In the words of three-time European Tour winner Richie Ramsay, who played at the 2007 Masters as a result of winning the previous year's US Amateur Championship...
It’s like heaven. That’s the first thing to know about Augusta National. Being a British player, it’s pretty iconic. It’s the event you were allowed to stay up late to watch when you were a kid.
The first hole is probably one of the hardest holes on the golf course. You need to focus pretty quickly and can’t afford to get too caught up with where you are.
Everything is a lot harder than you imagine it will be. The bunkers are probably about four or five feet deeper than they look on TV. It’s the same with the greens. They’re about two or three inches quicker on the Stimp than you’d expect.
Just about the only thing you can get away with at Augusta is spraying it a little off the tee. It’s very much a ‘second shot’ golf course, which means, when you get out of position, having a chance of birdie or even making par can quickly diminish.
It’s such a beautiful place but it’s dangerously beautiful, if that makes sense. You can get lost in the beauty of it. You’ll be standing there, desperately trying to take in every part of this incredible green oasis and, before you know it, you’ve totally lost sight of what it is that you’re there to do.
You just can’t help but feel really grateful to be there and a part of it. Things like just being in the locker room, or having something to eat in the Grill Room, the drive to the course every day, and - whilst I haven’t seen it myself yet - I’m told the new range is just phenomenal. There’s so much to take in.
You need to be passive aggressive sometimes and pick out certain spots that are maybe 25 or 30 feet right of the flag as opposed to going straight at it because the punishment for just missing on the short side is so extreme.
The type of player who wins at Augusta has completely changed in my opinion. If you look at the guys who used to win there - Ben Crenshaw, Jose Maria Olazabal, Sir Nick Faldo, Larry Mize, Mike Weir - they were more shot-shapers than the guys who have won more recently. Now, though, it plays way more into the hands of longer players.
There are probably six or seven instances where, if you can shift it 280-plus yards through the air, it will either land on the flat or the downslope and run forward as opposed to hit the upslope and pop straight up. So, whilst there might only be 20 yards worth of a difference between a medium-hitter and a long-hitter, that’s really as much as 40 yards in some places at Augusta, which is the difference between hitting an 8-iron and a 5-iron. Coming into those greens with a short club makes a huge difference.
Playing with Phil Mickelson in the first two rounds was amazing. I loved it. Watching him close up like that was phenomenal because he’s just so good around there. His game sets up perfectly for the course; his weakness is spraying it off the tee, which is not that severely punished around there; he’s an absolutely fantastic iron player; and his pitching, especially off those really tight lies, is so good. Playing with him was a great exhibition and almost an example of how ‘perfect golf’ doesn’t win you tournaments.
On the first day, I think Phil had a 73 and I remember being stunned when I saw that. I thought to myself, ‘How the hell did that happen?’ He had been all over the place. I honestly thought he must have been four or five-over. But he grinds so well, never gives up and gets the job done.
Amen Corner? It’s just incredible. If it was me, I’d almost include ten in there, too. In my view, that stretch of holes is where you win or lose the tournament. You could play those holes in four or five-under or, equally, seven-over quite easily. The variation in the numbers you could post there is really stark.
The 12th is probably the best hole in the world. I can’t think of many that are its equal. The design is faultless. It’s pretty close to perfection.
I have two favourite places on the property. The first is probably the balcony at the front of the clubhouse. There’s a throng of people milling around, the first tee is right there in front of you, you can see the 18th green and so on. It’s just a really exciting place to be. The flip-side of that is probably the walk from the 12th green to the 13th tee. There are no spectators out there, it’s very quiet, particularly having so many people watching you play your tee shot at the 12th, and it’s almost like you’re over there playing with your mates. It gives you the fraction of respite you need to catch your breath and prepare yourself to push on to the finish.
Richie Ramsay in bunkered
This interview with Richie Ramsay first appeared in Issue 146 of bunkered (published: March 2016).