AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) – Nicolas Colsaerts ran into Jack Nicklaus Jr. last week and asked what advice he had about the Masters.
It didn’t take long for the younger Nicklaus to answer: “I would just talk to Dad,” he said.
An hour or so later, Colsaerts was face-to-face with the “Golden Bear,” winner of six Masters and as expert as one can be on how to succeed at Augusta National.
“Yeah, I felt pretty lucky,” Colsaerts said Monday.
That’s the way Colsaerts has felt since arriving for the first time at the season’s first major. The 30-year-old, known as the “Belgian Bomber” for his length off the tee, has soaked in everything he can about what he hopes is the first of many times he’ll get to play for a green jacket.
“The first time you walk through the clubhouse and you get to see this piece of land in front of you,” he said with awe. “Just how green it is, how clean it is everywhere, underneath the trees. I don’t think there’s anything like this.”
The Masters begins Thursday.
Several golf fans hadn’t seen anyone like Colsaerts when he jumped onto the worldwide scene last year. Already a champion on the European Tour with a win in the Volvo Match Play, Colsaerts contended for the British Open title last summer when he tied for seventh after an opening 65.
Colsaerts stature grew at the Ryder Cup when, as the European team captain’s pick, he had eight birdies and an eagle as he and partner Lee Westwood defeated Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker in the opening day’s four ball matches.
“It’s funny because since the Ryder Cup, everybody thinks I average 27 putts a round,” he said. “I don’t. I just want to make that clear.”
Something else Colsaerts made clear: He believes his game fits Augusta National to a tee.
“Certain players come here and look at this place and feel like they have the game that suits it,” he said. “And I definitely think that I do.”
He beefed up his chances, he believes, after his visit with Nicklaus, who won the last of his record 18 majors here at the Masters in 1986.
Colsaerts said the two talked about every hole from pin positions to shots never to hit in particular situations. Colsaerts blogged about the meeting last week, calling it one of the “highlights of my humble golf-life experience.”
Colsaerts came to Augusta last month to fit in some practice and found it difficult on the empty course to envision the layout he saw on TV each year, with full galleries ringing each green. Colsaerts felt better after Monday’s practice on the front nine. “With all these people around, it’s quite an appealing gallery to play in front of,” he said.
Colsaerts doesn’t mind the “Belgian Bomber” nickname, proud that he’s just the third golfer from his country to play Augusta National. He’s less thrilled about the other nickname he’s been tagged with, “The Muscles from Brussels” because action film star Jean-Claude Van Damme was called it first. “I don’t particularly like one of them because it’s already been given to a Belgian actor,” Colsaerts said.
He’ll have a place in Belgian history all his own if succeeds this week. “It’s the tournament for me,” he said. “So I can’t wait to see what I’m going to do in it.”