Players forced to get creative without green-reading books at Augusta
April 04, 2018
By Jonathan Wall, PGATOUR.COM
Inside the PGA TOUR
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Preparation is key when it comes to improving your chances at Augusta National Golf Club. For Rory McIlroy, that meant getting in a 54-hole cram session last week before the tee sheet started to fill up during Masters week.
With nine Masters appearances under his belt, McIlroy has an advantage over the first-timers in the field. Experience is king. It's one of the reasons why only three players have ever won in their first Masters appearance.
But there's more to taming Augusta National than simply logging countless practice and tournament rounds. For those privileged enough to tee it up at these hallowed grounds in the past, detailed notes can be an invaluable resource, especially when it comes to learning every contour on the notoriously tricky greens.
If this were a normal week on the PGA TOUR, every player would have access to green-contour books that provide detailed, laser-measured topographical maps of every green complex on the course. It's a resource many take advantage of each week on TOUR.
But the Masters is a different beast.
“Augusta doesn’t provide you with a green-contour book, like the other tournaments do,” McIlroy said. “So you’ve got to sort of figure it out yourself.”
In other words, you have to get creative. Without a green-reading book at their disposal, players and caddies are forced to take detailed notes and learn the greens on their own.
Phil Mickelson revealed that even after 25 appearances, his book continues to evolve and change each year.
"I'm still adding to it," Mickelson said. "It's never quite complete, but the more I play there, the more detailed it gets."
While Mickelson has a detailed notebook on Augusta's green that most players would covet, he admitted a lack of details for each green can turn what is normally a streamlined process for him during a TOUR week into a slog.
"[The green-reading book] saves me a lot of work because I have to basically create my own greens book and it takes me hours and hours and days and days to do what some guy can do with a laser in a matter of minutes," Mickelson said. "All my practice is built around those greens books, per se. In my yard I have a 1, 2, 3, 4-degree slope, I practice on that so I can equate it to the greens book when I see it and then dial it in."
Justin Rose has his own system in place for Augusta where he identifies the straight putt and the maximum amount of break to certain pin positions he's seen on each green to give him a better idea of what to expect during the tournament week.
But even with the notes he's compiled, Rose noted there's no such thing as a fool-proof plan when it comes to conquering the greens.
"I can always work in that quadrant of where I am using kind of an express reads or finger system where I feel the maximum is over here at three or four fingers and I know where straight is, so I'm always working," Rose said. "And it's always a ballpark read, you throw up a couple fingers, you go, 'Okay, that's 18 inches out, do I like that, can I see that, yeah, I like that.' It's just a start for me.
"Over the years I've tried to create all the pins that I've played, what I think the breaks are and just create my own parameters. But even using the books as I use them this week, you know, the information's there but actually learning to use them is the hard thing. Actually putting the pin in the right place, making sure your ball's in the right place, they're very finicky to use."
Of course, there are others in the field who embrace a week without the green-reading book. It's an opportunity to turn off the technical side of the brain and rely on feel and creativity — two things that are paramount on and around the greens.
For Rickie Fowler and caddie Joe Skovron, they have a book filled with intel on the greens but have found Fowler tends to play (and putt) his best at Augusta when he's going off feel and not worrying so much about what a book might tell him the slope is on a particular quadrant of the green.
"I tend to putt my best when I'm not worrying so much about what a book is suggesting I do and just going off feel," Fowler said. "Practicing there makes the biggest difference because you learn the lines and the best places to put the ball. The book is nice to have, but it doesn't solve all your problems. You still have to make the putts."