Monday at the Masters felt like tournament time.
``You were hitting putts up to the hole, and they were coming back to you,'' Parnevik said. ``I've never seen greens this fast this early in the week.''
Maybe he should compare notes with Nick O'Hern.
The left-handed Aussie is making his Masters debut, so he arrived over the weekend for a crash course on Augusta National. He decided to walk the course only with his putter to get a feel for the place, and decided to rap a few putts on the par-3 12th in dry, blustery conditions Saturday afternoon.
``I putted to the back left pin and the ball went off the green and into the water,'' O'Hern said. ``And there's not much slope on that green.''
In a wet start to the golf season, this might be one time players are begging for rain.
``Very firm. Very fast. Very difficult,'' Shigeki Maruyama said.
Preparations for the first major championship of the year began in earnest Monday on an Augusta National course where the azaleas and dogwoods were starting to bloom and nerves already were a little frayed.
Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh and Ernie Els played their first practice rounds, while two other members of the Big Five -- Phil Mickelson and Retief Goosen -- were finishing off the rain-delayed, 54-hole BellSouth Classic in Atlanta.
It sure felt like a tournament, with some 40,000 fans swarming the grounds on a warm, sunny day. Even during a round in which shots didn't count, there were pockets of roars for players who tried to skip the ball across the pond on the par-3 16th, and a huge cheer when John Daly made a hole-in-one on his third tee shot at No. 16.
But it wasn't always easy keeping the ball on the green.
Jerry Kelly hit his tee shot on the par-3 fourth onto the back of the green, then saw it roll over the back. He hit another one, higher this time, and it came up short into the bunker. His third try also reached the green, bounced hard and disappeared over the back.
In the three years since Augusta National was revamped to add some 300 yards, the course has never played fast and firm. There has always been at least one day or one round of heavy rain that softened the green.
Rain was in the forecast for Thursday, although it was not a certainty. And that left several players wondering just what was in store for them.
Adam Scott played the front nine and let out a huge sigh when he finished.
``The greens are pretty fast for a Monday,'' he said. ``I hope they put a little water on them. They've been like this earlier in the week, but we've been saved by the rain. We haven't seen the firm, fiery greens. There's almost a spot on every green where you can't get a chip to stay on the green.''
Augusta National has long been considered a course for big hitters, particularly with the par 5s. But that is one of many myths about the Masters, because its roll call of champions is loaded with guys who can barely hit it out of their shadows -- Bernhard Langer, Jose Maria Olazabal, Ben Crenshaw, Nick Faldo.
And even after it was super-sized, Mike Weir won in 2003 after a playoff against Len Mattiace.
``There are lot of guys who don't bomb it who did well,'' Scott said. ``Either way, it's just the guys who putt the best who do well around here.''
Still, the dynamics of this major could change significantly with the forecast.
Soggy conditions soften the greens, but they tend to favor long hitters who can carry the ball farther. Fairways where the ball seems to roll forever could bring several of the medium-hitters into the fray.
``I can't have the rain,'' Fred Funk said, a short hitter who thrived at The Players Championship because Sawgrass is more about position that power. ``The first two years after the big changes here, it was really, really wet and the course played too long for me.
``If it stays like this, you'll see the top 20 or 25 scores mixed with long hitters, short hitters, all kinds of games,'' he said. ``I think that's an indication of a good setup.''
He has found himself hitting as much as a 3-wood into the par-4 18th, a green better suited for a mid-iron. And while these guys are good enough to hit greens with any club, position on the putting surface is everything at Augusta.
``If you get on the wrong side of the hole, you're on the defensive the whole time,'' Funk said. ``And if you're on the defensive the whole time, you're not going to be around on the weekend.''
What the Masters has proven over the years, no matter the conditions, is that the winner has to have all facets of his game in working order.
That's one reason this year holds so much anticipation. All the top players seem to be hitting their stride, with seven of the top nine in the world winning at least once this year.
``It seems like the heavyweights show up on Sunday here more than other majors,'' Parnevik said. ``I don't know why that is. Maybe this course tests all the aspects of the game. It would be no surprise to see those guys slug it out.''
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