Augusta National either suits you or it doesn’t.
If you’re Fred Couples, Phil Mickelson or Tiger Woods, it does. Combined, they've won the Masters eight times, posted 38 top tens in 69 starts, and missed only five cuts.
If you’re Graeme McDowell or Martin Kaymer, it doesn’t. Neither the Northern Irishman nor the German have ever recorded a top ten in a combined 14 Masters appearances, missing the cut nine of those times.
He might only have played the Masters once but that was enough to tell Stephen Gallacher that Augusta National suits him.
"I feel like Augusta is a course that suits me and suits my game" - Stephen Gallacher
The Scot made his debut in the year’s opening major just last year after 19 years as a pro. He gave a decent account of himself, too, finishing in a tie for 34th, despite racking up an 81 in his third round.
That aberration aside, he says he enjoyed his first Masters experience and is excited to return this April.
“It will be great to go back,” he says. “I feel like Augusta is a course that suits me and suits my game. When you look back, I had one bad day there last year. I shot 81 in my third round but the other three were all either level-par or better.”
The stats back up Gallacher’s claim. He found 73% of his fairways that week and hit 55.5% of his greens in regulation. By anybody’s estimation, that’s decent work for
an Augusta first-timer.
It was just that one bad round that cost him. Beginning the weekend one-under-par, the Bathgate man parred the first three holes of his third round before an ugly double at the par-3 fourth. He then coughed up seven shots in four holes from the ninth to the 12th. Back-to-back birdies at 13 and 14 stopped the rot but they, too, were undone with consecutive bogeys to finish.
Suddenly, having started the day with realistic hopes of becoming just the fourth player to win the Masters on his debut, Gallacher found himself 46th on six-over.
It’s hypothetical, of course, but had he shot even-par for his third round, he'd have finished fifth. It’s an experience he's learned from.
“That third round came from nowhere,” he admits. “I just got a little too aggressive, maybe a wee bit complacent, but I won’t do that again. Next time, I’ll be more streetwise."
As is the case for most pro golfers, playing in the Masters for the first time was the completion of a lifetime ambition for Gallacher.
“It was the one event I was allowed to stay up late for,” he recalls. “The first one I can really remember is Seve in 1980, when he hit those two shots into the water, but the one that really stands out is Sandy winning in 1988.”
In years to come, who’s to say a young Scots golfer won’t go to Augusta looking to emulate Stephen Gallacher’s win in 2015, or whenever it might be? He loves the course, after all. And as Freddie, Phil and Tiger have proven, that counts for rather a lot around there.
Stephen Gallacher in bunkered
This Masters interview with Stephen Gallacher first appeared in issue 137 of bunkered (published: February 2015).