The Masters is nearly here and I am part way through my build up.
I have realised that the optimum way to ensure that I am at my best for a big event is to play the two tournaments prior as it seems to take me a couple of weeks before I am prepared and ready. This was evident to me last week in New Orleans - I managed to finish well, and got myself into contention but I was definitely rusty. However it was good preparation for the Masters, as being in contention to win a tournament allows me to find out which areas need work. I made a few mistakes as a result of not being fully prepared, but after the Shell Houston Open I hope to be ready for the first major of the year.
I think my game suits Augusta and I do enjoy the tournament and the golf course. The atmosphere is always incredible and I can’t wait to get there on Monday. I just hope to get into contention on Sunday afternoon and take it from there. In the meantime I am aiming to do well in Houston and get into contention again, which would provide the ideal preparation for the Masters.
I am back in Augusta for my ninth Masters and a lot has happened since I was here last year! When I came here last year I was trying to win my first major, at one stage during the final round it looked like I had a chance to win but then the 15th caught me out again. However getting into contention on the back nine here last year did a lot for me in terms of believing that I would win a major and gladly I didn’t have long too long for it. This is my first year here as a member of the major club. I have been asked does it feel different turning up here having already won one and does it take the pressure off you? It doesn’t necessarily feel different and it doesn’t take the pressure off, and to some degree it adds a bit as now people are expecting me to be in contention in all the majors. As far as I am concerned I am the same person and will be trying very hard to win a Green Jacket and the fact that I have won the Open won’t make me play any different.
The Masters is probably the tournament that most people both golfers and non golfers will watch; everyone looks forward to it even the players. I have to say that it is the tournament that most players look forward to most; the tradition of the event makes it. Last year wasn’t my best ever finish ever here, but as far as I am concerned it was my best ever performance. I was in the second last group on Sunday and had a chance to win the tournament with four holes to play. It was great and I really enjoyed the buzz of being in contention.
I arrived here on Sunday night from Texas after a solid enough performance in the Shell Houston Open. I had planned to play nine holes on Monday but I never got around to it as I spent some time with Bob Rotella in the morning and then did some work on the range with him. I did not feel comfortable with my putter last week and so I spent about three hours practicing my putting, by the time I was finished it was a bit late to head out. However, I did manage to sort out a few of the problems during this session though.
My work with Bob was well worth while too; I had been getting a bit hard on myself over the past few weeks and it was taking its toll on me. After talking to Bob I could see that I was just trying too hard and that I wasn’t enjoying my golf. Once I realized what the problem was it felt great as I know how to solve it. I have done very little practice this week, only really warmed up and then gone and hit some chip shots and putts. During my warm up I have worked hard on getting my mental approach right as this will be the key this week. It won’t come down to the person that hits the ball the best, it will be the person that remains patient and sticks to their plan.
I played eighteen holes on Tuesday and then nine holes on Wednesday. I have to say it was great to get out and play here again, I really like this course. I find it a great test and wish that we played it more often. Every hole has its difficulties and draws the best out of you. I played with Sean O’Hair and Charles Howell on Tuesday and then Sean again on Wednesday. It’s always best to play with someone as you get to see their shots as well. I am happy with how things have gone - the course is in very good condition, I am happy with how I am hitting it and also with my performances coming into this week. The only thing that I would like to be in better shape is my putting. I am happier with it but it is still not 100%. I have done some good work on my mental game this week and am looking forward to playing.
Augusta is probably the most famous golf course in the world bar none. Everyone knows the holes from watching it over the years and can remember the good shots and the bad shots. This is part of the problem for us players as we only tend to remember the bad shots! There have been no real changes of significance this year, a couple of the greens have had minor adjustments and a few trees have been moved but nothing too major. The course has enough length for the moment and can play as tough or as easy as the tournament committee want. Ultimately they will dictate what the winning score will be as they can hide pins if they wish or make them accessible so that there are more birdies made.
Every hole on this course is difficult. There is no let up. If you think that you have come to an easy hole it will invariable catch you out. Picking out holes that will be key for the week is somewhat difficult as all eighteen will be but then we all know that the winner will be the guy that plays Amen Corner well during the week. When you turn into the back nine you are faced with some of the toughest shots in golf as you have to hit long irons into holes that you are trying to land them on sixpences! Last years winner, Zach Johnson, played the par fives extremely well and also by laying up on them all. In modern golf this is unusual as we nearly all tend to go for the green in two if we can and I am no exception. It was the par fives that ultimately cost me in the end, especially the 15th. I made a triple bogey there one day and a double on another as far as I can remember. A big part of the problem for me was that I hit good drives on them which left me within reach of the green. The way that I play is that I go for it if I can, sometimes this works out and sometimes it doesn’t. I will be playing my usual game this year which is to hit the right shot at the right time.
I am very happy with how things have gone during the week. My preparation has gone well, the course is in good shape and I am looking forward to getting going. The last thing I did on Wednesday was to play in the par three contest. A friend of mine caddied for me, it was a great afternoon. It is always very light hearted and helps to take my mind off the rest of the week; I finished two under for the nine holes and three behind the winner.
As I was saying I am looking forward to getting started as I feel that I have done my work now. As ever I am just trying to be patient and get myself into contention for the back nine on Sunday; I would be happy to take my chances from there. Hopefully the par fives treat me a bit better this year! I am paired with Mike Weir and Jeev Milka Singh for the first two rounds and we go early on Thursday and late on Friday.