Anticipation of a first Masters

Anticipation of a first Masters

(AP) — I know the Masters is coming up and I’ve been excited, but I haven’t really had the eagerness to get there.

But after seeing it today (a practice round Thursday with Mark Calcavecchia), I’m kicking myself for not going every day for the last month. Everything about the place is incredible. Every hole you walk on, you have so many memories – of Sandy Lyle hitting his bunker shot, Greg Norman and Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros winning, Ben Crenshaw winning, Scott Hoch missing that putt, all these memories.

You feel like you’re part of it.

It’s like seeing a celebrity in person. You feel like you know him because you’ve seen him so much on TV or in the movies, and you feel like you can walk right up and say, “Hi” to him. That’s how it is at the golf course. You feel like you’ve played it so many times, because I’ve watched it for a solid 25 years.

Golf has been in my family since I can remember.

Dana has been a great golfer for a long time, along with being a club pro, and Dad has been a great amateur. Augusta National was something we watched every year. To me, it was the greatest tournament to watch on TV because it was the same golf course, and you always heard about the back nine on Sunday.

My first trip to Augusta National was in college. I went to the University of South Carolina, and I probably went six or seven times to watch practice rounds. The first time I played Augusta was four years ago. I went up there with my dad, a college buddy and a member that he knew. It was cold, raining, about 40 degrees, and it was one of the most incredible rounds of golf.

You walk in there and your eyes go wide. It’s incredible to walk around that locker room and be part of that. I shot 70, made three birdies and my only bogey was on the 17th. And I left there thinking, “I have to come back soon.”

I never really came close to getting in until last year.

I was thinking about the Masters after I finished third at 84 Lumber, and I knew I was going to be top 40 on the money list. I didn’t even realize that top 30 got you into the U.S. Open and top 20 got you into the British Open. I finished 20th. All the others were secondary. I’m not taking anything away from those majors, but the Masters is special.

My dad will be my caddie.

To me, the most incredible honor is that I can be on the golf course with him at my first Masters, and he can be on the bag. He caddied for me at the U.S. Open at Olympia Fields. He caddied for me at the British. He never caddied for me at the PGA Championship, but he caddied for Brad Faxon at Whistling Straits. So he’s completing his Grand Slam at the Masters.

My wife, Amy, is expecting our first child April 16, the Monday after Hilton Head. I’ll go home if she gives me the call that she’s in labor. It would be an unbelievable sacrifice to skip my first Masters, but I’d regret even more missing out on the birth of our first child.

What to expect? To be honest, I’m not saying I’m going to win, but I feel like I can play well there. It suits my game. I hit the ball from right to left, and I’m a good chipper and putter. Calcavecchia was saying, “You’ve got a good chance to win this tournament.” It’s nice hearing that from another player.

I’ll play a practice round with Gary Player on Monday, and I’ll play with Lucas Glover and Joe Durant on Tuesday. I’m not sure about Wednesday, but I’ll play the Par 3 Contest. I’ll probably be more nervous playing with Gary Player on Monday than the first round Thursday. Once I get to the golf course, nerves won’t be too bad. But playing with Gary Player will be an incredible honor, watching him in his 50th Masters.

It’s amazing to think he has played 50 years at the Masters. And this is only my first.

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