As a former Augusta resident, European Tour star Oliver Wilson knows Augusta National Golf Club better than most. Here he gives us the lowdown on how the course will play in November and what the world's best golfers will need to do to win an autumn Masters.
Though he only played in two Masters, in 2009 and 2010, England’s own Oliver Wilson knows Augusta National like the back of his hand.
“I spent six years in Augusta,” he tells TG. “I went to college there for three-and-a-half years, then I bought a house and stayed in Augusta for another two-and-a-half years. So I’m pretty familiar with the place, the course and the conditions.”
Wilson, who also played Augusta National a number of times as a student, is well aware of how the seasons can change the challenge, sometimes in a subtle sense, sometimes not so subtle at all, as he explains here...
I think the biggest and most noticeable difference in playing Augusta in November will be the temperature. It’s probably going to be 10-15-degrees colder – you could get a frost in the morning – and it’s unlikely to be as warm and the ball won’t be travelling as far as it usually does.
So I think the course will play long and it will just feel generally long for the players who haven’t seen the Augusta outside March and April – they’re in for a bit of a surprise.
Augusta National suits players who hit it a long way anyway – but even more the case this year. Anyone who can fly it a long way is obviously going to have a significant advantage. To be able to go for the par 5s in two will be a big advantage, along with some of the long par 4s.
I suppose if you’re somebody with my length, anyone driving it just over 300 yards, it could prove trickier, more of a risk. But the big hitters, the DJs, Rorys and DeChambeaus, have distance to burn and it’s not likely to be an issue for them.
Having said that, players will probably go a club, or two, further into every green, so the par 4s can play quite long while the par 3s might well be a club longer, and that can be a significant difference round there.
But the par 5s will be where it makes the biggest difference and though the longest guys won’t notice it so much, it’s going to put more emphasis on hitting good tee shots so they’re not going with woods into the greens. If you’re left, say, with a 3-wood into the par 5s, that becomes pretty risky and probably not worth pushing it, perhaps apart from on No.8, where there are no bunkers protecting it.
That said, there’s probably going to be a few more bunkers in play off the tee and I think we’ll see a lot more players laying up at the par 5s… a lot of players may think it’s just too risky going into them with long clubs, so probably won’t go for any unless they can go in with an iron or a hybrid.
We’ll probably see more wedging into the par 5s, probably playing them a bit more cautiously and affording them a bit more respect. If that’s the case, then on No.13 you’ll probably see a lot of players taking 3-wood off the tee and playing it as a three-shotter, taking all the trouble out of play.
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When I was at college, we played Augusta a month or so before the Masters and you’d quite often see odd patches around the course and think “Wow, that’s not like Augusta”. But then you’d go back a few weeks later and there’s not a patch in sight! I can’t remember when they reopen the course after the summer, but obviously the growing conditions aren’t going to be as conducive as in the spring so it might not be in quite as good nick as usual. But they’ll pull out all the stops and get it looking pristine.
The greens are usually relatively firm and obviously they’ve got the SubAir systems, so the greens can play however they want them to all the time. I don’t think the greens are going to change at all from what people know – they’ll have the same firmness, the same speed and I think the course will play relatively firm as well, though it may be a little bit softer depending on whether we see any rain.
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The short game will play pretty much the same as well. It’s obviously tough to chip around the greens – it can make you look silly if you catch the ball a groove too low on the clubface and it releases 20-30ft away! But it’s a tough course to get up and down in any conditions, so I don’t expect that to be much different.
And I don’t expect any rough either. They’ll have that first cut but it’s not going to be very long, pretty much the same as normal. If the growing weather isn’t good, maybe we’ll see less rough – they might keep it a bit lower – but round there you don’t need rough, you just need enough to take the spin off and that plays havoc enough...
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Because of the cooler conditions, I’d expect scoring to be pretty hard, pretty high and I assume they’ll maybe keep the greens a little bit softer to counter that.
It’ll be a tough Masters, as it always is. The scoring’s not low anymore anyway… it’s a tough week even in good conditions. But they’ll still be plenty of birdies… with the long drivers and good mid-to-long-iron players making most of them.”