About two months after I turned pro in 2009, I made the trip to Augusta to watch just one day of the tournament. It was completely inspiring. But I decided on that day that I would return to Augusta only under one condition: I'd go there to play, not to be a spectator.
Of course, that doesn't mean I won't be watching this weekend. On Saturday and Sunday I will get up early to play and practice, and then I'll spend the rest of the day glued to the TV. Until I actually get there myself, there's a lot I can learn from watching my competitors play.
I'm usually looking for how the players react to different situations. I have some idea of what's going on in their minds and so when they find themselves in a less than ideal situation (i.e Phil Mickelson's crazy shot from a bed of pine needles on hole No. 13 last year -- WOW! -- see clip below), I want to see how they maneuver and what decisions they make to get back to where they want to be.
The rookie mistake, however, is to take what you see the competition doing and try to be a clone. It takes discipline to realize that every player has his own way of doing things and what makes one guy successful won't necessarily make me successful.
I'm going to be paying a lot of attention to the guys who can make pars out of bad situations. I also like to watch the way the older guys plod their way around the course -- they play conservative, conservative, conservative... and then all of a sudden they get aggressive. They know exactly when to make that shift. I learned real quick on the PGA Tour that I would have to get good at this. I tend to play really aggressively, without thinking of taking my foot off the gas. This works for me... until it doesn't match up to the situation at hand. Birdies might work on one course, but a lot of pars will go a long way on another.
As always, I will be watching Tiger -- I love watching him near the lead on Sundays. But I'll also be watching my buddies and fellow rookies, Jhonattan Vegas and Gary Woodland who will be playing their first Masters. Good luck fellas!
Who will you be watching this weekend?