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Masters Diary: Troy Merritt Details Life of a First-Timer in Augusta

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roy Merritt of the United States plays his shot from the first tee during a practice round prior to the start of the 2016 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 5, 2016

Hi. I’m Troy Merritt from Meridian, Idaho, but in the official Masters program I’m from Meridian, Ohio. That’s happened a lot. It’s Indiana most of the time. And one guy, in Louisiana, said I was from Meridian, Mississippi. We were in the neighborhood, at least.

This is my first Masters, and although I’ll be nervous on the first tee—I’m in Group 17 at 11:27 a.m. Thursday with Byeong-hun An and Ian Woosnam—I have been surprisingly not nervous so far.

I’ve never met An or Woosnam, but I played a practice round with Tom Watson on Tuesday. Robert Streb, a good friend of mine, ran into him in Kansas City and set it up. I thought it was going to be us three, but Cheng Jin, the 18-year-old Asia-Pacific Amateur champion, joined us on the tee. I had played nine with him when I came here after Bay Hill, so I knew him.

Playing with Tom just validated some of the things my caddie, Scott Sajtinac, and I had seen—things around the greens, strategic choices we were leaning toward. It was nice to hear it from a major champion.

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On Sunday, the day after I got here, I played nine and watched the Drive, Chip & Putt. That was cool. But I had security tailing me. I was like: What is going on? I guess they were supposed to be tailing the players when they were walking amongst the crowd. That was new to me.

My welcome to Augusta moment was skipping it across the pond on 16 both Monday and Tuesday. I didn’t practice it; I was cold turkey. I used a 6-iron, and the first time I skipped it to about 15 feet, and the second time to 25 feet. Both of them were closer than my actual golf shot with 7-iron.

The other great moment was the Par 3 Contest. I played with Paul Chaplet, the 16-year-old Latin American Amateur winner, and Justin Rose, who had his two kids out there. I had my two kids out, too—Scout, 4, and Dodge, 2. My dad, Mark, actually carried the bag. It was really cool.

On nine I hit it to two feet and I had my oldest Scout try to roll it in. He made it, but he didn’t care; he was chasing a butterfly. There’s a picture of it on Twitter. The kids were really good. Dodge cried a little because my dad accidentally bonked him in the nose with his thumb. Of course we got them each a cookie after we were done, and my dad asked them which was more fun, the Par 3 Contest or the cookie. Scout said the cookie.

I’ve got my wife, Courtney, here, plus my parents, my mother in law, my father in law, my coach, both of my brothers, and their significant others. We’re all under one roof in Jones Creek, and my mom made lasagna Wednesday night. She makes a good lasagna.

I’m excited, well fed and ready for the tournament to start.

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