The Insider’s Guide to Augusta: Billy Foster on how to get round the course (Part 2)February, 2016 The Masters
Part two of Mark Townsend's interview with Billy Foster
A scratch golfer at your club would be a 12 handicapper at Augusta, the trouble spots are so penal and the greens are so quick.
If I took a single-figure player and placed a ball on every green and said two putt that, if they broke 50 putts they would be doing well.
Nick Faldo was meticulous at never making mistakes, not the longest or the most exciting or the best ball striker but would not make those mistakes. The 14th green is about as weird and wonderful as it gets, there are three dead elephants underneath that green. You just cannot be short, otherwise you have an impossible chip.
If you are short or right on the 5th you might as well write a five on your card. The thing about Augusta is that if I was playing you and your shot pitched a foot from mine, I could kick mine in and you could be 80 foot away. Experience is everything there.
Billy on… the club
Caddies don’t have much access, you’re not frowned upon but a caddy has his place at Augusta and, if you haven’t got your overalls on, then you shouldn’t really be there.
The caddyshack has had a massive upgrade; when I first went there 20 years ago the toilets didn’t even have doors on so, if you got caught short, everyone could see you having a Tom Kite.
It’s very different these days and the practice facilities are better than anything. The Masters is so electric and boisterous and is the closest thing to the Ryder Cup, it is scary and you have to be a strong player to deal with it.
My ears were ringing that day we played with Mickelson and it probably took about five hours for them to settle down afterwards. It was hard to be in the middle of that cauldron of Mickelson love.
Billy on… a dying art
I would say Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood are the best ball strikers in the game though Sergio probably just nicks it for me for his shotmaking skills and the way he can move the ball around. Bubba Watson is a freak of nature. He is a very talented guy and brilliant to watch – in fact, he would be the one you would go and watch if you were heading to watch the Masters.
Unfortunately shotmaking is a dying art and the equipment means we don’t see the likes of Fred Couples, Corey Pavin and Ian Woosnam as much these days. It’s not the same game and it’s sad to see.
If I could have gone to Spain and given [Seve] a piggyback to St Andrews to give him his final send off in 2010 I would have done Billy on… Sergio
If I was to have anyone caddy for me it would be Sergio, he knows his own game better than anyone. I only worked for him for 18 months but I have seen him caddy and he was brilliant at knowing what shot to play and reading putts.
I know he has missed putts in the last few years but that isn’t because of misreading them. I think the best is yet to come from him and he has got his appetite back.
Billy on… Seve
The first round I caddied for him, he hits the fairway at the 9th and he is doing OK. It is uphill, against the wind to a front left pin and he says pitching wedge. I tell him it’s a 9 and he says OK and hits a great shot and I’m thinking the crowd are going to go wild and he will give me a big hug.
Nobody reacts and when we arrive the ball is on the top of three tiers, putting down a marble staircase from 80 feet. He looks at me with his arms outstretched saying ‘Billy, Billy, you son of my bitch’. And at that point I’m thinking – I do want my mummy.
He putts it, the hole is over his left shoulder, and the ball stops on the edge of the green on the wrong tier. And then it starts trickling, you could see the dimples, and it finishes six inches away. Coming off the green he puts his arm around me with a big smile and says: “It’s not your fault Billy, it’s mine for listening to you”.
… and the end
The last time I worked for Seve at Augusta was in 1995 and we were playing with Ray Floyd and he had Steve Williams on the bag. We were on 17 and it was between a 6 and a 7 and he hit 6 on my advice. He hits a good shot and it finishes just off the back of the green, which was fine.
You would expect him to chip it in but he knocked it eight foot past and missed the putt. By the time we got to the 18th tee he had already had a go at me five times accusing me of the wrong club, and it wasn’t really.
I bit my tongue until eventually I could feel the bubbles coming up through my throat into my ears and he had another go. And I shouted at the top of my voice ‘I f***ing heard you, alright!’ And Ray and Steve’s jaws just dropped and hit the floor. Seve didn’t speak to me and we had a bit of a shouting match at the front of the clubhouse. I got a lot off my chest but it broke the relationship and when I got home on the Tuesday I got a call from his manager saying my services were no longer required.
It was time to move on but we were like best mates within a few weeks. Around that time he couldn’t compete any more and it broke his heart, and it broke mine too. If I could have gone to Spain and given him a piggyback to St Andrews to give him his final send off in 2010 I would have done. But he wasn’t well enough. I was very lucky to do five Opens with him and the hairs on the back of your neck stood up every time you made your way to the 1st tee. Everybody, particularly in Britain, loved him.