Eddie Pepperell made his debut at Augusta last year. He talks us through the experience, the course and who he fancies to land the Green Jacket
Eddie Pepperell Reflects On His Masters Debut In 2019
Take us through the experience of arriving at Augusta for the first time and the range of emotions you experience…
It was really cool. The first time I drove down Magnolia Lane I was with my coach in a hire car, and it was quite odd doing that trip in a beat-up white rental vehicle. It was everything I’d imagined it might be, though it wasn’t the longest drive in the world. I think they make it look longer in the pictures! But it’s a great experience, and then you come to the famous flower bed, which is pretty cool.
As the week went on, I enjoyed it more and more. And as time has gone on since then, I’ve found myself reflecting and thinking fondly of my time there fairly often. The only other place that does that for me in golf is St Andrews. To me, that’s a sign of greatness, heritage and all those things.
Is it quite hard to focus on the actual golf the first time you play as you’re so awe-struck with the place?
I actually found it fairly easy to knuckle down once I was on the course, as the iconic holes don’t really come until the back nine. By that point, you’re in to your round and the course is also so challenging that it forces you to pay attention! You can’t just walk round there nonchalantly and shoot a good number. But when you get into the back nine, start walking down the 10th fairway and play your approach into the green, the course just comes alive. I know it’s a cliche and everyone says it, but it really is true.
What is the key attribute you need for success at The Masters?
I think it has to be distance control with the irons. If you look at the winners there, there are a number who historically aren’t great off the tee – the likes of Woods, Mickelson and Spieth. But what they have in common is they’re so, so good with their mid- and short-irons when they’re on song (as well as being excellent around the greens too). Great iron players will always do pretty well at Augusta. There are a couple of demanding tee shots, for sure, and more now than before because of the course lengthening, but by and large it’s quite generous off the tee.
What are your favourite holes at Augusta National?
For me it would be 15 and 16. I think they are just two absolutely brilliant golf holes back-to-back. You stand on the 15th tee knowing you could go eagle-birdie with three good swings, but at the same time you could easily make bogey or double on both. They both demand different things from you in terms of the shots required – you just have to hit the middle of the clubface on your second into 15, but that’s not the case on 16; you have to be accurate. I love the way that two crucial golf shots are so juxtaposed against one another at a key time in the round. It’s brilliant from a design perspective.
I just loved the back nine in general – it’s such a fun collection of holes. From the 13th onwards, you’re hitting shots off all kinds of different lies and you have to shape your ball in different ways and control the flight. It asks a lot of you, but it’s also really cool.
Was there anything that surprised you compared with how you thought it would be?
Well, last year the greens weren’t as quick as I was expecting as a result of a couple of factors, including the weather. I actually played with Bernhard Langer on the Sunday and he told me the greens were five feet slower than the next slowest he’d ever experienced. Although they were still fast, it wasn’t how I’d imagined it based on my television viewing. I remember on the 11th hole, I had a putt to the left pin that I thought was impossible to stop before the hole and left it six feet short!
How do you think the November date will affect the tournament?
The weather is likely to be cooler and the air will be heavier with that, so that will put more of a premium on driving. You’re still obviously going to need the skills into the greens and around the greens, but carry through the air will become more important.
Who do you see contending for the Green Jacket?
If you look at Collin Morikawa and his skill set, he’s the kind of guy who’s going to love Augusta. He’s won the Major that’s arguably least suited to him in the USPGA Championship. As long as Dustin isn’t playing I think he’s got a great chance! I also have a good feeling about Jon Rahm.
Don’t forget to follow Golf Monthly on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.