Els gives Grace pointers ahead of Augusta
AUGUSTA — Ernie Els is playing his 19th Masters while countryman Branden Grace is playing his first. The rookie sat down with the veteran and picked his brain.
Grace: What is your favourite memory of Augusta?
Els: That first time you drive down Magnolia Lane is incredible. Trust me, you’ll enjoy that. I’ve been coming here almost 20 years and I still love that buzz. A few years ago I played with Gary Player in his 50th Masters and he said it still hadn’t worn off! Also my final round 67 in 2004 stands out.
Grace: What would your advice be ahead of my first time playing at Augusta?
Els: One funny story I heard when I was a rookie here was talking to Jose Maria Olazabal. On his first visit he said the turf was so perfect that he thinned his first few iron shots because he felt bad taking a divot. I’m sure that won’t happen to you, Branden! Overall I’d say it’s a tough golf course to learn in a hurry. I’m sure this will be the first of many visits to Augusta in your career, so try to enjoy it and soak it all up.
Grace: Do you have any advice for how to tackle Augusta National — it seems to be a course that can really bite back at the rookies?
Els: There are certain “crunch shots” at Augusta where the tariff is very high and from one to 18 there is no other course where the margins between a birdie and a bogey are so small. You have to commit to your shots and be aggressive to your spots, even if that’s 25-feet right of the pin. The short game is the biggest thing at Augusta. The grass around the greens is mowed very tight and against the direction of play, so you have to be precise with your strike.
Grace: What should I look out for when playing my practice rounds?
Els: You need every part of your game working well, but like I said, the short game dominates. It’s not the sort of golf course where you can go out and say to yourself ‘right, I’m going to rip it up today’. IMG.