Masters Preview: The 2013 RookiesApril, 2013
Three men poised to make their Masters debuts talk exclusively to Mark Townsend about their dreams - and nightmares - ahead of their first trip to Augusta
THREE golfers have won on their first visit to Augusta National; Fuzzy Zoeller was the last in 1979, Horton Smith and Gene Sarazaen were the others in the first two Masters tournaments.
Yet the prospect of a first trip down Magnolia Lane, the first sight of Amen Corner and the first announcing of your name on the 1st tee – ‘Fore please, (player’s name) now driving’ is enough to send a shiver down any player’s spine.
This year David Lynn, George Coetzee and Alan Dunbar will be among 17 rookies all hoping to make the cut and then, just maybe, get involved in things over the weekend.
Their paths to Georgia are very different. Lynn qualified courtesy of his second place at last year’s PGA Championship in just his second Major outing having turned pro in 1995. Northern Ireland’s Dunbar has been waiting since last June for this, having made it courtesy of his victory in the Amateur Championship at Royal Troon, while George Coetzee only guaranteed his spot in the last round of the year in his native South Africa via the world rankings.
But all, like Tiger and Rory, will start the week on level par and having butterflies and dreams in equal measure.
How much did it play on your mind to get in the field?
AD: Not too much, I obviously thought about it the night before but not during the final or during the week.
GC: It was obviously on my mind but I had a back-up plan to start with. It has always been a dream to get into the event but the plan was to go to Vegas and play the World Series of Poker if I didn’t get in. Now I’m going there the week after to see what it’s all about.
DL: I only knew when Sky’s Tim Barter told me after the final round at Kiawah Island. I had no idea before that.
How did you celebrate?
GC: I was playing in the Dunhill and I knew I needed to break 70 on the last day to stay in the top 50, I was 49th at the time, and I shot a 65 and gave a little fist pump as I knew that was enough.
I then drove 1,000 miles to my holiday home on the Cape and spent some time with the family and friends.
AD: I didn’t get a chance as I was playing in the Irish Open the week after at my home club, Royal Portrush, so I didn’t really have a drink. All the boys on the ferry back had a pretty good drink but I wasn’t able to join in. The way I played the week after, I might as well have done.
DL: I missed my flight home so ended up flying to New York with Padraig Harrington and spent the day there with my girlfriend. She then organised a party at my house and that turned into a three-day bonanza.
David, you are now also playing on the PGA Tour, what have you learnt from that?
DL: I’ve been loving it so far. I have played in Europe for so long, which I have always loved, but it is nice to do something different. I’ve learnt you need a good short game in the States! A lot of the lads are mustard around the greens and the scoring is good and they look after you really well. Playing Phoenix was an amazing week, I’ve never seen crowds like it. I didn’t realise how much you take for granted how you know all the courses in Europe and I’m now having to learn them.
Yet you will start the Masters as the second most in-form Major player in the field!?
DL: Somebody made me aware that Jack Nicklaus finished in the top three in 40 per cent of the Majors he played in so that is a record that I have currently taken off him at 50 per cent.
What will your preparations consist of?
AD: I am playing the Georgia Cup the week before – US Amateur winner v British Amateur winner – that will be good practice as the greens are supposed to be pretty quick there. I will hopefully have a practice round with a few of the ISM stable; I knew Darren Clarke pretty well before he moved back to Portrush so I’ll hopefully have a practice round with him.
GC: I guess I’ll try and pick the brains all of the South Africans who have done well over the years like Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel and will try and have a chat with Gary Player at some point. I’ll try and play there and see it early on without the crowds. You pick up what the commentators say and what it looks like on the TV but I’m sure Charl and Louis will be able to add to that. I’m sure we will make a four ball up on the week along with Branden Grace; me and Branden will take on the old ones!
DL: I shared a car with one of my old mates who is now caddying for Henrik Stenson and he took me through every hole. I have seen it so many times on TV that you have quite a good idea but I’m sure it will be different and you need to play a course to get accustomed to it properly.
Will you go week(s) before to get rid of the wow factor?
AD: I might go up the week before to have a look around as I am only two hours away. I will stay in the Crow’s Nest for one night and then probably stay with my mates who are over, as it will be good to get away from the course.
GC: I’m planning on going the week of the Houston Open and fly up and play it a couple of times.
DL: I don’t think I’ll get a chance as I’m playing solidly so it will be a case of getting there on the Sunday night and having a game on the Monday.
Did you think a year ago while watching on television that playing in the Masters was a real possibility?
AD: I have always dreamed of playing the Masters but never thought of playing in it this early. It is all still a bit surreal to think I’ll be going there to play in it.
GC: I thought it was a possibility but the world ranking system is so difficult to guess what you need to do and I was lucky enough to finish second at the South African Open to get into the top 50 and then hung on at the Dunhill.
How much experience does your caddy have of the course?
AD: He has been a few times with Ian Woosnam so he knows the course pretty well.
GC: No, he’ll come with me the week of the Houston Open to check it out.
DL: He’s going in blind as well.
What is a good finish?
GC: A win (laughs). No, I’m only joking. Making the cut on my debut would be good.
DL: Obviously I’d like to win but to finish high enough (top 16) and get an invite back would be fantastic. Who knows? The PGA taught me that if it’s my week then it’s my week and if my short game is on I can do well.
So did you have a good feeling about the PGA?
DL: You never get ahead of yourself and just hope that you can take your form into the tournament.
It is over four rounds so, come the weekend at Kiawah Island, I thought I could do pretty well and I managed a couple of 68s. It was my first ever event in America – I find the American crowds really good and they like to chat to you, which I like. Many a time I have felt really good and I call it a bit of a Charles Dickens scenario, Great Expectations, and it often doesn’t work like that. Sometimes you don’t feel particularly at ease with your game and you concentrate that bit harder and grind it out.
I’m sure I will be quite nervous but I’ll play some PlayStation before I get there so I’ll be a bit more in the know before I arrive! How do you think you will deal with the obvious nerves?
DL: It is strange how nerves get me. I played with Tiger recently and was surprised my how few nerves I had whereas other weeks I have turned up and been a bit twitchy. I never know when they are coming but, if you are, then you are in a good place and it means something. I will be nervous on the 1st but it will be an excited nerves as I am in a place where I have dreamed of playing.
AD: You get nerves every week. I played in the Walker Cup matches against the best amateurs from America and that was as nervous as you can get. You can only get so nervous. I’ll just try and stick to my routine.
GC: I don’t really know much about the first few holes other than Louis had an albatross at the 2nd. I’m sure I will be quite nervous but I’ll play some PlayStation before I get there so I’ll be a bit more in the know before I arrive!
What holes are you most looking forward to playing?
AD: The 11th to 16th. You feel like you know Amen Corner so well from the television but it will be incredible to see it, and play it, in person.
DL: Amen Corner through to the 16th are the obvious ones. They never used to show anything of the front nine so you’re not as familiar with those holes.
GC: I have never had a hole-in-one so I have always said I will save my first one for 16 at Augusta!
How will it suit your game?
GC: Not at all! It is a bit of a drawer’s course and, if you are left-handed, it can really suit you but I’m just going to make my own way round and not change my game, but will just try and hit it a bit straighter to get it around.
AD: I’m not short and hit it pretty high so hopefully I’ll be OK. The greens will be the hard part but I’m a good chipper and putter though we don’t play on the speed of greens like they do on the PGA Tour. The greens in Georgia will be fast so that should get me ready.
DL: I am a left-to-right man and they always say you need to hook it around Augusta but I was playing with Mark Brooks, the former PGA champion, and he was saying that is not true any more because of the changes they have made. He said at the 10th it is maybe true but you can still get round the corner with a fade. I’m not one of the longest and it is a bit of a bomber’s track but who knows.
What has been your favourite Masters watching at home on television?
GC: My least favourite was when Phil Mickelson beat Ernie Els in 2004. I have always been on a plane to somewhere like Malaysia on the Sunday night so I missed Charl’s win and Louis making the play-off. Hopefully this year will be my favourite.
DL: My first one would have been the Sandy Lyle win in 1988 and that really stuck in my mind of how amazing the course was.
Who will you have caddying for you in the Par 3?
GC: I have got three baby sisters so it will be one of them.
AD: It will be one of my mates; they will have to fight for it!
Have your mates asked you to bring back a load of merchandise?
AD: Three of my mates are coming over so I can hang out with them at night. You get eight tickets each.
DL: The first person I invited was my first-ever sponsor so he is coming with his son, and I have a lot of family so we are all staying in a big house.
GC: I am taking a load of mates over so they can look after the shopping as I’m there for work and work only and not the sightseeing.