AUGUSTA, Ga. — Augusta National Golf Club is soft and ripe for low scoring on the eve of the 87th Masters Tournament, according to a veteran caddie, and even cool, wet weather on the weekend isn’t likely to derail the birdie parade.
Paul Tesori is working his 21st Masters this week but his first on the bag of new boss Cam Young, last year’s PGA Tour Rookie of the Year.
“Anytime you give these world-class players soft conditions they’re going to find a way to score,” Tesori said Wednesday. “Biggest defense of par for players of this caliber is firmness of greens. You can bring wind in, yeah it’s tricky. Rain and cold coming in is going to be tricky. But if these guys can control their ball and feel like their ball is going to finish right where it pitches, they’re still going to have the propensity to play good golf.”
Tesori said Young, who is third on Tour in driving distance, hit a 4-iron into the par-5 15th on his second shot during a morning practice round with former Wake Forest teammate Will Zalatoris. The ball landed on the green and rolled back one foot.
Tesori started caddying for Young two weeks ago after 12 years on the bag for Webb Simpson, who is cutting back his schedule.
It was a fruitful start. Young reached the finals of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, earning his sixth runner-up finish in 37 career tournaments.
Young flourished on the major stage a year ago. He finished third in the PGA Championship at Southern Hills and second in The Open Championship at St. Andrews. But he missed the cut in his Masters debut last year, shooting 77-76 and drove away from Augusta frustrated with his performance, unsure about lines off the tee and when to be aggressive or conservative. He feels better about his chances with an experienced caddie beside him.
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“His golf course analysis is unbelievable,” Young said. “He’s still out there learning, which is unbelievable to me. I feel like every hole he picks something out and gets a new number that he hasn’t had before.”
The Masters is Tesori’s favorite tournament. He’s only missed it twice in his 23-year career.
“This is a place you always want to be,” Tesori said. “It’s a place where me and my wife enjoy watching golf afterwards. It’s one of the few golf tournaments where after I’m done working and sweating and trying to figure out how to get balls on the green and stuff, I come home, put my feet up and watch golf. There’s really no other tournament in the world where that would be the case.”
Missing the ball in the right spot and remaining patient are two keys to navigating Augusta National, Tesori said. Players must leave the ball positioned where they can use their short game to save par and remain disciplined even if a hole location seems attractive.
“Have a lot of comfort here in what you’re trying to do, knowing where you’re supposed to go,” Tesori said. “But you never feel comfortable out there.”
Tesori describes Young as an “old-school player” who likes to be creative and hit the shot that suits his eye. That trait and his power should be assets around a soft Augusta National as the winds swirl.
“When wet conditions come you don’t want to smash anything. When mud comes, you don’t want to smash anything. Could be three clubs for one yardage. That will be our challenge but also may be a blessing,” he said.
Parting with Simpson was difficult and emotional for Tesori because the two men and their families became close during the last 12 years. Simpson – also a former Wake Forest golfer – encouraged Tesori to make the move and posted his well wishes for their new partnership on social media.
Tesori is excited for what lies ahead with one of golf’s young stars. Young shot 19 under in his first tournament at the Old Course and 17 under in his debut at Riviera. A strong showing at another of golf’s classic courses seems within reach.
“It’s been great,” Young said. “He definitely brings my energy level up a bit, keeps me focused. It’s great for me in that sense. I’ve been around him so much, it’s very easy for me to talk to him. We have a good time out there. So it’s been great.”
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