6 hours ago, 06.04.2022 23:01
photo: Golf Digest C&S
MTHE SAYINGS OF THE CHILDREN tell me that I don’t really like it like I like the Masters. And my wife adds that I tend to be calm and stressed during Masters week. They’re right, of course – but they don’t have to guess the wind on the Augusta National 12th hole either!
Written by Joel Beall / Photographed by Ben Walton
Listen, I love the Masters. It’s the holy grail of American golf. Once you’re there, it means you mean something in the world of golf. At the same time, however, it is true that the port city, where the tour moves after the masters, everyone likes mainly because they can breathe freely there again.
Caddies tend to be cool, but when they arrive in Augusta, they also get nervous. The conversations we have are suddenly more formal and everyone is looking at their work. The club and its members are nice to us and we try to repay them, but at the same time it’s true that we feel under constant surveillance on the club grounds. We know that one thing is enough and we go home. It’s just hard to feel comfortable there. And no, I’m not talking about the white overalls we have to wear now. (By the way, I like them, even though it’s usually as hot as an oven in them.)
How much is at stake also contributes to stress. Skipping the Masters Cup is a feeling you’ll never get used to. It’s also disappointing that you don’t win a green jacket, even if you’re not the favorite. In fact, it doesn’t matter if you finish after Friday or lose in the playoffs.
That’s why every year, a few weeks before the tournament, I meet with one of the caddies from the Augusta National club and wonder if anything has changed on the field since the last time or how it’s set up. You’d be surprised how many adjustments are made to the course each year without any announcements. At first we just met at the bar and I paid for it; now I invite him to dinner, and I will bring a bottle of good wine. I usually get half a dozen tips from him. These are things my player and I would have made up during the practice round, but even an atheist will start praying for any help during the Masters. Getting information that others don’t will give you confidence.
Of all the tournaments, players trust us the most at the Masters. You might be surprised, because the Masters, after all, are the only majors played on the same ground every time. But those greens! Even if you’ve played them a hundred times, every putt is different. I like to try to calculate the equation, but the variables still change. Bubba Watson once told me that nothing in golf was so incomprehensible to him as the greens of Augusta – and that’s a man with two green jackets in his closet.
And that’s why we have more players on hand in Augusta than anywhere else – the more ideas on how to put the ball in the hole, the better. An experienced caddy once gave me this advice: don’t underestimate Rae’s Creek, but don’t give it too much importance. Everyone had heard the lesson that all the putty was breaking towards Rae’s Creek. And I’ve been convinced many times that gravity really works that way. But some players make the mistake that instead of considering it as one of the factors, they consider it as the only factor they consider and completely ignore the treacherous complexity of the hole. Any advice for a caddy? Mention the stream at the beginning, not at the end. Because if you mention the flow as the last thing before the putt itself, the player will think about it and the putt will affect them negatively. However, if you mention the position of the stream at the beginning, it will only have a minimal effect. The first year, when I followed this principle, my player finished in the top 10, and he hadn’t even made the cut the year before.
Much is said about the enthusiasm with which the spectators at Augusta cheer, and it is true that there is a tangible atmosphere all over the field during the tournament. On the contrary, we speak less of silence. The Masters spectators really try to stick to the decor, so when there is silence, they can frightening silence. These moments of grave silence stress the player more often than when there is cheering from another part of the pitch, as he realizes that all eyes are on him.
The players are no less nervous than us. The best advice I’ve ever received from the Masters is: Slow down. Your player, whether it’s his first Mater or his 15th, will definitely be nervous on Thursday. That’s great on its own, because when you’re not nervous, it means you don’t know what’s at stake. But you have to keep it under control. I do this by simply walking slower. This gives the player a chance to catch their breath and calm their heartbeat. Plus, Augusta is physically one of the toughest courses of the season, so if you don’t set the right pace, you can tire quickly.
Players often talk about Masters not being allowed to fuss about them during the week, and the same goes for us. I don’t check social media at all, and when he calls me an unknown number, I don’t do it, because it’s probably just someone who still wants me to train him on the pitch. When I’m at the hotel, I don’t really play golf on TV, because I just have to take a break from all this circus.
But make no mistake: Augusta National is the best course we play on and also the best maintained. Everything is perfectly organized. Also, none of the spectators act like idiots – everyone is happy to be there. It’s hard for us to enjoy it, but still, there are times when I look around me and I say to myself: “Yeah, I’m at the Masters!”
Of the entire tournament, my favorite stay is at the top of the thirteen in the practice round. There are no spectators around – just you and your group standing in silence watching golf’s most famous hole. Thoughts of the upcoming tournament and its possible development swirl around in your head. I will never forget how lucky I am to be there. Because it can’t get any better.
The article was published in GOLF DIGEST C&S magazine on Thursday March 24, 2022
© 2022 Golf Digest C&S. All rights reserved.