It’s a tough walk. That’s the most notable observation after traipsing the 18 holes of Augusta National for the first time this week. Unlike so many other journalists who have been here before, I made a conscious effort to really take in the subtle intricacies of this famous golf course. As a first-timer, it seemed only right…  

Without wanting to gloat, the pictures on television really don’t do this place the justice it deserves. Some of the greens are simply treacherous. You are talking 20-foot breaks and in many cases it’s better to be off the green but below the pin rather than above it and on. If your distance control is a bit shabby, it isn’t going to be your week…

Over the years, course extensions mean the days of pumping a mid iron into the par 5s are long gone. In 1997, Tiger Woods was hitting a wedge into 15. In Monday’s practice round Soren Kjeldsen ripped what looked to be something like a 5-iron, and still had a firm wedge over the water. Granted, the wind played a part, but eagle opportunities here will surely be thin on the ground…

While Augusta is by no means tight (although it is tigther now), and of course there is no such a phrase as ‘rough’ round here, every shot requires good ball movement. Take the 9th hole, a slight dog-leg left. Hit a good tee shot to find the fairway, and you’re faced with a draw to avoid the greenside traps and the distinctive slope at the front of the green. In 1996, Greg Norman hit a 9-iron flush against this, before watching his ball trickle 30 yards back down the fairway. Yesterday, Shingo Katayama had the same result, although he nailed a sweetly struck rescue club.

And the 14th green is terrifying. Land the ball above the pin and your putt has to be hit with such precision or you face rolling back down the fairway from where you just came. The breaks and slopes really are that severe…

Augusta requiring bags of creativity is hardly news, but the most startling observation was the hard yards you need to put in to get round. It is physically demanding. It may look pretty and sweet, but it’s a monster at 7,435 yards – and plenty of that is uphill with flat lies being a luxury.

All in all, on the eve of the 73rd US Masters, this course could hardly be in better shape. The same may not be said of the countless victims it will claim over the next four days.

May the best man win, as they say…

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