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Masters pressure is on from first swing

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Pros love all of the Masters traditions, such as intentionally skipping practice-round balls off the water on the par-3 16th hole and hearing old phrases such as "The Masters doesn't begin until the back nine on Sunday." As for the latter, they hear it, but they don't necessarily believe it.

They know the pressure starts today with the first shots. There is no skipping ahead to the finish.

Of the bromide about Sundays at Augusta, Dustin Johnson said: "I'd have to disagree because if you don't play good on Thursday or Friday, you aren't here on Sunday."

Said Rory McIlroy, "Jordan Spieth had it won after 36 holes last year."

So you can say all you want about the excitement that occurs down the stretch. Don't try telling it to Adam Scott and his fluttering stomach and sweaty palms.

"Going to the first tee Thursday is the most nervous I get all year, of any event, anywhere at any time," the 2013 Masters champion said. "Even more nervous than coming to a playoff or coming to the last hole with a chance to win."

Why?

"I've had eight months to think about it," Scott said.

The first shot of this year's Masters will be struck 235 days after the last putt of the 2015 PGA Championship. By comparison, there will be 66 days between the end of the Masters and the start of the U.S. Open, 25 between the U.S. Open and the British Open, and 11 between the British Open and the PGA Championship.

The Masters has become so huge — "I think the Masters tournament continues to grow in stature, probably more so than any other tournament," Jack Nicklaus said — and players have such a long winter to ponder it that the heat gets them right out of the box. Then there is the greater the temptation to overprepare, especially because the Masters is the only men's major played every year on the same course.

In a departure from his routine McIlroy chose not to make a visit to Augusta National in the months leading to the tournament. He arrived a few days later than in the past and skipped Wednesday's Par-3 contest.

McIlroy, who can complete a career Grand Slam with a victory, said, "I'm trying not to look too much into it. I'm trying not to hit so many shots off tees into greens, around the greens. I'm just trying to approach it more in a relaxed way and not overthink it."

Scott acknowledged why the Sunday back-nine bromide got started: "You have these amazing nine holes that you can just picture so clearly and the shots that have been hit and the putts that have been made are (famous). You know it could be you if you do the right stuff."

But, he added, "The first 63 holes are pretty nerve wracking as well."

Jimmy Walker won't win Masters: Jimmy Walker won the traditional Par-3 competition with a record 8-under 19, including a hole-in-one on No. 2, one of a record nine holes-in-one on the day. Since the Par-3 began in 1960, no player competing in a current Masters who has won the Par-3 — a fun event made up of competitors, past champions and honorary invitees — has gone on to win that year's tournament. Craig Stadler, the 1982 Masters champion, and Keegan Bradley tied for second at 5 under.

New driver for Spieth: Jordan Spieth will defend his Masters title with a new driver. He said his driver cracked Wednesday. He showed up at the Golf Writers Association of America dinner still wearing his golf clothes because he had been practicing with a new driver until it was time to collect his player of the year award. Spieth is trying to become the fourth player to win back to back at Augusta National.

Masters

Today-Sunday,

Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, Ga.

Defending champion: Jordan Spieth

TV today: 3, ESPN

Weather: High 73, low 49; mostly cloudy, then gradually becoming sunny; 30 percent chance of rain; west wind 11-17 mph

More live coverage: masters.com

— Tee times, pairings, 5C

Masters pressure is on from first swing 04/06/16 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 6, 2016 11:32pm]
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