Geoff Ogilvy played a practice round at Augusta National last week in preparation for the Mastrers 2009, accompanied by writer John Huggan for a big interview in the next issue of Golf World. This is what the Aussie had to say:
After playing Augusta National a few times, I know it fairly well, but it is still almost the ultimate 'local knowledge' course. Every time you play it you are better off next time. Every time you play it, you find one place you've never been before, a spot that is either really good or really bad."
"Every year, the course changes. They re-build a lot of greens in little ways. It's never identical to the previous year. I'm sure a veteran like Fred Couples has played from every conceivable spot on the course by now, but a couple of times in every round I'm in spots I haven't seen before. That's how you find out how to play holes and how not to play them.
"Part of going early, however, is that Augusta National is such a cool place. Every tournament lets us play practice rounds well before the event, but this is the only one where the pros actually take up that offer."
"Some spots look bad at Augusta, but only when you are actually there do you realise that they may not be quite so awful," contends Ogilvy. "That's the genius of the greens. Certain spots look wrong but are actually right. And on every hole there is a spot off the green that is better than a bad spot on the green.
"Professionals spend their whole lives trying not to 'short side' themselves with their approach shots. But, at Augusta, that is sometimes the thing to do. Take the par-3 6th. If the hole is cut on the top tier to the back right, you are much better off missing on that side. Just off the green to the right is way better than on the green but down the bottom of the slope. The 7th green is similar. If the pin is on the left side, you are better to miss the green on that side than be on the green and right of the cup. You can easily putt off the green from there. And the 8th is the same. If the pin is back and left, missing the green long and left is a good spot to be in."
"On the 12th, I started off hitting an 8-iron," shudders Ogilvy. "When we got to the tee it was semi-downwind and my caddie was happy with that choice. But, by the time I hit the shot, the wind had switched. The ball ballooned up and finished in the water.
"So I tried again. I hit it harder and the ball ballooned up even more and finished even shorter, again in the water. Then I switched to a 7-iron and came up short again. Then I went to a 6-iron and, although the shot finished up wet again, it did manage to fly the creek before dribbling back down the bank.
"All four were struck solidly. It is so deceiving down in that corner. The wind whistles across from the right (down the 13th fairway] and screws up every calculation. I'm just glad I wasn't adding up my score. It would have been astonishing for people to watch the Masters field go through there in those conditions; it would have been a massacre."