AUGUSTA, Ga — "You gotta dance with who ya brung," was one of three-time Masters champion Sam Snead's favorite lines. He wasn't very found of last minute adjustments to his game, so he preferred to play whatever shot his fluid swing was producing that week — or even that day.
But at Augusta National on Monday, there were many of the best players in the world working hard on their games and swings on perhaps the prettiest practice area in the world. But, what exactly are they doing out there? And, do most of them agree with Snead's philosophy?
Having been on both sides of the ropes at a major championship, I can tell you that the players are out grinding away earlier in the week than they typically do on tour for many reasons.
One, the magnitude of the title and all that comes with it demands a preparation equal to the task of major championship pressure and course set-up.
Next, it gives the player — or player/teacher team — the time to make a slightly larger adjustment and get comfortable with it before the gun goes off on Thursday. Also, the course setup is usually quite different than a regular tour event and extra time on the course is almost always in order.
Augusta National's practice tee was less crowded than a regular event on Monday, and the caliber of player is obviously as elevated as the atmosphere. I saw swing coaches with their cameras; teachers and their players using the "house" TrackMan (personal radar devices are not allowed at The National); and swing tweaks being worked into tournament-ready form.
Driving the ball well is a prerequisite at Augusta in the post-Tiger proofing era. The unique driving "fairways" on the practice area — one curving left to right and one bent right to left — give the players a chance to really work on moving the ball to a realistic target. And they utilize it a lot.
Every player at this level has a pre-tournament routine, and the more experienced ones have a major tournament routine. Most include getting to the course early, working on either the last thing they put in with their teacher away from Augusta, or putting the polish on it in real time with their instructors by their side.
They'll get plenty of short-game work in, getting used to how the greens hold, check and run out, and how the green speed, grain and slope is to putt on this week. Everyone inside and outside the ropes knows what is at stake, a place in the history books not being the least of it. So they are out in force on a Monday, getting ready to have a chance at the glory on Sunday afternoon. Brian Manzella is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher. (Above: Tiger Woods talks with coach Sean Foley on the practice range. Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)