feet – with all the trouble down the left, and you need to hit a left-to-right shot – you get the full experience of what the players face and an even greater respect for their skills.
What did you shoot?
84. Was one over through eight holes, which surprised the hell out of me. The shank disaster on the 12th hurt.
How many times did you catch yourself standing in a spot on the course and think of a famous shot from a Masters in the past?
I had toured most of the famous spots during the week of that tournament and previous visits to the Masters. It was difficult during the round unless you hit your ball into a ‘famous’ spot.
I did just that on 18 when I made the same putt Mark O’Meara holed to win the 1998 Masters. Only difference mine was for par and his was a birdie.
Did you have a try at the ‘Tiger chip’ on the 16th hole?
I didn’t get a chance. My tee shot did finish through the back of the green like Tiger, but I was much closer to the bunker and had a chip that was all downhill
RIGHT: The approach shot into the famous par-5 13th hole. PHOTO: Mark Hayes.
What was the best shot you hit during your round?
I hit a 9-iron to two-feet on the 7th hole and made birdie.
Beyond its obvious history, what makes Augusta National so special as a golf course?
Alister MacKenzie’s design without a doubt. There are three courses in the world – Augusta National, Royal Melbourne Composite and the Old Course at St Andrews – that can host a major tournament one day and then have average players, like myself, play it the next day (from shorter tees) and have a heap of fun without our game’s getting bashed up.
How nerve-wracking is looking at the narrow chute of trees you need to navigate on the 18th tee?
It’s only nerve-wracking for those right-handed players who have a little over-the-top slice or the leftie who plays with a big hook. It’s actually a little wider than it presents in photos.
Have you had an experience in golf that rivals playing Augusta National?
Playing the Old Course at St Andrews. I’ve been lucky enough to play there four times and it never disappoints as a fun, challenging day of golf.