Masters player blog: Doug Ghim reflects on opening 72, two eagles

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Masters player blog: Doug Ghim reflects on opening 72, two eagles

Amateur

Masters player blog: Doug Ghim reflects on opening 72, two eagles

Texas senior Doug Ghim, the 2017 U.S. Amateur runner-up, will blog about his first Masters experience on Golfweek.com this week. Here is his fourth entry after shooting even-par 72 in the first round at Augusta National:

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Today started out like just another morning. It finished as so much more.

Obviously, in the back of my mind was Masters Thursday when I woke up, but I just tried to keep things casual as I prepared for my first major-championship round. I tried to approach it no different than any other tournament, even though it’s not. And rolling through Magnolia Lane, it was hard to not think about that first tee shot and what it means to be playing in the Masters Tournament.

When I got to the course, we had breakfast up near the Champions Locker Room. I met Mr. Charles Coody, as past Masters champion who has ties to the University of Texas because his grandsons, Parker and Pierceson, are committed to the Longhorns. You just kind of feel the greatness among you. After breakfast, I went to warm up, trying to get some feel and get as comfortable as I could. I’m not the best with warm-ups, but I had a decent one. As my tee time started to approach, I could feel the clock ticking. I then got on the shuttle and headed to the putting green, and I thought to myself, this must be what it felt like for gladiators when they were walking into the Coliseum.

I hit some nervy putts, and then Jordan Spieth came up to me and asked me how I felt. I looked at him and said that I was a little nervous. He then told me the course was as scoreable as it was going to get this week because there’s not a lot of wind, and to tear it up, it’s just another golf course and there were some birdies to be had.

Every other tournament there is kind of a generic introduction before you tee off. At the Masters, though, it’s “Fore please. Doug Ghim now driving.” When I heard that my body went numb. To hear my name associated with that phrase, it’s something I’ll never forget. Somehow I got the ball on the tee. Somehow I didn’t soak my glove before the first tee shot. And I made the best swing that I possibly could and the ball found the fairway. I can now say that I striped my first tee ball at the Masters.

After that it was still nervy. It took me a while to get into the rhythm. It’s so easy to try and avoid a spot on this golf course instead of going for the shot that you want to. I caught myself trying to steer the ball away from trouble. I bogeyed the par-5 second hole and doubled the par-4 seventh. But then I started thinking positive and being aggressive at the same time. I made some good pars. I hit good putts on Nos. 8 and 9, and when I got to that 10th tee I felt like I could score on this back nine and do something special.

I got through Amen Corner pretty well. I bogeyed No. 11 and it’s easy to get down on yourself at 4 over and without a birdie through 11 holes, but I remember paying with the pro here, and he told me if I play this hole 2 over for the week and you’re fortunate enough to have played four rounds, you’re probably picking up a half-shot or maybe even a shot on the field. I then got to 12, hit a good one and made par.

Then the fun started. I had about 220 yards into the green at the par-5 13th with my second shot. I wasn’t really sure what the wind was doing. There wasn’t much wind, but you could kind of feel a little bit. The compass said downwind, but I just felt a lot of hurt. I’ve been told that when in doubt to play a little bit more on 13. Normally I probably would’ve pulled out a 4-iron if I was just playing a qualifying round for school. But I hit hybrid and made sure that I hit good contact. If it goes long the worst I’m going to make is par. But I hit it to 6 feet, gave myself the easiest putt you could have on that hole, uphill and right to left. I just tried to make sure I had the nerve to start it on line. I wanted those crystal highball glasses, and the first thing I said when I made the putt for eagle is I asked Mr. Sandy Lyle, ‘I do get a goblet or crystal, right?’ And he goes, ‘Oh yeah, that’s one for the mantle piece.’

Two holes later, I hit another good hybrid, this time into the par-5 15th. My dad, Jeff, my caddie, actually said he liked the layup, but I went for it. I heard Sergio Garcia made a 13 on the hole after my round, and it’s a good thing I heard then. I found the sand, just kept my third shot on the green and out of the water, and mad the putt to get up and down for birdie to move back to 2 over.

Then on the par-4 17th, I had a 7-iron into the green, and for some reason I wasn’t committed to the shot and I came out of it. I caught a plugged lie in the bunker, but it was actually the best thing. I knew that if I just got the ball out of the bunker it was going to run out to the hole. It didn’t get quite there, but I was able to save par. The whole green looks like it’s going left, but Rae’s Creek is to my right, and I’ve watched enough Masters to know that the putt was going to go a little right.

Then came more excitement. I hit a good drive on the 18th hole and it really calmed my nerves, especially being only 2 over and an amateur. I had 178 yards playing 188 because of the slope, so I chose 6-iron and the last thing I thought before I hit it was just commit to it. I leaned into it, flushed it, looked up and the ball was just right, drifting back toward the pin. The crowd starting clapping, and then they were standing up and then I heard the roars. Another eagle! I turned around and my dad was running at me. I did my best to not be the next golfer to get injured in a celebration this week.

The feeling walking up 18 was unreal. Normally, the cheers are for someone like Mr. Lyle, and deservedly so. But to know that the crowd was giving me a standing ovation, it was pretty special. The warmth that I felt when I picked the ball out of the whole was amazing. It certainly is a shot that I’ll never forget, as well as 13. Whatever happens this week I know I’m coming home with some hardware – and not just from the pro shop.

I’m very blessed and so thankful for everyone who made this possible. I’m looking forward to tomorrow, but I also realize that this is the type of golf course where you let yourself go for one shot and all of a sudden you’re looking at 7, 8, 9, 13. This course frightens you if you’re not thinking the right way. You have to go into every shot and you have to commit to every single one of them. Also, I’m playing against the best players in the world and I have to play some really good golf to keep up with them. I don’t want people to think that this is a fluke.

See you tomorrow at 8:41 a.m.!

– Doug

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