Sergio Garcia's guide to Augusta

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It was, for Sergio Garcia, the calm before the storm. The Spaniard is chilling out playing nine holes with some friends at his beloved Club de Campo del Mediterraneo outside Castellon, Valencia, before the season begins in earnest.

As he sits down at a table on the club’s patio, TG hands him a marker pen and unfurls a spectacular aerial photo of Augusta. Sergio is about to draw his own notes on it, before giving us the inside track on the world’s most revered layout: the clubs he hits, the conditions, the greens, the no-go zones, most demanding holes, his favourite hole...

Garcia of course will be bidding for his first Major Championship and will no doubt be encouraged by his eighth place in 2013 and finishing just outside the top 10 the previous year. His first Augusta outing was a memorable one – he finished top amateur in 1999 and turned pro soon afterwards. He admits: “The tournament is so tricky, so difficult. If I go there, feel good and trust what I am doing, it could happen, especially if I get a bit of luck here and there which you need at every tournament, but probably more so at the Masters.”

The world No.7 has 17 top 10s in Majors, including four runners-up spots (two Opens and two US PGAs), and is hoping that if he can keep banging on the Major door, one will swing open. “I don’t have to do anything drastically different in the Majors, I just need to play very well like I did at last year’s Open at Hoylake (he was T2). I know my game and if I feel comfortable I can win any week and that includes the Majors. With the Majors it’s more of a mental test but I still think I’m capable of winning one… hopefully more!”

Augusta Hole Numbers

Tea Olive  |  Par 4, 445 yards

It’s Augusta, it’s the Masters, it’s the first Major of the season... and it’s pretty nerve-wracking. It’s really important to make a solid start and open your account well so the pressure is on from the word go here. The last thing you want to do is drop a shot or two early on. The opening holes in Majors are always important and can set the tone for the rest of the week and with this opening hole I’ll be pulling my driver out of the bag for the first time, trying to stay left of the big bunker on the right of the fairway. Depending on the wind I’ll usually try a little fade and then it’s a case of finding a very challenging green with some tough pin positions and the left side has to be avoided at all costs.

   
Augusta Hole Numbers

Pink Dogwood  |  Par 5, 575 yards

After the recent changes and lengthening of the course, this is a good tee shot now with the right fairway bunker about 310 yards out. I usually try a little draw and not necessarily with the driver – if it’s not into the wind it’s likely I’ll plump for a 3-wood. If I’ve hit it just short of the bunker I’m usually hitting 3 or 5-wood into the green, but the second shot is definitely not the easiest: it’s downhill and I’m trying to hit a big draw into a very narrow entrance to the green. Anything just short of the right greenside bunker is a good spot to chip from – you’re usually chipping up the green – other than for a back right pin. From there you can make your four most times with a decent chip.

   
Augusta Hole Numbers

Flowering Peach  |  Par 4, 350 yards

A short hole, but it needs to be treated with plenty of respect otherwise you can easily come unstuck. Which club you pull out of the bag all depends on the wind– you can hit driver or a long iron – though to be honest the most important thing is the second shot as you’re trying to find a small, sloping right-to-left green. The general rule of thumb is that if the pin is at the back you probably opt for driver, but if it’s near the front it’s 4-iron and SW.

   
Augusta Hole Numbers

Flowering Crabapple  |  Par 3, 240 yards

This is the first short hole and the par 3s are a key and critical feature at Augusta National. They can make or break a round and dash any hopes of wearing that bright green jacket on Sunday evening. They all need to be treated with respect and that certainly includes this hole. It’s important you finish below the hole, otherwise you can face some really difficult putts. It’s not the biggest green by any means and the fact that you’re trying to find it with a long iron means it’s really demanding.

   
Augusta Hole Numbers

Magnolia  |  Par 4, 455 yards

Nowadays No.5 is a good driving hole and usually I’m trying to hit a little draw off the tee, looking to take it right of the penal fairway bunkers over 300 yards out on the left. From there with the second shot anything into the middle of the green is good and depending on the wind you can be hitting anything from a 4 or 5-iron to an 8-iron. It’s not a particularly testing shot, but any day you make four here you’re happy, especially considering the humps and hollows on the green.

   
Augusta Hole Numbers

Juniper  |  Par 3, 180 yards

The second of the short holes is very tricky because the wind swirls around quite a bit when you’re standing on the tee and as a result it’s pretty difficult to choose the right club. It’s usually a mid-iron, owing to the wind and change in elevation. You’ve also got to take great care on the undulating green, you can easily three-putt. If the pin is at the back you can’t afford to be too bold – go long and you’ve no chance of getting up and down.

   
Augusta Hole Numbers

Pampas  |  Par 4, 450 yards

Another hole which has undergone changes which have really stiffened it up now. Owing to the tee being pushed back a few years ago, it’s become a very tough driving hole as you’re looking to hit a very narrow fairway and there’s no bail out area. Any time you can find the fairway, either with driver or 3-wood, it’s job done. You used to drive it to about 50 yards short of the very sloping green, but now it’s driver-wedge, or 3-wood, 8-9-iron depending on the wind. It used to be a good birdie chance, but now it’s not that easy to make par!

   
Augusta Hole Numbers

Yellow Jasmine  |  Par 5, 570 yards

It’s really important to hit a good drive here to stand any chance of finding the green in two. You used to be able to carry the fairway bunker on the left, but now with the tees moved back a bit you’re trying to hit a drive left of the trap and from there you’re looking to follow up with a little draw, ideally to the front portion of the green. If you get it anywhere on the front of the green, you’re left with a good putt and from there you can get to most of the pins… Left is a nightmare.

   
Augusta Hole Numbers

Carolina Cherry  |  Par 4, 460 yards

A great end to the front nine in the form of a classic dog-leg and the 9th is a good driving hole now the tee has been moved back. I’m trying to hit a high draw around the trees and even if I get it into a good position on the fairway, I’m still hitting my second shot from a side slope and into a green sloping from left-to-right with two bunkers guarding the left side. The green has a plateau on it, but nevertheless finding the middle of it is the safe play and not a bad spot to be, though obviously you’re faced with a pretty fast putt to the front pin.

   
Augusta Hole Numbers

Camellia  |  Par 4, 495 yards

Augusta has many picturesque holes, but this is probably the most scenic. However, you can’t afford to get distracted by the surroundings because this is a serious golf hole, one of Augusta’s toughest. I’m looking to play a big draw off the tee, usually with less than a driver so I can shape it easier. If you hit the downslope you can usually benefit with extra roll though usually they keep that fairway pretty soft. They have it all figured out at Augusta! The second shot isn’t the easiest in the world either – the wind is a bit tricky and you’re also likely to be hitting from a downslope and into a green that isn’t that big. You have a lot of good pin positions and this is another where it’s important to be below the hole.

   
Augusta Hole Numbers

White Dogwood  |  Par 4, 505 yards

No.10 may be the most aesthetically pleasing, but this is probably my favourite hole. It’s been substantially lengthened in recent times and they’ve added a lot of trees along the right side of the fairway, which can block your next shot and makes this fairway very narrow. Even if you’ve managed to hit a good, solid drive, you’re still left with a very challenging second – you’re usually trying to find the middle right side of the green and from there you can sometimes make birdie, though you’re usually happy to walk off with par. A tough hole.

   
Augusta Hole Numbers

Golden Bell  |  Par 3, 155 yards

Another prettiest hole contender. It’s a classic par 3 – short, but very tricky, and it’s very important to choose your club and make sure you get it right. The wind blows a lot here and you have to trust what you’re doing because there’s not much margin for error. The green is narrow, so if you hit it straight over the bunker to the middle of the green, that’s good. When they stick the pin in the middle of the green, maybe you’ve got a birdie chance, but the right pin makes it tricky to get a two, while with the left pin you can be a bit a little more aggressive. But if you leave it short you’re in trouble. Any time you make three, it’s good on 12.

   
Augusta Hole Numbers

Azalea  |  Par 5, 510 yards

I’m looking to hit a good draw off the tee, often with less than a driver so I can shape the ball round the corner. The aim is to hit it somewhere on the corner of the dog-leg, from where you’re faced with a tricky shot as you’re on a tight slope with the ball above your feet. You think you’re going to hook it off that hanging lie, but a lot of times you leak it out to the right and as a result the creek comes into play. So it’s quite important to be comfortable and confident with the second shot and if you can get the ball somewhere in the middle of the green you’re always going to be having a good eagle chance from there. Depending on the wind and whether I’ve hit a driver, I’m hitting between a 5-iron and may be a 5-wood in. Unless you’re Bubba Watson... he just hits it over the trees and then goes in with a wedge!

   

Where The Masters will be won or lost.

Sergio picked out the closing holes for special hand-written treatment.

 
Augusta Holes
   
Augusta Hole Numbers

Chinese Fir  |  Par 4, 440 yards

Augusta fittingly has a thrilling finish – a good mix of holes where you can make up a couple of shots but at the same time if you’re a little bit off your game, you can struggle. There are some crucial shots that you have to hit right on the button, starting from the 14th, where once again I’m going to be hitting a draw off the tee, with either a driver or 3-wood depending on the wind and state of play. I’m usually looking to hit it somewhere in this area (see illustration) and from here it could be anything from a 7-iron to pitching wedge though it’s very important to carry the false front on this green.

   
Augusta Hole Numbers

Firethorn  |  Par 5, 530 yards

I’m usually trying to hit a slight little fade with the driver which will hopefully leave me around right of those pines that now stick out down the left (see illustration). From there, depending on the wind, it’s usually between a 6-iron and 5-wood, a downhill shot to a well-guarded green with water in front. Your club selection has to be spot on because obviously short is dead and wet. You can bail out long, but long is not a good option and leaves a really tricky third. You’re better off in the right bunker which isn’t a terrible spot – you can pretty much get to any pin from there. It’s the only bail-out area on 15.

   
Augusta Hole Numbers

Redbud  |  Par 3, 170 yards

The final par 3 and another capable of causing much drama and excitement. If it’s played into the wind, I’m usually hitting in a 6-9-iron into the two-tier green, which slopes both ways, but most notably to the left down to the water. The toughest pin position is front right… there’s not much room, it’s a very small area and they tend to use it on the opening two days. Obviously the Sunday pin (back left) causes a lot of drama as it is the kind of hole where you can make a hole-in-one if you get it right or, if you get it wrong and leave it on the top level, a three-putt bogey. The two pins on the right side are the classic ones.

   
Augusta Holes
   
Augusta Hole Numbers

Nandina  |  Par 4, 440 yards

This has become a very narrow drive even though there’s no Eisenhower tree on the left to contend with now, which means you can hit it straighter; you used to have to draw it quite a bit, but you can hit it dead straight with the driver now and if you hit a good one to around here (see illustration) you can have between an 8-iron to a sand wedge in. The toughest pin placement, for me, is top right. You can leave your approach short which would leave a lengthy uphill putt, but if you want a chance of a birdie, it is so hard to get to. The one thing you can’t do is go long; go over the green and you’re looking at five.

   
Augusta Hole Numbers

Holly  |  Par 4, 465 yards

A strong finishing hole usually calls for a little fade with the driver or you can hit 3-wood as it’s quite a narrow “shoot” between the trees. I’m looking to leave my ball just short of the bunkers on the left of the fairway and, depending on the wind, I could be hitting in with anything between a 9-4-iron uphill. The traditional Sunday pin is front left, but the toughest are the two at the top of the green, left and right. They’re just not easy to get to. Anything on the right, including the bunker, isn’t a great place to be though it’s OK to the Sunday pin. You don’t want to leave your second above the pin with a fast putt back.