April 8 2013
Henley is in his first Masters but has played Augusta National an estimated 10 times. (Badz/PGA TOUR)
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Nicolas Colsaerts and Russell Henley are among the 17 first-time Masters participants this week.
But this isn't the first time they've played Augusta National, however.
Colsaerts came here about a month ago. Henley, a Macon, Ga., native and University of Georgia product, has played about 10 rounds here through the years he estimates.
Still, this week is different. Both shared their early experiences and impressions on Monday.
"Coming to the golf course this morning (I was surprised) how many people were trying to get in," said Colsaerts, only the second player from Belgium to play in the Masters. "Course‑wise, it's so much more subtle than I thought. You think that after watching it for so many years, you have an idea of what it's going to be like, but everything is accentuated by a thousand times. Obviously the first time you walk around Amen Corner is quite special.
"Everything you look around, the first time you walk through the clubhouse and you get to see this piece of land in front of you, just how green it is, how clean it is everywhere, underneath the trees, I don't think there's any place like this."
Henley, meanwhile, drove in from Charleston, S.C. on Sunday night. When he arrived, he bumped into three-time Masters champ Phil Mickelson and his caddie Jim "Bones" Mackay in the parking lot. When he got inside, Ben Crenshaw was in line ahead of him to register for the tournament.
Asked who he'd like to play a practice round with, Henley mentioned Crenshaw's name and Tom Watson. The pro shop gave Henley Watson's phone number and the two teed it up on Monday along with Nathan Smith.
What advice did Watson give Henley?
"Just little stuff, like No. 1, we talked about how he thinks the center of the green there is a great play," Henley said. "And how when he was first walking the course and learning it, he found out very quick to not go left on that hole at any of the pins, and hit a lot of chips from the right.
"No. 4, when the pin is on the front left, he said, 'Don't ever hit it in the right bunker.' Just good, simple knowledge to just kind of go by. I feel a lot more confident knowing what he had to say."
And a little richer after apparently getting in Watson's pocket.
"It was crazy to me, you've got a legend of the game standing right next to me. I kept (thinking) he's right there, and he's sitting there asking me about my family, talking to me about how to help me with the TOUR and giving me advice," Henley said. "I'll always remember today and being in his group.
"We played some skins. Nathan won the most, but I won a few. Definitely had a few moments with him out there, but yeah, he was paying up."