Ed. note: In this column, GOLF’s playing editor and 2020 U.S. Open champ explains what he’s learned over the years competing at Augusta National.
I’ve played in five Masters so far in my career. I still have so much to learn before I accomplish my lifelong dream of winning a green jacket, but, every year, I get a little bit closer. These are a few things I’ve learned so far.
1. You have to manage spin
A big challenge for me has been adjusting to my speed gains by learning to control spin. I’m constantly tweaking my lofts and diving down rabbit holes trying to understand more about it. On Augusta’s par 3s- you don’t want the ball “ripping” backward after it lands. The key is to control the backspin. To do that, I’m practicing placing the ball way back in my stance, which creates a steeper angle of attack and less dynamic loft. I’ll narrow my stance slightly, too, to prevent excessive weight shift and swing softer. If you see me holding par-3 greens this year, then the plan worked.
2. Learning not to rely on my green book
I’m still trying to figure out how to putt my best without the tools I usually rely on, especially my green book. It’s definitely a test for me, but it’s also a challenge that I love. I’m going to stand up and try my best to conquer it. Like any Masters competitor, you can’t ever stop working.
3. Cut shots are king
I was excited to play my first Masters in 2016. It was a lifelong dream, and to finish in the top 25 as an amateur was awesome. One shot I used a lot that week was what I used to call my “fairway finder” — a low cut that hits and gets lots of roll down the fairway. I used it every day on the 7th, 8th and 15th holes that week. Look for more of the same this year.
4. You need to know where not to miss
My first Masters since increasing my strength and swing speed was in 2020. I wasn’t feeling my best physically that week, and I didn’t hit my driver as well as I know I can. I missed left on the 4th hole and right on 11 and 13. Tough then, but now I know to avoid these spots in the future!