I don’t know if this year’s Masters feels extra special having missed it last year. Perhaps a little bit. It definitely feels good to be back, though. I’m not upset about what happened last year. I’m just excited like any other player to be here again – this is my 19th career appearance – and like any other player I want to have some game and feel like I have a chance to compete and win.
My record in the majors over the last 20 years is pretty good and in the Masters I’ve finished second twice and had a bunch of top-10s. Looking back I maybe should have won this tournament, but obviously it hasn’t happened and since 2004 this beautiful place hasn’t been good for me. I think mentally the last six or seven times I’ve played here I was putting too much pressure on myself to win this thing, not just in the tournament but in the build-up, too.
This year I definitely sense in myself a slightly different, more relaxed mindset. Playing in the Chiangmai Golf Classic in Thailand a couple of weeks before Augusta was a good move. It removed me somewhat from the hype of pre-Masters time and I also felt like I was doing my bit to help spread the game into new territories. As Open champion I do feel a responsibility to do that.
And now that I’ve arrived at Augusta I want to try to enjoy it more. After missing out last year it does in some ways feel like a new beginning. That drive down Magnolia Lane is special. I’ve been coming here almost 20 years and I still get that buzz. A few years ago I played with Gary Player in his 50th Masters and he said to me that it still hadn’t worn off! It’s that kind of place.
And you could never lose the thrill of teeing it up on this magnificent golf course. Everything you’ve seen on television is magnified a hundred times. The colors, the atmosphere and the sheer beauty of this place – it’s a wonderful assault on the senses. Augusta is unique, a total one-off.
My game’s been slow to take off this season, but in recent weeks there have been signs that it is gathering momentum. Augusta is the ultimate test of your game, so I know that I have to step it up. I’m excited about the challenge. The long putter is in my bag this week for the last time in a major. After the Masters I’ll start using the short putter a lot more regularly.
One final piece of news, we’re proud that Breitling has this week announced the release of the Els for Autism Breitling Limited Edition Chronograph timepiece in honour of Autism Awareness Month this April.
I signed with Breitling only a few months ago and already they have shown their support for Els for Autism and their dedication to helping make a difference. This limited edition watch is a touching representation of their support. Only 88 numbered watches will be produced, in reference to the statistic that autism affects 1 in 88 children, and 20 percent of the proceeds from the sale will be donated to the Els for Autism Foundation.
Okay, that’s it for now.