03 Nov 2021 | Professional golf |
How Herbert will prep for 'daunting' Augusta debut
by PGA of Australia
By Tony Webeck
He has had only 48 hours to digest his new reality as Australia’s latest PGA Tour winner yet Lucas Herbert is already formulating an approach for an Augusta National debut to remember next April.
Playing on limited status earned through the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, Herbert’s victory at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship last Sunday has provided an open diary in which he can select the game’s showpiece events for the coming year.
Top of that list is a guaranteed invitation to The Masters, the realisation of a boyhood dream first concocted when roused out of bed on a Monday morning in Bendigo by his father to watch the drama of a Sunday at Augusta unfold.
Amidst congratulatory messages from two of Australia’s all-time sporting icons in Greg Norman and Shane Warne, Herbert took time to consider the best way to prepare for The Masters for the first time and concedes a pre-April reconnaissance mission will help keep the nerves in check.
“I want to go there early when there’s no stands or anything up and just really take in what Augusta is. I’d be silly not to,” Herbert said in a media call with Australian media facilitated by the PGA Tour.
“It’s going to be a pretty special place and to have everything with the tournament as well as Augusta hit you in one week, I think that can be pretty daunting.
“I want to go there a little earlier and just really take it all in and just look around and enjoy where I am. Then, once the tournament rolls around, I think I’ll be able to kind of put that aside a little bit more and just focus on trying to play well and get the best results I can.”
A two-time winner on the European Tour since January 2020, Herbert rose to a career-high of 43rd on the back of his PGA Tour breakthrough in Bermuda.
If he could maintain that ranking through until the end of 2021 that alone would have been enough to earn an invitation from Augusta National Golf Club but a phone call from his mother laid out exactly what was at stake last Sunday.
“Mum called me Saturday night and goes, ‘You better win because you’ll get into Augusta if you win’,” revealed Herbert, who started the final round four strokes off the lead.
“To be honest, when I was playing really nicely in Europe in 2018, there was a chance to get top 50 in the world.
“For probably four years now I’ve had a chance to get into the top 50 in the world at Christmas and get to Augusta.
“This year was the first year I just went, You know what, I’m going to play it someday, who cares if it’s this year or next year or five years’ time. Just don’t worry about it, that will kind of happen itself.
“And that was sort of what happened. I thought if I played really nicely on Sunday I was going to pick up world ranking points and probably get either into or close to the top 50.
“After the finish, I was like, that’s actually really cool I’ve got that. I need to appreciate that more than I probably have because I’ve just tried to push it so much to the back of my mind.”
The 25-year-old indicated that he will return to Australia in early December and play in the Sandbelt Invitational that is the brainchild of former US Open champ Geoff Ogilvy.
His position in the field for the Sentry Tournament of Champions will prevent Herbert from playing in the Australian PGA Championship at Royal Queensland from January 13-16, his attention now turning to making his name in the majors.
Starting with the 2018 US Open, Herbert has played seven majors with a best finish of a tie for 31st at the 2020 US Open, a record he is determined to improve upon.
“I definitely want to prep hard for these majors in the next year,” added Herbert, who has guaranteed starts at The Masters and US PGA Championship (Southern Hills Country Club) next year and is almost certain to play the US Open (Country Club of Brookline) and The Open Championship (St Andrews Old Course).
“I feel like I’ve not performed the way I’ve wanted to in them and I’m better than the results I’ve shown in the majors I’ve played so far.
“I definitely want to change that going into 2022.”
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