A tough lesson at Augusta

Chris Wood reflects on his Masters debut and rues his lack of local knowledge.

Hi everyone. Well, I’m back home after my Masters debut and I’m pretty disappointed really. I’m feeling a bit down to be honest.
Part of me recognises that I played the course well at times, but I can’t help thinking back to the disastrous second hole on Thursday.
As most of you will know it is a par-five that sweeps down a hill before rising up to a raised green protected by big front bunkers.
After getting birdie on the first hole I drove my ball down the left side and thought it was quite a good one so I made my way down the fairway feeling quite pleased with myself.
But the ball had ended up in the trees and I opted to hit 4-iron, trying to hook it short of the green.
However I smacked it straight into the tree in front of me and it bounced left into a water hazard that not a lot of people know about (I wish I didn’t know about it too!).
After a penalty drop and two more shots I was on the green but the trouble didn’t stop there – I three-putted for eight and I was suddenly two-over par.
I had played just two holes of my very first Masters appearance and yet I stood on the third tee feeling numb.
Funnily enough I got into the round quite well after that and played some solid par golf. I was doing quite nicely and was still two-over as I prepared to play my approach to the seventh hole.
When I hit it I didn’t think anything had changed either because it came out great but when we got to the green the ball was 15 yards short of the putting surface, sitting in sand, and I had no shot at all.
I was so frustrated that I got flustered and it started a horrendous run of scoring.
I lost six shots in the next five holes – not the ideal way to play the turn. I just lost control of the round completely.
It really hit home how Augusta National is the most penal course I have played. Even Jim Furyk – who won earlier this year and is one of the best and most patient players in the world – couldn’t break 80!
The one positive is that I don’t think I could possibly shoot higher than I did in going 78-76 and I have learned so much from just playing the course.
A good example is my birdie putt on the 17th hole on Friday. It was 20 feet so quite makeable and I was saying to myself, “Come on Chris, you birdied 16, finish off with another one, do something good before going home.”
It was uphill so I told myself I could hit it quite firm (well, firm for Augusta!) but it went 15 feet past the hole and I missed the return to record bogey.
And as I made my way to the next tee I looked back at the green. “Oh my God,” I said to myself, “it was downhill.” The new angle made it so obvious and yet I was convinced a few minutes earlier it was uphill. I had no idea.
But I wrote it down in a notebook I used all last week for future reference. I’ve never done that before but I figure no course is as tricky and we don’t return to a course as frequently as we do with Augusta so it makes sense.
In fact I noticed Phil Mickelson did the same. If he still needs to make notes that shows you how important local knowledge is.
That was what I was lacking – course experience.
I had 61 putts all week and made just 21 of 36 greens but it is important to remember that it is not just about hitting the greens but hitting the right part of them.
For example I played the sixth hole quite well (two pars) but boy did I have to work for them.
Stood on the tee you can attack the pin but the result is going to be either birdie or bogey – the margin is so small.
My plan was to hit a controlled fade, if it made it close, great, but if it didn’t I was accepting that I had a 50/60 foot putt coming up!
You just don’t get those sort of compromises in a normal week on tour! Patience and discipline are just massive.
I found it very hard at the weekend. There were no flights available so I had to hang around and it was no fun whatsoever.
We were about a mile away and could see fans getting excited as they made their way to the course. I just felt so out of it and a bit miserable. When you miss the cut you just want to get as far away as possible.
But those feelings can also act as a long-term motivation. I never want to feel like that again: the biggest event in golf and I ended it feeling dreadful …
I did get to spend some time discussing my game, breaking down my score, with my caddie and my coach. Hopefully that will bear fruit soon.
I also caught a bit of the finale on the Golf Channel. Phil Mickelson’s eagle-eagle-birdie spurt on Saturday was incredible, as was that shot on Sunday from the trees! The nerve to take the break he got with that gap is just amazing – and then the composure to pull it off!
I’ve now got two weeks off to hone my game (hopefully the weather stays nice here in the UK!) and then I’ve got a four week spell in Europe – Spain, Italy, Majorca and then Wentworth.
I’ll write again soon!