Masters 19th hole: The pressure on a major champ

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Masters 19th hole: The pressure on a major champ

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Cliff Hawkins
Danny Willett of England, the 2016 Masters champ, plays his shot from the fifth tee during the second round of the Honda Classic at PGA National Resort and Spa on Feb. 24, 2017 in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. (Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)

THE CHAMPION

You’re a real golf fan if you know that Danny Willett is the reigning Masters champion and that Jimmy Walker won the most recent major, the 2016 PGA Championship.

Willett discussed the pressure that winning puts on the champion. Excerpts from his Tuesday interview:

Q: Has being a major champion made you a more patient or impatient as a player?

A: I think the last 12 months has shown it’s made me a little more impatient. It’s a difficult one. I think achieving what I achieved last year and performing under pressure that I did on Sunday, you come away and if you don’t do that every time, you get a bit annoyed. You feel like you should be able to … You can’t just do it week in and week out.

Q: Do you feel an extra pressure when you win a major? 

A: I tried to make a pact to myself not to, but it’s difficult. Like I was saying earlier, you’ve achieved the greatest height in your game. You have got to the pinnacle. You’ve climbed Everest and you’ve put your flag in. Unfortunately, you’ve got to either climb down or stay up there, and it’s incredibly difficult to stay up there all the time. The pressure has obviously been more from myself. … The game has obviously not been as good as I wanted it to be these last 12 months, but we’re still working hard and you know, if you work hard, there is that little bit of inevitability there sooner or later you have to kind of crack in and get back to where you’ve been.

THE TEE TIMES

Long hitters: Two-time champ Bubba Watson is with Dustin Johnson, winner of his past three events, and Jimmy Walker, the reigning PGA Champion at 2:03 p.m. Thursday in the final group and at 10:56 a.m. Friday.

UGA vs. Tech: Former champ Mark O’Meara will be the de-facto referee in the group with former Georgia Tech golfer Roberto Castro and former Georgia golfer Hudson Swafford at 11:18 a.m. Thursday and 8:11 a.m. Friday.

Final trip? Ernie Els, twice a runner-up for a green jacket but a four-time major champion with two Open and two U.S. Open titles, goes off at 12:13 p.m. with Jason Dufner and Bernd Wiesberger in what could be Els’ final Masters appearance, with his five-year exemption running out from winning the 2012 Open.

Fan favorite: Three-time champ Phil Mickelson plays at 10:45 a.m. Thursday with Rafael Cabrera-Bello and Si Woo Kim, and they follow with a 1:52 p.m. Friday tee time.

Tradition: As is always the case, the reigning champ, Danny Willett, will be with the U.S. Amateur champion, this year it’s Curtis Luck of Australia. They will be joined by Matt Kuchar of Georgia Tech, a former U.S. Amateur champ who played well in Augusta as an amateur.

THE QUOTE

“Two things in my life, Tiger Woods and Augusta National, the Masters, is why I play golf. And this is my favorite week of the year. It always is. To be able to do it this week would be great.” — Jason Day on the prospect of winning in Augusta.

THE FORECAST

Another afternoon to stay indoors. There is a 100 percent chance of afternoon storms and thunderstorms, sometimes severe, with 1-2 inches of rain, and conditions ripe for hail and/or tornado. High in the mid-70s. Thursday and Friday will be clear and cooler especially early in the day, but winds will whip between 20-25 mph.

“Potentially we could see the draw play a big effect this week again. The wind is going to be about the same on Thursday and Friday. The temperature difference from the early time on Thursday to the early time on Friday, I think that’s the big deal.” — Golf Channel analyst David Duval.

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