06 Apr 2021 | Professional golf |

Augusta fires up for 2021

by Martin Blake

Adam Scott, Cameron Smith Augusta practice image
Adam Scott and Cameron Smith practise at Augusta National on Monday. Photo: Getty

HERE'S HOW TO FOLLOW THE 2021 MASTERS

Buckle up.

That’s the advice from 2013 champion Adam Scott as the players arrive at Augusta National to prepare for a traditional April Masters, as opposed to the November 2020 version brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.

All the players noted the firmness of the course on Monday and Scott was no different. “Fiery,” was his best description.

“Usually in the past when it's been good weather, you're kind of lulled into a false sense of security Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday around here and then they cut your legs out from under you on Thursday and you're scared every chip shot and all of a sudden downhill putts are running to the edge of the green and stuff like that,” he said.

“That's what was happening out there. Looked like it was at a really tournament length, the grass around the greens and the firmness and the speed of the greens had that brown tinge on it. If that's a sign of things to come, we've got to buckle up for this week.”

Scott said the conditions reminded him of the 2007 Masters, when he and Greg Norman poured water on the steep slope at the 16th green and watched it trickle “all the way across and off the green. It never got absorbed”.

Five Australians will tee it up this week, with last year’s runner-up Cameron Smith being the most likely challenger after his four under-par rounds last year saw him as next-best to Dustin Johnson.

Scott certainly thinks Smith can win. “We saw the potential that he (Smith) has here just five months ago,” said Scott. “I think more than anything with the experience and his maturity, he's got that kind of killer instinct in him when he's in the hunt. I see it when he plays match play. I saw it at the Presidents Cup.

“Although he was always kind of trailing ‘DJ’, he never backed down. He didn't give DJ much breathing space. DJ still had to play a great round of golf Sunday.”

Smith himself has been working hard with coach Grant Field, trying to find consistency, and sometimes frustratingly so. “I don't know, it's just like a revolving door,” he said today. “You go good, you think you're on the right track and then it goes back the other way and then you just restart the process. No, it's good that we know what's going on, but it's sometimes frustrating that it's the same thing all the time.”

Meanwhile Jason Day makes another Masters start with his longtime ambition of slipping on a green jacket intact.

“Playing under the radar is nice sometimes,” said Day. “I'd much rather be in the spotlight because you're playing good, but right now I've been here since last Friday, so I've had a lot of practice getting in under the belt and I'm looking forward to the week starting.”

Day has made big changes to protect his injured back under new coach Chris Como, although he stops short of arguing that he has “reinvented” himself. “I think of myself as a better person now than what I was five years ago,” he said. “I feel like I've found a happier place in my life.

“I've found a little bit more balance per se, and I'm not really driven by the results to make me happy because to be driven by results to make you happy, that's very temporary, and your emotions go up and down, to the point where you're always constantly thinking about it.

“My goal is to get back to No. 1 in the world, and I know that I'll definitely do a lot of things differently just because I've been in that position beforehand. If I get back there, I know that things will be a little bit different for me, and hopefully I can actually extend and have longevity at No. 1 like a Dustin or Norman, Tiger (Woods), something like that.”

Matt Jones makes his second appearance at Augusta National, his first since 2014, and he acknowledged that the course feels familiar to his countrymen.

“Yeah, it's a very good golf course for Australians,” said Jones. “The firmness, the fastness, bump and runs into greens. If it plays firm and fast, which it looks like it will, I would suspect Aussies would do well, which they have in the last. Leish (Marc Leishman) has always done well here, Adam won, of course, and Cam finished second last year.”

HERE'S HOW TO FOLLOW THE 2021 MASTERS

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