BEING at the Masters this year was odd to say the least. Everyone is banging on about the impact of a Patron-free Augusta but being there, the huge shock was just how soft the conditions were.
It certainly didn’t play like the Augusta we have all grown to know. Going into the event all eyes were on Bryson but he’s not quite the complete package. He was too wild off the tee and Augusta’s tree-lined fairways are there to punish those who stray off line. He’s not sure what his shot shape is right now. He’s just hitting it ﬂ at out. If you are unsure what shot shape is coming out, it’s going to make things difﬁcult to say the least.
He’s a great lad and I really enjoy talking to him about how he views the science behind the swing, but going into the event he got it all wrong from a psychological point of view. Jack Nicklaus was the master of diverting attention away from himself, especially going into a Major. He never ran his mouth off going into an event. He just focused on his game and got on with the job in hand. Why on earth Bryson felt the urge to say he was playing Augusta as a par 67. All he did was put himself under unnecessary pressure and attach a target on his back for the press to shoot at. He still has a lot to learn, but I’m sure we will see a different Bryson by next April – which will be the ﬁrst Major in 2021. Meanwhile, poor Dustin only gets 146 days before he has to defend the title again.
April will no doubt be crowd-free again but the course will certainly not play into Dustin’s hands once more. We can’t forget that Dustin isn’t just one of the longest off the tee on Tour but his power fade also gives him great control. He was conﬁdent in taking on the bunkers around the course whereas the bulk of the ﬁ eld had to lay up. The eighth is a good example. He could just bomb it over the right-hand bunker to leave a great angle in, with a long iron. The conditions were perfect for him, which was evident from the opening round when he eagled the second hole by taking on that tight pin position with a ‘drop and stop’ long iron. I’ve never seen a player hold that pin before and in April it will just ﬁ re through the back of the green to leave a challenging return chip.
I’m not taking anything away from Dustin’s win, just pointing out why he was able to dominate for all four days in those conditions. You also have to give him credit on how his short game has massively improved over the years, thanks to the hard work he has put in. Dustin picks his short irons and wedges off the deck and takes a very shallow divot. This means he doesn’t over- spin the ball, compared to players with a steeper angle of attack. By controlling the spin Dustin was able to take on pins positioned on back ledges, safe in the knowledge they would hold. Many thought the conditions would have suited Rory just as much as Dustin. Though Rory comes into the Majors with winning on the mind, I say to all my players, that to win, you need to trust in the process. That means sticking to your routines and making sure you are within three shots of the leader going into the back nine of the ﬁnal round. Tournaments are never won from an opening round. Rory has the game but he just needs to believe in the process.
One of my players who has this ability is Brooks Koepka. To tie seventh at the Masters following a tie for ﬁfth at the Houston Open shows he’s getting back to form and I’m sure 2021 will be a great year for both of us.
I know I keep on saying that I’m not getting any younger and I need to slow down, especially from contracting Covid at the start of the year, which nearly polished me off –but I can’t help myself. You can never stop learning and passing on that knowledge to the stars of tomorrow and that, I guess, is what has made me who I am. So, as my legendary players such as Stenson, McDowell and Poulter need my support to ﬁnd a way to battle against the fearless new talent breaking out on Tour, I’ll carry on regardless. The old guard have the experience to maximise what they have and Poulter is brilliant at this. His short game has always been his strength but he has also worked tirelessly on gaining more ball speed.
It’s equally rewarding working with the energy and fearless new talent out there. One of my youngsters coming through is Alex Fitzpatrick – Matt Fitzpatrick’s younger brother. Being from Shefﬁeld and having seen them both hard at work at my range in Rotherham over the years, it’s great to see both of them achieving their childhood ambitions.
Matt has always been the calmer of the two and under pressure that mindset has made him a winner. Alex on the other hand has a ball speed close to 200mph and is a good twenty yards longer than his older brother, but had a more aggressive mindset on the course. He recently won the Club of Georgia Amateur Championship with a ﬁnal round 64 and his transition into the professional game couldn’t be better.
Wouldn’t it be great to see both of them paired together in a Ryder Cup. Two young lads from rainy old Shefﬁeld showing the world that golf is not a sport for the elite and privileged.