In the first of a new series of europeantour.com, Edoardo Molinari previews this week’s Masters Tournament, looking at what makes the event so unique, what it takes to do well at Augusta National, and why he’s backing Tiger Woods for a fifth Green Jacket.
By Edoardo Molinari
For me, Augusta is the most special place in golf – together with the Old Course at St Andrews. What distinguishes the Masters from everything else is that every golfer watches the Masters each year, so you already know the course so well before you turn up. You kind of know what to expect, but it is probably even better than you can imagine when you get there.
You have to have first-hand experience of Augusta before you can do well there. You really have to know the right lines into the greens and know the putts you don’t want to leave yourself. You need to go out and make those mistakes and remember for the following year ‘I don’t want to be here, I can’t be there.’ There are some spots out there where it is impossible to do anything.
To give you an idea of how much that experience can help I’ll tell you a story from my Masters debut back in 2006. I remember playing a practice round with José María Olazábal on the Tuesday morning. We played the back nine first, and he told me that when you play in the morning there is a bit of dew in the grass so the ball tends to skip a bit more, whereas if you play in the afternoon it is a lot stickier, so the ball stops quicker. Most of the time at other courses it is the opposite to that. The amount of detail he went into over each shot was incredible – and it just showed the edge you have when you have that inside information.
I’d say that after a certain amount of time, Augusta can become easy to play, though. You can see it with a number of players who, year after year, come back and perform well there, even if they aren’t playing well going into that week. Likewise there are some guys who just aren’t suited to the place.
One player who was born to play at Augusta was Tiger Woods. Back when I made my debut we played in the same group. As the US Amateur champion, you get paired with the defending champion – who back in 2006 was Tiger – and safe to say it was pretty much a dream come true. I still have a picture of myself on the first tee next to Tiger with Francesco caddying – very happy memories.
It was eye-opening playing with Tiger as he had so many shots in the bag. He could hit it high, low, a cut, a draw. He had a shot for everywhere the flag was. That was the most striking thing – how he was able to adapt to any situation. At the time he was also one of the longest players on Tour, which also give him such a huge advantage.
Although he’s a different player now, he still has such an edge with all the experience he has, his great record there. He has also been playing so well this year, he’s swinging the club great, and he hasn’t won yet – so he’s due a victory.
In terms of other guys who are ideally suited to Augusta, you have to look at Jon Rahm. You need to be very long off the tee there, which he is, because if you can carry more than 300 yards there are three or four holes where you have a massive advantage. On top of that you also have to have an exceptional short game, which Jon also does, as even the best iron players in the world will miss some greens.
I have also been really impressed with Lucas Bjerregaard over the last few years. I think Lucas has massive potential, as he hits the ball so far and he is an excellent putter too – which are very good skills to have at Augusta.
I know who I’ll be cheering on this week though! I spoke to Francesco last week, and he’s feeling very confident. He is playing well and I am hoping that he will have another great week and have a good go at it. I’ll be watching him at home with some friends enjoying the golf with plenty of nice food, as it will start just during dinner time in Italy.