7 questions from a Masters rookie, answered by a Masters champion

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Every spring, the top golfers in the world assemble at Augusta National for the first major of the year. Every golfer dreams of one day teeing it up in the Masters, and, if their week goes well enough, wearing the green jacket.

The winner’s spoils don’t end with a green jacket and hefty load of cash, though. Perhaps the biggest perk of all as a past champion is an invitation back for the Masters every year in perpetuity.

Larry Mize earned that bonus in 1987 when he earned a dramatic playoff victory over Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros. And, each year since, he’s returned to the site of his iconic victory to compete in the Masters.

This year, he returns for the final time as a competitor. Forty years after his first start at Augusta National, Mize will say goodbye to his playing career at the Masters.

Ahead of his last hurrah, Mize sat down with Ryan Fox — who’s prepping to make his first Masters appearance — and shared his best advice to the rookie.

1. What emotions should a rookie expect on the 1st tee?

As one would expect, Mize tells Fox he should be ready for “a lot” of emotions. If you were playing in your first Masters, wouldn’t you?

“Get those butterflies flying in formation and you’re good,” Mize says. “They help you hit it further [and] they help you focus. My thought is, embrace those emotions. Enjoy it. Just go out there and have fun on that first tee and let it go.”

2. What’s the hardest shot on the course?

There are many shots at Augusta that will make your knees quake, but the third shot into No. 15 — a wedge off a downslope to a green guarded by water — is the one Mize ranks as the toughest from his playing days.

“As good as conditions were back in the 80s, [the lies] were still a little thin,” Mize says.

However, in the current era, he says the second shot into No. 11 is the most difficult.

“It drops off to the right of the green much worse than it used to,” Mize says. “You’ve got the water left. It’s longer, so you’ve got a longer club in there, so I think the second shot at 11 is the hardest shot out there.”

3. Should you lay up of go for the green on the back-nine par 5s?

Both back-nine pars 5s at Augusta National are the epitome of risk-reward holes. Go for the green and and have a look at eagle. Miss your target, though, and you’re looking at bogey or worse.

“For me, if I have the chance to go for it, I go for it,” Mize says. “I think the risk is worth the reward.”

4. What’s the most underrated hole?

Everyone knows the famous holes at Augusta — 11, 12, 13, 15 — but that leaves some that are under appreciated. To Mize, the most underrated hole on the course is the par-4 1st.

“It is a great starting hole,” Mize says. “It’s a very difficult green. Good driving hole. You have to miss the bunker and trees left. You’ve got the adrenaline going. I think Tiger said, ‘If you make a 4 on No. 1, you’re very happy.'”

5. What’s the Champions Dinner really like?

The Champions Dinner takes place the Tuesday of Masters week, and is the most elite supper club in the sport. The reigning champ selects the menu, and only past champions are allowed through the doors.

“It’s a night Iook forward to every year,” Mize says. “It is so much fun to be there with all these great champions … It’s a very special night that I look forward to every year.”

6. What’s the coolest spot on the property?

Augusta National is full of iconic locations on the property, but there are even more places the public doesn’t have access to. One of those spots — save for one day a year — is the famed par-3 course.

“As a kid sometimes I would go over there and have my lunch on the par-3 golf course,” Mize says. “I think it’s a really cool spot and just a really cool area.

7. What’s the best snack offering?

The concessions at Augusta are nearly as famous as the course itself. Everything is reasonably priced, and the quality is unmatched.

“A lot of people will say the egg salad sandwich, and a lot of people will say the pimento cheese,” Mize says. “I always liked the ham and cheese on rye. There’s so many things. The concessions here are second-to-none.”

Zephyr Melton

Golf.com Editor

Zephyr Melton is an assistant editor for GOLF.com where he spends his days blogging, producing and editing. Prior to joining the team at GOLF, he attended the University of Texas followed by stops with the Texas Golf Association, Team USA, the Green Bay Packers and the PGA Tour. He assists on all things instruction and covers amateur and women’s golf. He can be reached at zephyr_melton@golf.com.