Golfers are fine-tuning their preparations, the patrons are ready and the azaleas will be in full bloom. It can only mean one thing The Masters.
It’s the first Major of the year and it’s the tournament that everyone looks forward to as they struggle through winter. But today’s event is a world away from when I made my one and only appearance at Augusta back in 1970.
I’d won the British Order of Merit the previous year, but even so, I still felt very lucky to receive an invite for what was then a largely American tournament.
I was only 21 and it was my first visit to the United States. Unfortunately I had problems with my visa, so I only arrived the day before I was due to tee off. It was a difficult journey too Scotland to London, London to New York, New York to Atlanta and then a three-hour drive to the course. It wasn’t great preparation, and I only had time for one practice round.
My first impressions were how hilly the course was and how easy it seemed.
But I didn’t fully understand the subtleties, such as where to hit your tee shots in order to go for the flags and make a good score.
I played the last hole of the second round needing a birdie to make the cut, but my putt hung on the edge and I missed out by one shot.
I was invited back in 1973, having finished third in the Order of Merit.
But I declined in good faith, as I felt I wouldn’t be able to compete against pros at the top of their games, having not played competitive golf for a few months.
So I played in the Portuguese Open instead, where I lost in a play-off to a little known Spaniard called Jaime Benito!
The people who run The Masters don’t like to be ‘snubbed’ and I was never invited again.
Indeed, I’ve only been back to Augusta twice since then.
Everyone has their own Masters memories. Mine come from the amazing period of European success.
From Seve Ballesteros winning aged 23 in 1980 to Sandy Lyle’s incredible bunker shot in 1988 and Nick Faldo’s first victory a year later.
The sight of Nick receiving his Green Jacket from Sandy was probably the zenith for European golf.
Sandy was also a neighbour of mine at the time, and I remember we had a great party to celebrate when he got back after his win!
Sadly, we’ve not had a European winner since 1999, because while we’ve had good players, we’ve not had an outstanding one.
I can’t see our drought ending this year because none of our players have shown the type of form that’s required.
The one exception is Justin Rose. He was second at Bay Hill two weeks ago and he’s played well at Augusta before without winning it.
However, I can’t look beyond an American winner. They’ve won every event on the PGA Tour this season.
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have come to dominate The Masters, with seven wins between them.
Mickelson loves Augusta and has a great record, while there are young guns like Dustin Johnson, Brandt Snedeker and Keegan Bradley.
But it’s very difficult to look beyond Tiger.
He’s head and shoulders above the rest at the moment and he has all the momentum.
If you finish above him next Sunday, you’ll definitely be leaving Augusta wearing a Green Jacket!
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe