By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The last player to win the Masters in his first appearance was Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979. So when Jason Day arrived here last year, he asked any and every question he could think of to players who have been here before.
“If you can somehow get a practice round with them, that’s would probably be the best thing you can do,” Day said Monday. “I remember talking to Nick Faldo before I played the Masters last year and asking advice of him and then walking the course with some other players and just asking where they would hit shots on certain holes.”
It certainly helped. Day tied for the lowest score in Masters history with a 64 in the second round before finishing in a tie for second.
Day said he was so focused last year, especially being in contention all week, he could barely recall any of his rounds.
But he added there’s a danger in over-preparation, too.
“If you treat it like it’s the only tournament that matters, you’re putting so much pressure on your shoulders to a point where if you don’t perform, then you get down on yourself and you miss the cut and go home early,” Day said. “I just have to get in and just have the same preparation as I always do and just treat it like a normal tournament.”
For Webb Simpson, who is making his Masters debut this week, that actually might not be so difficult because he’s played here before.
Simpson first played Augusta National as a 12-year-old. “My eyes were pretty wide the whole day,” he said.
Especially when he got to the 18th hole.
The Scotty Cameron touring putters had just come out and Simpson spotted one in the golf shop at Augusta National. Simpson’s father told him if he birdied the final hole, he’d get him the putter.
Simpson hit driver, 3-wood to about 4 feet.
“The pin is front left, where it is on Sunday,” Simpson recalled. “I missed it.”
Simpson’s dad felt bad and bought him the putter anyway. He shot 80 that day and eight years later was eight shots better with an even-par 72.
That’s not the only experience Simpson has working for him, however. Simpson’s caddie, Paul Tesori, has caddied in 11 Masters tournaments.
Like most everything around here, passing down knowledge is tradition. The biggest piece of advice Tesori has given him so far? Where he can and can’t miss.
“It’s so hard to be precise on every hole,” said Simpson, who is playing in just his fourth career major. He tied for 14th at last year’s U.S. Open and 16th at the British Open before missing the cut at the PGA Championship.
“There are certain holes where you cannot get it up-and-down and you just have to know where you can chip the ball close and hopefully get it up-and-down for pars. I think that’s the most important thing, just knowing which pins to get after it and where to miss it.”
After 10 trips here, including a tie for second with Day a year ago, Adam Scott certainly knows where to hit it and where not to. Still, knowledge only goes so far.
“You can have all the knowledge you want, but you still have to execute good shots,” said Scott, who finished ninth in his first appearance here. “But I’ve definitely developed a sense of comfort over the years.”