‘It’s a place I love leaving’: Longtime caddie reveals why he’s no fan of Augusta
The Masters is a great tournament, Billy Foster says. He wants to make that clear.
And the atmosphere is great, he says.
And it’s obviously an event he’d love to win, he says.
But he’s also a fan of the day after the second Sunday in April, when the Masters typically ends.
“It’s a place I love leaving, to be quite honest,” the longtime caddie said this week on National Club Golfer’s From the Clubhouse podcast.
Actually, the latter is a part of what Foster was trying to get across on the podcast, which you can — and should — listen to in full here. The tournament and course, while beautiful and memorable and endearing, are a minefield for loopers, he said.
All of it made for at least an interesting listen during the late fall, with the next Masters about five months away.
“I’ve never been a massive fan of it,” Foster said on the podcast. “It’s just such a tough week. And listen, it’s a great tournament, atmosphere is great, you’d love to win there, but as a caddie, you just love to get that pin back into the 18th hole on the 72nd hole of the tournament and still have a job.
“It’s the ultimate grueling test of — it’s very undulating and really difficult week physically, walking, but mentally it’s the most demanding week of the year. The elevation change and the swirling winds, the firm greens, the undulations in the greens itself — every green’s got different big, severe tiers, and if you miss that level section — the same two shots, one will finish 2 feet from the hole, and the other one will finish 80 feet from the hole because the tiers are so severe; you might miss your target by a couple of feet and it just rolls off to the left edge of the green, 80 feet away.
“So, so, so demanding. … If things don’t quite go right, the players’ first … call is his caddie and give him a roasting. And you might be right. It might still be a good shot and you get punished for it, which is tough to take at times around Augusta. … It wouldn’t be my favorite week. I understand it’s a great tournament, and yes, it would be in your top two or three to win, besides the Open Championship. … It’s far from being an enjoyable week.”
On the podcast, host Matt Chivers then asked Foster, the current caddie for Matt Fitzpatrick, if other loopers thought similarly.
He said they did.
“I’m not knocking the tournament,” Foster said on the podcast. “It’s an unbelievable tournament. But as a caddie, it’s an a**-whipping week. It’s very, very difficult. And sure enough, as always, three or four casualties every year at the end of that week.”
There are some points to think about there.
Is Foster the first to call the Masters and Augusta a challenge? Far from it. Is the difficult part part of the charm? You can say that. Also notably, Foster has commented before on golf topics and courses. It was Foster, if you remember, who called the much-discussed par-3 17th at Royal Liverpool “a monstrosity” during this year’s Open Championship.
On the podcast, Chivers then asked Foster for his advice at Amen Corner, which is made up of the par-4 11th, par-3 12th and par-5 13th at Augusta.
“Go to church on Sunday morning,” Foster said on the podcast. “Listen, 11 and 12 are so difficult. Eleven is got to be 100 yards longer than when I first went there. On average, you’re probably hitting a 4-iron in there, second shot, to a green that’s 10 yards downhill. You miss the green right, it’s so fiddly. The grass is always cut into you, so you can’t bump-and-run something. The green slopes from right to left toward the water so you hit a bit too hard, the ball’s going to go … toward the water. Obviously it goes without saying if you hit your second shot left of the green, it’s going to go into the water so it’s a really demanding shot. And the wind tends to swirl all over the place on 11 and 12, especially.
“Twelve’s only 150, 160 yards. On average, it’s probably an 8-iron. But you’ll know where the wind is coming down 10. You always try and gauge where the wind is as you’re coming down 10, 11, because you go massively downhill, into the bottom of the bowl. You’ll have your wind map out, you’ll have your compass points out, knowing where the wind should be. But you’re standing on that 12th tee, I don’t care who you are, they’re a liar if they say they know where the wind is. It’s your best educated guess every time you play it. So what I always say is, I try and bring your ball flight down and just never hit right of the front bunker. I always try and hit it over the middle of the front bunker and try and bring your ball flight down. Chip something into the — so it doesn’t start stalling in the wind if you got a gust against you. That’s the only thing I’d say. But it’s always your best educated guess. It’s one of the toughest holes in golf. The green runs diagonally across it. It’s not more than 12 yards deep at any stage. If you get a little gust and you’re a half a club out, you’re in serious trouble. Tiger Woods made a 10 there; that says it all, doesn’t it?
On the podcast, Chivers agreed.
“It’s the easiest hole in golf until you play it,” Foster said. “Everybody watching on TV says, oh, look here, how easy is that? It’s 150 yards; it’s a 9-iron; it’s an 8-iron; I’d make a three there. You’d make a 33 there if you went and played it.”
The exchange then ended this way:
How does someone actually win the Masters, with its ups and downs and lefts and rights?
Foster had a thought.
“Listen, what makes a great champion and what makes players play well there is knowing where not to hit it,” he said on the podcast. “Because if you hit it in the wrong spots, you literally have no chance. The art of playing Augusta is actually not necessarily about hitting brilliant shots; it’s about hitting it in a position where you can still be fairly aggressive with your putt. …
“Sometimes you’re better off being 25 feet away than being 12 feet away. Because if you get on the wrong side of it, you’re putting down a cliff first. If you miss it, you’re going 10 feet past. Well, you’re better off being 25 feet under the hole and having a putt where you can be a bit more aggressive and have more chance of holing it, to be quite honest. You can have it from 12 feet with 10 feet of break on it.”
Editor’s note: To listen to the entire National Club Golfer with Foster — which includes his thoughts on the Ryder Cup and golf’s distance battle (where he says the game has been “destroyed” — please click here.