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Morikawa, Cantlay lean on experience of past champions

Morikawa, Cantlay lean on experience of past champions

Collin Morikawa, Patrick Cantlay and Cameron Smith are among a plentiful list of Masters participants that have been seeking advice from experienced players and past champions over the first couple of practice days at Augusta National.

collin morikawa 2021 masters

Players often remark that you never truly appreciate the undulations or the speed of the greens at Augusta National until you’ve seen it with your own eyes.

It’s a course many say lends itself to experience, and with firmer, faster conditions expected at this week’s tournament, it could be a factor that proves crucial to scoring.

Former champion Jordan Spieth said as much about the advantage of course knowledge when he arrived at Augusta on Monday.

“If the membership here and those who are setting up the golf course get the weather they want to get, they like to see tournaments like 2014, 2016, a little bit '17, where it's potentially less than 10‑under par is a winning score, where it requires a lot more kind of course knowledge where you leave the ball and you have to hit an even more precise shot to get it where you want it to go.”

But not everyone in the field has the same level of experience. So for players like World Number Four Collin Morikawa – who only made his debut in November – that means looking to former champions to share theirs.

“People say it's really undulated, but you never really know until you step foot out here,” said Morikawa.

Morikawa, who won his first Major at the PGA Championship last season, hasn’t sought out the advice of many ahead of his first April Masters, but he has been taking notes from 1998 champion Mark O’Meara.

“I actually talked to Mark O'Meara, and he's been a big role in obviously just helping me,” said Morikawa, who admitted that O’Meara gave him one bit of key advice that he’s been sure to work on.

“And he's not telling me what to do, he's not giving me the perfect secret on how to win out here, but he gives me just little clues on what needs to be good. And he always tells me speed. Speed on putting. How can you improve that.

“And it's not just this week, it's every week I go and play golf, how do I improve my speed. And when I watch the best players, there's a few guys out here that really -- I really admire. And you would never guess who they are sometimes, just because you might not see them on the leaderboard every week, but if you just watch them putt, it's just amazing.

“And that's what I truly love because that's where I want to get my game. So when someone like Mark O'Meara tells me speed's important, I'm going to listen. And especially out here, when you have a lot of undulation, you have to really see and just get creative and really see your shots or else they can get away from you.”

But seeking out advice from more experienced players is far from an anomaly. In fact, it's long been something of its own tradition at Augusta National.

First-time participant Robert MacIntyre had already spoken to former winner Sandy Lyle before he played a practice round with 2018 Champion Patrick Reed, while Viktor Hovland played his own practice round with Lee Westwood ahead of the Englishman's 20th Masters appearance.

patrick reed robert macintyre 2021 masters

Meanwhile, C.T Pan paired up with Brooks Koepka before he plays Augusta for just the second time, and Masters rookie Carlos Ortiz played a practice round with Tommy Fleetwood and 2017 champion Sergio Garcia to get their advice.

"They are really pointing out how firm the greens are," Ortiz said of the help Garcia and Fleetwood were giving him. "Sergio I think has played here like 20 times, 21 times, and he says he's never seen the greens this firm. For me it was the first time. They just look really firm."  

"I think those guys that's been coming here 20 years, they're still getting to know the golf course. It's one of those that there's so many spots you have to know, and I'm just trying to absorb as much as I can and just worry where I can be. There's too many places where you should not be, so I'm just trying to worry where I should be putting the ball."

That idea that Ortiz shares of how hard it truly is to get to know the golf course is further evidenced through fifth-time participants Cameron Smith and Patrick Cantlay, who have shown this week that trying to learn from more experienced peers isn’t something you should only do once.

sergio garcia carlos ortiz 2021 masters

Smith looks to fellow Australian and friend Adam Scott, who earned his Masters title in 2013, when it comes to advice on playing Augusta.

“Obviously Scottie I think has been here about 20 years, so he knows a lot more about the course than what I do,” Smith said of Scott, who he played a practice nine holes with on Monday afternoon.

“Just went and played nine holes this afternoon. The course is already so much different to what it was last year, so it'll be a different challenge, but nonetheless, looking forward to the challenge.

"Obviously pick his brain a little bit here and there. Just certain pin locations, where he lays up on par-5s for those pins. I mean, that's about it, to be honest. There's no real trick around here. You just need to play good golf.”

Adam Scott patrick reed masters

Cantlay meanwhile has asked Fred Couples for advice over the years, and continues to do so even though he is beginning to feel more comfortable himself.

“The more I play this place, the more I get comfortable with the shots, and I think I've tried to draw a lot on Fred Couples' knowledge and some of the other guys' knowledge, and just little things, picking even just the shot they might play on a certain hole or how they see it,” he said.

“I think Fred is really good at hitting his shots at the right weight, and where does that talent come, from it's a good question. I've been talking with him about that lately. We've played a few rounds in the last month together, and I think he instinctively picks the right shot a lot and he'll pick the right club more often than other people. So he thinks about picking the right club, where if I leave it out there, it's in a decent spot, and if I pull it a little bit, I can hit this as hard as I want and maybe it will go ten feet past."

And that instinct, and that ability to feel comfortable around here, is what Cantlay views as the confidence to succeeding at Augusta.

“Just feeling comfortable with the place and really picturing -- getting a good picture in your head when you have to hit those certain shots, and I think confidence builds on itself around here. You hit those shots really well a few times in pressure situations, and that builds that picture and reinforces it even better, and you just take that every year going forward.”

cantlay schauffele masters

And while Lee Westwood may be a player some now look up to for advice, he was quick to make it clear that even after 20 years, he still makes the most of opportunities to learn from his peers.

"You learn more about the golf course when you play it competitively rather than having practice rounds. I picked a lot of people's brains," said Westwood.

"Nick Price was very helpful for me when I came here the first time. I think I had a practice round with Seve and Ollie; most of the Europeans tended to because they were successful around here. Nick Faldo's brain you would pick, Bernhard Langer's.

"And even last year, I'm always trying to learn. I had a few holes with Sandy Lyle, and we were talking about the different ways of playing. Yesterday with Woosie, I played nine holes with him, and he gives little nuggets of advice on where to hit shots and how to hit shots and how to place certain shots.

"The game of golf, you're always -- you never know everything about the game of golf. You're always learning, and even more so around Augusta."

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