Nick Dougherty on a November Masters, how Nick Faldo helped him through his Augusta debut, and why it's good to be a 'tourist' ahead of the event
Nick Faldo and I had dinner a couple of times before my Masters debut. He took me through all his old books and told me where the pins were.
The big things rookies have against them is you can’t make up for the experience of knowing what the ball is going to do on the greens. But there weren’t many shots where I couldn’t tell you exactly what it was going to do before I even got to the ball because I’d done so much homework.
Nick also told me it was important to get down there early and get the wow factor out of the way, because that will distract you and you need your eyes on the ball when you get there for the tournament. If you’re walking around like a kid in the candy store during Masters week you’ll be leaving with no sweeties!
I turned up a couple of weeks before to do my bit as a tourist. The one thing that struck me was just how big the place is.
But the biggest shock for me was when I sat in the trophy room and looked out. I was thinking, ‘Surely the course is that way?’ It was just rolling fairway grass and two flags. It looked like a driving range.
The guy who was serving me breakfast said, ‘Well that’s the 9th, and that’s the 18th.’ There’s nothing there! Looking from the clubhouse side you can’t see the bunkers, so it was just grass forever, and on TV you see it lined with patrons.
Now I’m not saying it wasn’t glorious, because it was, but I was amazed.
Augusta are incredible and they let you hit as many shots as you want during practice. You think they’d be quite strict and if you drop another ball you’re going to get told off, but it’s not like that at all. They’re all about the players and wanting them to get the full experience.
I took four hours to play the front nine and the next day I took four hours to play the back nine, hitting every single chip shot to every single flag.
There’s no one out there, so I had that privilege, and it made a massive difference. That would be my advice to someone going for the first time.
It’s going to look very different. It will be interesting to see if they want it to look like that because it’s really cool.
I imagine Augusta will enjoy being able to showcase it to us like that, rather than like other tournaments – we saw at the ANA Inspiration with the boarding behind the 18th green which caused uproar.
I hope Augusta will prefer to go for that more natural look, which is what they traditionally do anyway with TV towers blending into the scenery and so on.
The defence of that golf course is its greens. Most of them are like upturned saucers. They are so tough it doesn’t matter if you have a perfect lie on the fairway, so they don’t need to make it feel tighter.
The thing that always stood out for me is that you get to play shots that you wouldn’t anywhere else and shots that you think are not possible. For instance, if the flag on the 6th is on the left and you miss the green left, you can chip it up the tier in the back right and it will roll back down and go hard left to the hole.
You need to have such creativity and imagination and I adored that about it. It’s what I love most about Augusta and makes it the most special golf course I ever had the privilege to set foot on.
I get excited every year. The fact I’ve been there and played it, and got to play all four rounds, is an amazing memory for me.
It’s going to be spectacular.
- Nick Dougherty was chatting to Alex Perry
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