MY FIRST TIME
At the time of going to press, 13 players were listed to make their Masters debut. Here, past and present stars share wonderful memories of their first experiences at Augusta National.
Here, past and present stars of the game, including Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus, share wonderful memories of their first experiences at Augusta National and the Masters.
JACK NICKLAUS Masters debut: 1959
“I frankly don’t remember who I played my first round with. I played my second round with Roger McManus, I remember that. First round, I should know that. That was only 50-odd years ago (laughs).
“But we stayed up at the Crow’s Nest. I don’t know whether you know what they used do here, but now for the amateurs that come in, you’re an amateur so they have got to charge you, so they charge you a dollar for breakfast, a dollar for lunch, and two dollars for dinner.
“Phil Rogers and I stayed together and we ended up having two shrimp cocktails and two or three steaks, and a few days later they come back and say, ‘Jack, you’re eating far more and we’re going to have to charge you an extra two dollars for each steak,’ and I said, ‘Fine, we’ll be happy to pay that, just bring the steaks on.’
But we had a good time staying up there. Guys that were on the Walker Cup team together, it was Dean (Beman) and Tommy Aaron, Phil wasn’t on the team, but Phil was up there, and I think five of them stayed up there. It was fun.
“We enjoyed that, and you sort of climb up to look out and watch what’s going on outside. Just a bunch of young kids wanting to learn how to play golf. We played a lot of practice rounds together, all as a group, and we had good fun.”
DUSTIN JOHNSON Masters debut: 2009
“Augusta National is my favourite place to come. From the first time I came here, it’s the only place where a major is held at the same golf course every year. Growing up so close to here, it’s always been my favourite to watch, to come to, to play in now. It definitely means a lot to be here. I’m always proud to be here and excited when I get that invitation every year around Christmas time.
“I got invited to play Augusta before I actually played in the Masters, but I never did until I actually made it here for my first time. Then I came and played early before the tournament.
“It’s just a place that’s very special to me.”
I PLAYED A PRACTICE ROUND WITH GREG NORMAN, AND WE POURED SOME WATER ON THE 16TH GREEN AT THE TOP AND IT ROLLED OFF THE GREEN … – ADAM SCOTT
JUSTIN THOMAS Masters debut: 2016
“My first invite got sent to my home home, in Louisville. So my parents got it in the mail before I left for Kapalua and they brought it. To see it in person was pretty cool. I have it framed in my house. First Masters, it’s definitely something I’ll never forget.
“Even when you already know you are in, getting the invite never gets old. Augusta is Augusta and the Masters is the Masters. It’s pretty sweet.
“My first experience ever playing the course was a surprise. I knew about the severity of the greens but I think until you see it in person and you walk on them, I think is incomparable to anything you can see on TV.
“Until you go walk on 6 green and you hit that putt up that slope to that back hill and you realise how slow that is, or you get to 7 green and realize that the depth of that green is like the size of this table in front of me. It’s just little things like that that until you actually see it you don’t realise.”
HENRIK STENSON Masters debut: 2006
“The first time around Augusta … it was hard. “There’s so many impressions and you know, it’s a beautiful place and so much to take in. Possibly the first couple of years, you try and over prepare once you’re here. It’s a long week, if you’re coming in early and you’re playing all the practice rounds and work hard on the range; and then by Thursday, you’re kind of, okay, is this when we’re going to start.
The last five or six times now, I feel like I’ve been comfortable on the golf course. It is a very dicult golf course, especially if the wind is up.
“But at the same time, it’s easy to give it too much respect sometimes, too. So you’ve got to find that balance, and I feel like I have that. Like I said, I’m just trying to make small adjustments to give myself a better chance to succeed.”
ADAM SCOTT Masters debut: 2002
“The first time I experienced Augusta was a week before my first Masters, so obviously it was very peaceful out there.
“My first memory was walking on to the golf course side of the clubhouse and I couldn’t believe how open the area was in front of us with the 18th green and the 9th green and then down in the valley there, which I believe was the old range where
YOU KNOW, YOU COME TO AUGUSTA AS MUCH AS YOU WANT, BUT ONCE YOU STEP ON THAT 1ST TEE AND IT’S THE FIRST HOLE OF THE MASTERS, IT’S A LITTLE DIFFERENT. – RORY MCILROY
they used to warm up a long time ago. Such a big, open area, I was surprised by that.
“I played a practice round with Greg Norman, and we poured some water on the 16th green at the top and it rolled o the green, the water, trickled; didn’t sink into the green at all. That was pretty scary.”
PHIL MICKELSON Masters debut: 1991
“My first Masters was in 1991. Ian Woosnam won it. First thing I did when I qualified to play here after winning the US Amateur in ‘90 was to call Arnold Palmer and play a practice round, and that was one of the highlights for me, because Doc Grin (Palmer’s long-time assistant) set it up and we were able to spend a Tuesday here at Augusta. Those are moments that I’ll cherish.”
ANIRBAN LAHIRI Masters debut: 2015
“I think the first thing that hits you is how di erent it is from what you see on television, because that’s where I’ve seen Augusta. I’d never been here. So some of those tee shots, standing on the tee are more than five yards wide. It sometimes looks not even five yards wide when you look at it on television, like standing on the 18th tee, for instance.
“It’s just so di erent to actually be hitting those shots rather than watching those shots. It’s quite di erent obviously. It’s quite amazing and it’s a great feeling.”
CRAIG STADLER Masters debut: 1974
“My first Masters I was still an amateur and I was paired on Thursday with Jack Nicklaus in a twosome at 2:45 or something like that.
“Staying up in the Crow’s Nest, got up about 7:00, read the paper, went out about 8:30, hit balls, took a shower, read the other paper, went out and putted, came back, had something to eat and hit balls again.
“Long story short, I think I hit balls for the fourth time before I could finally go and walked up to the 1st tee and he was standing there by the table. Walked up to the table and just as I went to introduce myself, he turned around, I introduced myself and he looked me right in the eye and he says, ‘Well, I know who ya are.’
“I just went, really? This guy knows who I am? And I was done (laughs).
“As tradition goes here, past champions or current champion tee o first. He teed o first, I teed o second, and I teed o second on every single hole. Didn’t beat him a hole, 67 to 79, we were done.”
TOM WATSON Masters debut: 1970
“Well, when I played my first Masters in 1975, as a pro, when I kind of started having the game – I was just trying to make the cut when I first started out.
“Getting back to as an amateur, I played as an amateur in 1970. I had the cut possibly made. Shot 77 the first round and didn’t play very well. The second round, I think I had it a couple under par going into No.13. And I hit a drive around the corner, just miles. I had a 6-iron to the green … 6-iron, birdie, three-under-par, the cut was 147. Now I’m under the cut.
“But I pushed it in the water and made 7. Made double. And I still hate that hole (laughs). I hate, hate doing that. It cost me when I was an amateur making the cut here.”
RORY MCILROY Masters debut: 2009
“The night before my first ever Masters round I was just nervous. I couldn’t sleep. It’s di erent.
“You know, you come to Augusta as much as you want, but once you step on that 1st tee and it’s the first hole of the Masters, it’s a little di erent. It seems like that bunker on the right gets bigger and it seems like those trees on the left come in a little bit more and seems like the fairway is non-existent.
“But it’s a great feeling, just the rush, the thrill of playing in your first Masters.
“Luckily, I’ve been able to come back; they have let me in every year since, so that’s nice. I thoroughly enjoy the week. No matter if you win or lose, it’s one of the highlights of the year.
“And that first tee shot … it is probably the only first tee shot of a tournament these days that I still
get nervous at; the one that you get butterflies and your heart races a little bit faster than it does usually. So, yeah, still get that same feeling I did as a rookie back in 2009.”
PATRICK REED Masters debut: 2014
“I got in early for my first Masters and played Saturday and Sunday, so I was to see how the golf course played compared to when I had a chance to play in college (Augusta State University). The only thing that seemed dierent was the greens were a lot firmer and a lot faster.
“The first drive down Magnolia Lane was amazing, that’s for sure. I wanted to reverse and do it again (laughs) but I had to keep going so I could get out there and practice. Every time driving down, you get a big smile on your face and you realise that this time it’s dierent because the first three times I did it was as an amateur and now I’m doing it as a professional playing at Augusta in the Masters.”
Masters debut: 2017 TOMMY FLEETWOOD
“My first time to Augusta was when I came to watch in 2014. I kind of came with the intentions of being there the following year and finished 51st in the world that year, so I just missed out.
“But watching and playing is a completely dierent – it’s very dierent and there was places I wanted to get to when I was watching. Sort of the 12th green and 13th tee were the ones. When you’re watching it, it’s so busy behind the 12th tee, and they look like the most tranquil place on the planet and that’s where I really wanted to get to. So having been there and played the holes, that’s been the biggest moment for me so far, actually getting to where I kind of envisioned myself being.
“Back in 2014 I just wanted to see it. I think whoever you speak to just says not just how the golf course, but the surroundings, the club, everything takes a little bit of getting used to. Augusta, it’s in everybody’s mind and everybody’s dreams and it’s just that place that you know that you want to go to, so it’s a little bit surreal when you first go. I had a chance to go, and I thought, I’ll go, because I just want to see what it’s like and when I do come, I might not be as awestruck.
“But it doesn’t quite work like that; when you get to the golf course, it’s still the same feelings.
“It doesn’t disappoint when you arrive, and you drive down Magnolia Lane. Like I say, the main things for me, my biggest excitement was walking over the bridge to 12 and standing on the 13th tee. Those were the two places when I watched I couldn’t get to and I was desperate to get there. So those were my biggest ... that’s what I was most excited about.”
THE FIRST YEAR YOU GO TO AUGUSTA, YOU’RE A BIT OF A TOURIST ... YOU GET THAT OUT OF YOUR SYSTEM AFTER YOUR FIRST YEAR OR SO – GEOFF OGILVY
BEN CRENSHAW Masters debut: 1972
“My first Masters in 1972, I watched the Honorary Starters that year and it was Jock Hutchison and Freddie McLeod. Freddie McLeod won the 1908 US Open, and I think Jock won the 1921 British Open and they were 88 and 86, respectively. That is one of my dear memories … they hit it o and went down the hill.”
JIMMY WALKER Masters debut: 2014
“I think for anybody in their first time, this is a golf tournament that you’ve watched your whole career on TV.
“It’s probably one of the first places that you go and you play it for the first time but you feel like you’ve played it quite a few times just from all the tournaments you’ve watched and the shots; you get out into the fairway, you’re like, oh, if I hit it up to the top left, it will feed to the top right. So you feel like you’ve seen a lot of the golf course without playing it.”
STEVE STRICKER Masters debut: 1996
“It’s (The Masters) always been from day one, when you got out on Tour, that this was the tournament that was most looked at in a way that you wanted to be a part of. It meant probably the most when you qualified for it.
“I can remember which tournament qualified me for this tournament. It was the ‘95 U.S. Open, I finished high enough, I don’t know, 12th, I think and that qualified me for the ‘96 Masters.
“It’s a tough tournament to get into. It’s one that’s deep in history and guys keep telling you, before you even come here, how nerve wracking, how intimidating some of this course can be. So this reputation that it has, and it’s rightly so, I guess. It gets in your head, I think, at times.”
GEOFF OGILVY Masters debut: 2006
“The very first visit you ever have to Augusta is a pretty special visit.
“It’s just the whole mystique about the place. You’ve been looking forward your whole life just
to going down Magnolia Lane and seeing the golf course and stu .
“I mean, that part is going away, obviously, once you’ve seen the course a few times and you’ve been here.
“I still love the place. I loved going every year. I’d go for practice rounds before the tournament every time; partly because I liked to prepare for the golf tournament, and in part mostly because I just liked going to Augusta. “The first year you go to Augusta, you’re a bit of a tourist, aren’t you, a little bit. You get that out of your system after your first year or so.”
MATT KUCHAR Masters debut: 1998
“My very first trip to Augusta was as a freshman at Georgia Tech. The team came every year, hosted by a couple members, and so excited. As a college kid, you never iron clothes or prepare the night before, but when you come to Augusta National, you iron clothes and you lay everything out the night before. You just can’t wait for that morning to come and make that drive down I 20 over to Augusta and sit outside across the street from the entrance and wait for the member to arrive so you can get in.
“It’s just one of those magical memories. I remember playing and I remember every hole seeming to go by so fast and all of a sudden being in the clubhouse having a cheeseburger and couldn’t believe that the round was already over.
“It still kind of goes by that way to me. It’s just one of those places where you have such anticipation for each upcoming hole, and then before you know it, you finish with a round and you just can’t believe that you’re already done with a round at Augusta National. It feels like you never want it to end.
“For my first Masters, I had so many really cool experiences. Staying in the Crow’s Nest is one of those things that you never forget. I mean, college is such a fun experience, and it’s kind of like a glorified college dormitory experience up in the Crow’s Nest. It’s tight quarters, but it’s with guys that have qualified as amateurs.
“I remember going to the amateur dinner that
was hosted when I was playing by Charlie Yates, who was a Georgia Tech graduate and had become a friend of mine. So to have a guy that I knew so well and had such respect for host the Amateur dinner gave me some comfort straightaway. Had some great stories.
“You finish that amateur dinner, and you really feel like this tournament is for you, as an amateur. This is what it’s supposed to be. You feel like you can go out and win the tournament. It feels like this is – Bobby Jones designed it with amateurs in mind, and they couldn’t wait to have some amateurs have some real success.
“So it was ... I had so much excitement, and so many great memories. I remember every day walking up the 18th with Dad caddying for me and kind of pulling back for a minute and just trying to soak it all in, kind of slowing down the walk as we got close to the 18th green saying, ‘can you believe we played another round and made our a way around Augusta National and the Masters? Just try to enjoy every moment.’
“There were great memories, and ‘98, it was a long time ago, but it feels like yesterday to me.”
MATT JONES Masters debut: 2014
“The day we arrived in Augusta I had no idea where I was going, so I had to follow (Kevin) Stadler, who I had stayed with the night before, and he had to go to the caddie area so I didn’t get to drive down Magnolia Lane my first day. I did it the next day though.
“That first day I just walked into the clubhouse. It’s awkward when you don’t know where you’re going because every Tour event, you walk in and know exactly what you’re doing. So you walk around here, and I wasn’t quite sure where to go or what doors I could go in or out of.”
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA Masters debut: 2011
“The first year when I came, I didn’t know anything about the course. Had no fear. No demons. Just went out and played.
“The second year … that was a big dierence. I knew what was ahead and I knew the diculty of the golf course. And each year since then, I’ve been able to learn a little bit more of how to play Augusta National.”
TIGER WOODS Masters debut: 1995
“When I first came here as an amateur, I got into Augusta late ... late night from a college event, Georgia Tech was hosting an event, I came into the course real late at 11 o’clock, whatever it was. Magnolia Lane, you could barely see it, it was dark.
“It is amazing over the years that I’ve been here, just the feelings that you get when you come. It’s just a great feeling to be back, and to know that I’m going to be coming back. It’s an even better feeling.
“I just remember being here as an amateur and being able to play practice rounds with so many great champions; guys telling me where to hit it, what angles you want to have.
“But over the years, that’s changed. You don’t have those angles anymore because you don’t get those locations because the golf course has changed. But it is still fun to reflect on those times.”
Adam Scott tees off for a practice round with Greg Norman in 2002. Anirban Lahiri was struck by the difference between what you see on TV and reality.
Craig Stadler watches Jack Nicklaus play first, again, during their round in 1974.
Tommy Fleetwood first visited Augusta as a spectator before making his debut last year.
Rory McIlroy was full of nerves playing his first hole in the Masters in 2009.
Tiger Woods playing his first Masters practice round in 1995 alongside then World No.1 Greg Norman