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I know, I know.

“Here he goes again, still banging on about playing Augusta.”

I hear you and I get. If I’m getting tired of talking about it – and I am – then I imagine you’re every bit as fed-up hearing about it. (If you’re not, check out this podcast).

I only mention it because I had an epiphany recently. Not so much a moment of sublime inspiration as grim realisation. I’ll explain.

I was playing my third round since that magical Monday in Georgia when, early in the back nine, I realised I was bored. Not with the company, nor with the course. The former was exceptional and the latter perfectly fine. The problem was me. I was going through the motions. I wasn’t concentrating, I wasn’t focused, I wasn’t trying. I was merely there.

The same thing happened with the first round I played post-Augusta. I went up to my home club one sunny Sunday evening for a solo knock. I had the place just the way I like it: to myself. Except, that night, I didn’t like it. Previously, I would at least try to do the right things. Absolute basics like sticking to a pre-shot routine. Not that evening, though. I aimlessly shelled ball after ball into the air. I got so fed up that I walked in after 15.

I can’t stress this enough: that’s not me. There are plenty of people who will vouch for the fact that, when I do something, I’m all-in, all the time, often in an exhaustingly assiduous way. To hit good and bad shots with absolute indifference in multiple, consecutive rounds was a development I never could have anticipated.

Then I realised it: in the best possible way, playing Augusta National has ruined golf for me. I can’t get up for pegging it up now that I’ve sclaffed it around the one place I always wanted to play (but never thought I would).

I suppose you might call it fulfilment malaise. In his brilliant book No More Worlds To Conquer, Chris Wright tracked down 16 different people to find out what happened after they’d accomplished a feat that had defined them. From adventurer Reinhold Messner, who has climbed all of the world’s tallest mountains, to men who’ve walked on the moon, Wright was fascinated by the “now what?” that afflicted them all.

Golfers have suffered, too. Michael Campbell described the underwhelmed feeling he was left with after winning his maiden major at the 2005 US Open. He likened it to scaling Everest. At 36 and in the prime of his career, he tumbled into a slump that saw him plummet from 12th in the world to outside the top 1,000 in just five years.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not comparing my current funk to the existential crises of major champions, mountaineers and astronauts, but it’s all relative, isn’t it?

For the longest time, any indulgence in the prospect of one day playing Augusta National was accompanied by the soft lilt of Andy Williams’ ‘The Impossible Dream’. Then it happened. So, what now? There are other courses I’d like to play – Pine Valley, if you’re reading this, go ahead and slide into my DMs – but if I don’t, I won’t exactly lie on my deathbed with regrets.

Other things, like having a hole-in-one, or getting down to single figures, or breaking par – they’d all be nice, too. But it would be disingenuous of me to suggest that I’m desperate to do any of them. Give me a sub four-hour marathon over a sub-70 round of golf any day,

Maybe this too shall pass. As the memories of Augusta fade, perhaps the space it has occupied in my dreams will be filled by something else. Alternatively, maybe I’m experiencing my own Alexander The Great moment. Observing the awesome breadth and scale of his domain, the ambitious King of Macedon reportedly broke down in tears when he realised there was nowhere left to vanquish.

So, cling to your dreams and hold them close. The night is long and lonely without them.

author headshot

Michael McEwan is the Deputy Editor of bunkered and has been part of the team since 2004. In that time, he has interviewed almost every major figure within the sport, from Jack Nicklaus, to Rory McIlroy, to Donald Trump. The host of the multi award-winning bunkered Podcast and a member of Balfron Golfing Society, Michael is the author of three books and is the 2023 PPA Scotland 'Writer of the Year' and 'Columnist of the Year'. Dislikes white belts, yellow balls and iron headcovers. Likes being drawn out of the media ballot to play Augusta National.

Deputy Editor

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