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Game time at Augusta


Day four of my 2013 Masters experience and game time for George and the other seven South Africans in the field. I popped across to George’s house in the morning and he seemed in a good space and ready for the day.

We got to the course around 9am and headed to the range, where there were obviously lots of players warming up. It was fascinating watching some of the big names and how they go about their business, particularly Tiger Woods, who seems to hit the ball just so much better than anyone else.

There was also a noticeable difference in the mood at Augusta, with both the players and the fans (‘patrons’). No big surprise there, as it was day one of the tournament, and time for the serious stuff to start. I did see Tiger and Rickie Fowler sharing a couple of jokes, but that was about it. Tiger definitely had his ‘game face’ on.

In terms of their routines, it’s exactly that for these pros. You know, when we go to warm up, we’ll probably bash a bucket of balls and declare ourselves happy, but these guys are so deliberate, taking their time, working through the clubs in their bag and basically making absolutely sure they are ready. Interestingly, not many of them appeared to have their swing coaches with them.

From an organisational point of view, Augusta was not too different to what it was like on the practice days, although there were noticeably fewer people. Apparently, they let in around 50 0000 on practice days and about 30 000 on tournament days. I found getting around quite easy, and while it was busy, it certainly wasn’t rammed.

Amen Corner was busier, but a lot goes on there, around the 11th, 12th and 13th holes, as well as further up at the 15th and 16th holes. But, I was able to follow George with no problems, and was able to see him hit just about every shot.


The 13th

I also got the sense from the patrons that everyone has a bit more of a respectful approach, due to the fact that it was a tournament day. What may have something to do with that, is that you can get into a practice day through a lottery system, while tournament days are reserved for pass holders, who have purchased tickets etc. So, those pass holders, who come to the Masters every year, get a badge, and if there’s a guest accompanying that pass holder, he or she is responsible for the behaviour of that guest, and could lose his or her badge should the guest be caught with a cellphone or misbehave etc. That might be the reason why everyone seemed to be so well behaved on tournament day.

George was disappointed with his 75, but certainly not completely down in the dumps, as it was a round that could have got away from him, and he made a couple of good birdies down the stretch, to pull it back from +5. It was wonderful for him to stand on the first tee and hear his name announced, but the first is a tough hole, and he opened with a bogey. He settled with a birdie at the second, but hit a bad tee-shot on five and a bad second shot on 10 to register two double-bogeys. But, the birdies at 14, 15 and then 18 were great, particularly that last one, making dinner a bit more palatable.

After his round, George headed straight for the range and worked on his driving with coach Jamie Gough. He didn’t drive the ball as well as he could have, and that’s one of the keys to success here at Augusta. He also had a good warm-down and, with an early night, he’ll be raring to go early on Friday.

It was nice to see Trevor Immelman play well (68), and I spent some time walking with his coach Claude Harmon III and Trevor’s brother Mark, who is a golf coach based out here in Atlanta. Mark has been working with 1987 Masters champion Larry Mize, and it’s a bit of a feather in his cap that Larry went round in 73 in round one, at the age of 54.

It sounds like Trevor has been working hard, hitting the ball well, and just needs a few putts to drop. He got that in round one, and this could be exactly what he needs, to get back to where he was. I believe he’s also been doing some work with Bob Rotella, the well-known sports psychologist who works with some of the top golfers. It certainly helps that Trevor has won at Augusta before (2008) and he clearly feels comfortable here.

I didn’t see many other players, as I spent most of my time with George. I did catch Ernie for a few holes and he looked to be hitting the ball well, without scoring well. He made a great eagle on 15, though, and I still think he can do something this week. Richard Sterne also felt like he played better than the 73 he finished with – he just had a couple of bad three-putt mistakes.

Here’s hoping the South African contingent have a better day in round two but, for now, Immelman is flying the flag.


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