AUGUSTA, Ga. -- We're changing things up just for one day this week. I know the column is called "Caddie Confidential," but when I was sitting in the caddie area and a player walked in, looked at his own caddie and said, "I'll give you a break from me for a little bit. You already had to deal with me for 6 hours," the caddie, the player and I all laughed. As the player went to sit alone and eat a sandwich a (dim, flickering) light bulb went off in my head.
So for Friday, my anonymous caddie is actually a player! He will still remain confidential, but I thought hearing from a guy who hit shots and putts would be a cool change of pace for one day. Enjoy Friday's Player Confidential!
Michael Collins: This course changes daily more than any other, according the caddies I spoke with Wednesday. How has it changed from Monday to Friday?
Player: You know Wednesday, we had that really bad rain, so the course Sunday, Monday and Tuesday was pretty firm and fast. Then it became pretty soft. ... They have that sub-air system and I don't know that they've turned it on. Because they knew about these 20 to 30 mph winds. Now I don't know that. That's total speculation.
Collins: True, Augusta National does not tell anyone when they do or don't run the sub-air system on the greens.
Player: The wind, as hard as it was blowing, even today [the greens] were still receptive. Now they were firmer at times, but they were still receptive. We talked about it on 14 today. We were like, "They're gonna let the greens stay kinda soft." It just had that "look." The air seems to be drier, so that by Sunday, the greens could be purple. I could see them getting them hard and fast, because the weather is supposed to be nice, no wind. So they're going to say, "Hey, we don't want them shooting 64s on Saturdays and Sundays!"... But with the leaders only being four or five under, they may want some low scores, because Augusta is one of those places that doesn't seem to say, "We want even par to win." They want good golf to win.
Collins: Was there anything different about the wind Friday?
Player: The wind Thursday was straight out of the west. And today, it was west-northwest. Which doesn't sound like much. It's an 1/8 on the dial. But it makes a difference on [holes] like 10. Yesterday, it was right to left and in, where today, it was right to left and maybe even helping, but just right to left so that shot you can turn it and it goes way down the hill. It could mean 30 yards difference on some holes. Twelve yesterday was in off the right; today it was straight off the right so, to me, easier. A little easier to judge today than yesterday.
Collins: Which hole was the toughest to be confident on a shot you're hitting?
Player: Eleven. I can't play that hole.
Collins: (Laughing, because the player is shaking his head with a huge bite of sandwich in his mouth, smiling.) Why? What do you mean you can't play that hole?
Player: (With a mouthful of the Masters chicken sandwich, mumbling.) I can't, I uh. (Chewing and swallowing.) Give me a [bogey] tomorrow on the tee, I'll probably take it.
Player: The tee shot's hard. The second shot you don't wanna bail right. but you know if you turn it [there's water left]. I just seem to hit these "holdy" second shots that start 40 yards right of my target. And you feel like a 12 handicap but ...
Collins: But you know what's right of the 11th green?
Player: NOT water! So, I put my short game to the test on that hole every day.
Note: The player and I talked about the first hole, and he mentioned, as the caddie on Thursday had, that it might be the toughest hole on the course. Hitting your second shot long and right was the only option to that front pin. Then he dropped this nugget:
There's not many tournaments that we play where a guy leaves [the putt] a foot short in the heart and everybody says, "Good putt." Ya know? There's a lot of putts like that out there. Where you leave it short and you're like (a big smile of satisfaction spreads across on his face), "That's good." (We both start laughing) You know usually, we're all mad, but there's a lot of putts like that.]
Collins: What hole was the most fun?
Player: Eighteen, I guess. ... It'd have been the worst shot if I had had a bad tee shot, but once I hit a good tee shot, I had a good number in the fairway and hit a good shot in there and had a tricky [putt] for birdie. ... So you just walk off that green skipping! Feeling like you stole something.
Collins: A little life lesson: Whenever you're in a bad mood or a funk you can't get out of, start skipping. It's not possible to stay mad when you're skipping.
Player: (Laughing.) Just the visual.
Collins: Why is it that after rounds like Thursday and Friday the driving range is virtually empty?
Player: I'm about to go hit some.
Collins: For real?
Player: Yeah. I just feel like, you earned the right to play the weekend, so don't just ...
Collins: Don't get lazy?
Player: Yeah. Don't get lazy, don't half-ass it. I will say you're hitting balls straight into the wind, maybe not getting the best practice anyway. You might be better off hitting tomorrow morning before your round when you're fresh. You can work yourself into a bad habit just as [easily] as a good habit, maybe. So maybe that's why [guys don't practice after their rounds]. Or we're just tired. Which is the case.
Collins: After these two days, in these conditions, how tired are you?
Player: I mean, you're tired. Physically, it's a hard walk, just the hills and all that. But then grinding. Feeling like there are so many swings, you feel like you can make double here. I mean, I made a 20-footer for par on [redacted to maintain anonymity], feeling like, "If I three-putt this ..." 'cause it was downhill, downwind. It sounds crazy thinking, "Don't three-putt this" and you're not [trying to think], "Don't three putt this ..."
Collins: But it is back there in the back of your mind!
Player: Yeah, well, if I hit this too hard and run it by, then you make six. Now you're going, I just ruined my week with one putt. So ya know, mentally, I think that wears you out. The average guy doesn't think like that. I don't think it'd wear 'em out as bad 'cause they'd just be happy to be out here and having fun.
Collins: No, man. Everybody is a pro golfer.
Collins: When it comes down to it, everyone, even the 18 to 20 handicapper when/if they ever get to play a place like here, they are pretending in their minds that they are the pros and "this" is the putt.
Collins: (I nod, and he looks at me, like he knows I was including myself in that group of average guys.)
Collins: Do you even see the patrons? There are some holes where you're far away from them. (We watch TV and see a hole.) Like there, you're walking down the fairway and the green is over there.
Player: Well, I hit it in the people [on that hole], so I saw ...
Collins: (We laugh.) Hey, there's Bill from Ohio! But seriously, there are places where you're far from the patrons.
Player: Typically, when you're hitting that putt on 11, if you make a good putt, then maybe you give a [wave] to the crowd. But you're not doing it because you hear them, really. And then 12, it's a unique feeling. I mean you're out there, and there's nobody within 200 yards of you.
Collins: How long does it take between when the ball goes in the hole and the crowd on 12 realizes it?
Player: Well, it might be 'til you get the ball out of the hole. 'Cause they don't see it go in. Today. the hole was behind the bunker ... so I don't think anybody would have seen [the putt] go in.
Collins: Which green do people know the least about but is the most challenging for players?
Player: Probably Number 1. Just 'cause not many people go there, they all go on to the golf course. I think most players will tell you it's one of the hardest greens to putt.
Collins: What about it makes it the toughest?
Player: It's the highest point on the golf course, so I think anywhere when you have to hit it long right, the putts are really fast. You can putt it off the green. You can miss the green and try to putt it up, and it'll roll right back to you. So things like that. I think a guy in front of me made an 8 there, and I was on the fast track to an 8 ... but then I got it up and down for bogey. Things like that make it really tough.
Collins: What's the one thing about Saturday you are least looking forward to?
Player: Nothing! I'm happy to be playing.
That's the right attitude my friend. Play well.