Originally created 04/02/00

Rookies' practice zeal can be costly

Joe Durant has a message for the 14 golfers making their first Masters appearance this week. Take it easy during the practice rounds.

Durant, a PGA Tour veteran, was a Masters rookie last year. Looking back, he believes he did everything wrong in his preparation the week of the tournament. He shot 87-79 -- 166, the highest two-day total in the tournament.

Durant, 35, did not qualify for this year's Masters.

Durant was so thrilled to be in the 1999 Masters that he simply wore himself out physically working on his game before the 1999 tournament started. That, in turn, affected him mentally.

"I just wasn't fresh going into Thursday's first round," Durant said. "That's the big difference. You have to be so sharp mentally to play the course well. I was at the other extreme -- very weak."

Durant had hoped to play a few practice rounds well before Masters Week. A fractured rib took care of those plans.

He arrived at the course on the Monday of the tournament week and dove in.

"I tried to condense all the grandeur, and played the course as much as I could in three days' time," Durant said. "That was very atypical of my preparation for a tournament. I just wore myself out is basically what I did. I shouldn't have played nearly as much. I should have paced myself. But you learn."

Durant isn't the only Masters rookie who has overdone it. Lee Westwood joined that club in 1997. At least he made the cut, rebounding from an opening 77 to shoot 71.

"That was my first Masters and I'd been here since the Friday before the tounament," Westwood said. "I played the 12th hole I don't know how many times. I'd played 72 holes by the time the tournament started. I wore myself out."

In 1999, Westwood limited himself to a total of nine holes during the practice days. The result was his best finish, a tie for sixth.

Though he never played more than 18 holes a day during the practice rounds in 1999, Durant said "I got out there at the crack of dawn, played and then beat balls. I wasn't the last one there, but I was pretty close to it."

Even when he won the Wednesday Par-3 Contest with a 5-under-par 22, Durant had a bad feeling about how he'd play once the tournament started the next day.

"I was already tired," Durant said. "In the Par-3 tournament, I just went out and played and hit a couple of no-brainers in there close."

Then came the 87 in the first round. At least it wasn't the high score of the day. Doug Ford had an 89, then withdrew.

"I wasn't ready. I knew it," Durant said. "I should have just gone out and played and not worried about it. But I got uptight because I wasn't playing well. That course will eat your lunch if you get uptight. I found that out first hand."

Nick Price missed the cut in his Masters debut in 1984, playing the Augusta National "as much as I could" during the practice rounds, he said. It didn't help that it was his seventh straight tournament.

"My advice to any of the young guys is to go out and play as much as you can and feel comfortable with," Price said. "Some do overdo it a little bit."

Earlier this season, Durant had some advice for his good friend Skip Kendall, one of the Masters rookies.

"I told him to go up there a couple of times in advance," Durant said. "When you do that, the awe is out of it a little bit. I told him to take his time, go through the clubhouse and see everything that's there. When I was there, I didn't have time to do all those things.

"I told Skip, `when you come back for the tournament, you're semi-familiar with your surroundings and you can go out and concentrate on playing your game."'

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