What it feels like at Augusta National ...
... to contend on Sunday? To play the Par-3 Contest? To attend a Champions Dinner?
March 29, 2016
By Sean Martin, Helen Ross and Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
- Masters veterans give an inside-the-ropes perspective on what it feels like to compete at Augusta National Golf Club. (Harry How/Getty Images)
You watch, they play. Spring starts anew every year at Augusta National Golf Club, where the world's best converge for the year's first major championship, the Masters Tournament.
But have you ever wondered what it actually feels like to wear the iconic green jacket? What it feels like to drive down Magnolia Lane? What it feels like to be in the heat of battle on Sunday afternoon?
Borrowing a page from the old Esquire series, we asked and they gave their first-person accounts of those topics and more.
What it feels like ... to wear the Green Jacket?
ADAM SCOTT, 2013 champion: “There's a huge sense of achievement of putting it on your shoulders. It’s something that not everyone gets to put on their shoulders. In the game of golf, there are a few real pinnacles and I think the Green Jacket is one of them because not that many people in history have been able to slip it on their shoulders.
“It’s a huge sense of achievement. Every time I put it on, … it’s not relief at all, but … it’s a sense of achievement because you’ve achieved something only very few have. It feels a lot lighter than I thought it would. It’s quite a nice, light material. There’s a little shoulder paddieness about it. It’s a little, maybe, old-fashioned, but it’s a lot lighter than I thought it would be. There’s definitely jaw-dropping moments when I unexpectedly have shown up places with it on, by golfers who just can’t believe it because it is this hallowed piece of green cloth that is never seen really floating around. I think anywhere else it would get strange looks, except at a golf club, because it is seriously bright green.”
What it feels like ... to contend on the back nine late on Sunday?
TREVOR IMMELMAN, 2008 champion: “It's electric, that's for sure. 10, obviously, there's a lot of movement around the 10th tee so you've got to settle down there and hit a hook around the corner. And the second shot, it's one of the most beautiful second shots, there's people sitting all around there. You really get a feel for it when you walk over the hill at 11 after you hit your tee shot, and you're walking over the hill. You get a real feel for 11 green and 12 and 13 tee shot and you see all those people. You just have to keep your wits about you and make some good swings. If you can get out there in even or 1 under you're pretty happy.
ZACH JOHNSON, 2007 champion: “Amen Corner, you have to hit quality shots regardless whether it's Thursday or Sunday. If you're in contention on Sunday you got to execute, and the best shot I hit all week (in 2007) was certainly my second shot on 11 that nobody is really going to know about. I won’t forget it.
It was a 3-iron off a right-to-left lie. I had to cut it around a tree into a right to left wind. You know, just hoping it got on the green. I hit it to like 25, 30 feet. I couldn't see the pin. They're all difficult shots and shots that you just got to commit and embrace.
“… I'm going down 15 and I'm getting ready to hit my third shot. I hit my third shot on 15 into the par 5 and I had to back off because there was this crescendo of a roar on 13. I didn't see it, obviously, but I knew exactly what happened. It was Tiger hitting his second shot, landing on the green, rolled down to 2, 3 feet, had a tap-in for eagle.
“I walked off 15 and I said, ‘Damon, I think I need to know where we are, what's going on behind us?’ ‘We got a couple.’ I'm like, ‘OK. What the heck does that mean, are we 2-down, 2-up?’ ‘We're 2-up.’
OK. Even with Tiger's (eagle), I was like, OK, let's keep doing what we're doing. I hit great shots coming down the stretch. I made a putt of about 15, 20 feet for birdie on 16. That was really loud directed towards me. I wasn't accustomed to that at that time.”
What it feels like ... to putt at Augusta National?
MATT KUCHAR: "Sometimes I think it’s not so bad. It’s the sidehill putts that I think are the hardest. The downhill ones are fast, but you have a chance to make them if you have the right line. It’s the side-hillers that break 2 feet, 6 feet, that you really go, ‘I don’t have much of a chance of making this.’ I think those are the hardest. I remember my first time, I guess my feel has improved, but I used to have to pretend the hole was halfway. I’d putt to a spot that was 5 feet in front of me for a 10-foot putt. I felt like you just had to be really creative. (Asked if he ever putted one off a green). No, no. Only at Seminole Golf Club did I putt one into a bunker.
RORY McILROY: "It's a lot of visualization. When (the greens) are so fast, you can't really be that precise with your green reads. It's all about feeling the ball in there. Sometimes you have to visualize the ball going in the hole maybe even the back way, 2 o'clock, 3 o'clock. Everything is curling into the hole. It's rare that you're going to get a putt that you can just stand up and it's going to be inside right or inside left."
What it feels like ... to drive down Magnolia Lane?
BRANDT SNEDEKER: “It’s a lot longer than you think it is. It's kind of cool to soak it all up. It's surreal, it's something you've envisioned, you've seen it on TV your whole life. Now that you're doing it, it goes by way too quick, even though it's a long drive. But it's really cool. It gives me goosebumps every time I do it.
“I remember showing up early, we were playing at 8 o'clock in the morning, I was in college. We all got out of the car and walked down Magnolia Lane so we could see it, experience it and take it all in. The magnolias are huge and they're old and all-encompassing. You can't see, it's really dark. It's really weird. The magnolias are so big and it's so closed off that you can't really see anything in there but darkness. You see the lane and see the little yellow flowers at the end of it and the awning in the turnaround and you see the clubhouse. It makes you feel like you've arrived at Augusta.”
DAVIS LOVE III: “It's fun to do, no matter what. Even when we started parking way over, I'd still, every once in a while, go in the front gate, go down Magnolia Lane, turn by the clubhouse and come all the way over, just because it's fun to do. It's just a treat to get to go inside the gates, first of all, and then to drive down so much history. I don't think it ever gets old. It's always neat. The first time I was with my dad and we went in there, going to watch, when I was a kid.”
SCOTT STALLINGS: “It’s nice when they actually let you in (laughs). I always feel like someone is going to start messing with me, be like, ‘No, not today,’ but everyone is super nice there. It’s weird because you’ve dreamt your whole life about going there and then you go there and it’s like, ‘Hey, you can do whatever you want.’ It’s awesome.
“I creeped (the first time down Magnolia Lane). I was waiting for someone to tell me, ‘Hey, it’s all right, you can go faster,’ but I wanted to take it all in.“
RICKIE FOWLER: “It’s awesome. You always see the clips of it on the coverage or pictures. It’s still awesome. It’s a special place. I drag race (laughs). You don’t really do anything too fast. You take it all in and enjoy it, just idle down Magnolia Lane.”
What it feels like ... to make a hole-in-one at Augusta National?
RYAN MOORE: “Making a hole-in-one on No. 16 at Augusta is honestly, definitely, the most amazing roar I've ever heard or experienced -- especially on that hole because (on) the hole you hit it right of it and the ball gathers and it's rolling in and (the roar) is growing and growing and growing and growing and then it hits the pin and goes in.
“It was unbelievable to do it on a Sunday afternoon when it actually mattered. It got me into the top 16 and got me back in the next year because of that. I don't know if there's another hole I'd rather make a hole-in-one on on any other day. If you could've told me pick one par 3, one hole to do it on, it probably would've been 16 late in the day on Sunday at Augusta. It's something I'll definitely never forget. Just the roar, there's so many people around because everybody over on 6, and 16, the big grandstands on 15. As soon as people up by the green start going, they start paying attention, they get excited. It's definitely like nowhere else. At Augusta, anytime you hole-out a shot it's a sense of relief definitely because you don't have to go putt on those lightning fast greens.”
What it feels like ... to hit the tee shot at No. 12 with the wind swirling?
IMMELMAN: “It's pretty wind-dependent. On a day like today you would see guys make a few birdies there. But if you've got just a little bit of breeze, 7 or 8 miles per hour, it's tricky. I think one of the lost art of golf course design these days is the short par 3. Every designer nowadays seems to want to make par 3s 240 yards long. While those holes are extremely difficult because you're hitting such a long club, the wind doesn't always affect so much. But if you're hitting an 8, 9, wedge, you're getting it up in the air, and the wind can really get a hold of it above those trees. So you're always kind of guessing when it's in the air there.”
STALLINGS: “You kind of have to find your moment to go with it, because it could be a two- or three-club switch really quick. The wind is really swirling in there. I’ve hit 6-iron to gap wedge on that hole. We were there a couple weeks ago. I played in the morning and the afternoon. In the morning, it was about 40 degrees and I hit a 9-iron and in the afternoon it was 60 degrees and I hit 7-iron, so it was 20 degrees warmer but I had to hit two clubs more. Flight it down, keep it below the trees and go from there.”
MOORE: “I have a little different approach to 12. I never aim at the hole there. I have a very specific target that I like to hit. For the most part, I hit the exact same shot to the exact same spot every time, a little punch-cut 8-iron. I aim at pretty much the left edge of the back bunker. There’s depth there. You kind of have the most depth there; that gives me the greatest amount of room I have a stock shot that I know should go to the middle of the green almost no matter what. I hit the same shot there. It’s one of those holes you can birdie, but there’s so much bad that can happen. If you walk away with four pars, it’s not going to hurt you. Middle of the green there is not that bad to any pin.
LOVE III: “It's probably the scariest and most nervous 8- or 7-iron you'll probably ever have to hit. The 17th at THE PLAYERS is pretty tough. But I think that one's the scariest. There's not much margin for error.”
What it feels like ... to attend the Champions Dinner?
IMMELMAN: “It's great. Nothing like it. Probably the best night of the year for me every year. It's just great to be a part of that and to feel a part of something that is that exclusive. It's great. All the guys pitch up. It seems to get shorter and shorter every year. The whole process is about two hours. But it just feels like it flies by. The defending champ normally says a few things. The chairman always speaks. Ben Crenshaw kind of hosts it, emcees it, so he always speaks. And every now and then somebody will get up and say something. Fuzzy normally says something. I haven't quite been (moved to say something) yet, other than the year I was hosting.”
JOHNSON: “It’s a night where I’m not saying much. I’m just kind of sitting there and soaking it in and letting the older gentlemen speak, and I’m keeping it in my memory bank. I share a locker with Billy Casper. You have Charles Coody, the greats, Nicklaus, Palmer, Player and many more guys. It’s just fun to be around them.”
What it feels like ... to play the Par-3 Contest?
LOVE III: “It's something special and different. It's fun. You get to make a pairing with your buddies and go out and play and you get older and you take your kids out there to caddie. It's special for the fans. It's fun for the players. It's just part of the history of the tournament. One of my biggest wins -- the par 3. One of the young players asked me, did you ever win back-to-back weeks? And I said, 'Well, actually, I won four in a row.' And they said, 'Really?' And I said, 'Yeah, and one of them was the par 3 at Augusta -- that counts as a win doesn't it?' I don't remember the order but Greensboro, Hilton Head and PLAYERS. Freddie won the Masters in the middle of it."
BRENDAN STEELE: “As soon as you start thinking about how close the patrons are (to the green), you’re going to hit some bad shots. You can hit it 15 feet from the hole and hit a patron. It’s really something that makes (the Masters) really cool. It’s unlike anything else in sports. Where can you get that close to the action the day before the event. It would be like being on the field for practice the day before the Super Bowl, and you’re getting doinked in the head with passes from Tom Brady or something. It’s just a fun experience.”
What it feels like ... to stay in the Crow’s Nest?
HUNTER MAHAN: “It’s fun. Everyone stays there at least one night to get the experience. It’s pretty small, it’s pretty tight quarters, but it’s cool to be there and experience a place that is very special, and that not many people can say they have been up there.”
MOORE: “It’s cool, because it is the Crow’s Nest and you’re staying on the property and the amateurs are the only ones who get to stay on property for the tournament. But it’s small. You have little bunk corners with partitions. It’s not like rooms with walls. There’s one bathroom up there you all share. It’s unique. I wouldn’t say it’s glamorous by any means, but it’s very nice. It’s comfortable. It’s an amazing experience. There’s one window you can look out and see over the course. It’s pretty cool.”
Photo credits (in order of appearance): Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images; David Cannon/Getty Images; Cannon; Cannon; Andrew Redington/Getty Images.