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Interview present Masters competitors and past champions at Augusta

Aired April 5, 2012 - 05:30   ET



SHANE O'DONAGHUE, CORRESPONDENT, CNN INTERNATIONAL: It's April, it's Augusta, it's the Masters. Welcome to "Living Golf".

On this month's program, Tiger arrived here, in Augusta, ready to reclaim his throne. We sit down with some of those out to stop him. Including last year's winner of the green jacket.

CHARL SCHWARTZEL, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: It was just such an exciting afternoon.

O'DONAGHUE: The major champion, Martin Kaymer has missed four Masters Cups and half a season after a go-carting accident. He's not a man easily chaired.

And Luke Donald, world number one and probably the best wedge player on the planet, shows us the short game you need to conquer Augusta Nationals.


O'DONAGHUE: As the elite of world golf gathered here at Augusta, virtually all of the talk on the streets of this Georgia town was of two men from two generations. Tiger and Rory.

Now, there were a great number of players who arrived at Augusta National with strong claims to this year's green jacket. From Luke Donald to Lee Westwood and, of course, to the defending champion, Charl Schwartzel.

But it was the battle between the prodigies which serves as a reminder that Augusta National has a history of crystallizing when one era ends and another one begins.

The golf writer, Bill Elliott, has witnessed the last 31 Masters. Here's his personal view of the changing of the guard at Augusta National.


BILL ELLIOTT, CHAIRMAN, ASSOCIATION OF GOLF WRITERS: You know, whatever else the Masters does, it almost always brings the very best out of the best. And certainly, that's what happened when I made my first trip to Augusta in 1980 and watched Severiano Ballesteros win his first green jacket. Jack Nicholas insisted on coming into the tiny, hot as hell, tin hut that doubled as a media center way back then for a chat. And Jack told us that, without doubt, Seve has the game for Augusta Nationals and will one day beat my record, here.

The great man was at it again 15 years ago when Tiger won his first major. Sorting (ph) everyone at Augusta to win by 12 shots. Woods was grinning with wide-eyed joy while other young black guys in waiter's jackets high-fived each other around the clubhouse. And more than a few of us tried unsuccessfully to blink back the tears. Jack - dry eyed, of course - immediately insisted on telling us that here was the player to shred his Masters record.

Well, only three more to go, then, for Tiger. But, to be fair, there were 23 long years between Nicholas' first Masters and that unforgettable sink in 1986, when he somehow reconnected with his fading genius to be Seve back.

What I think this tells us is that the Masters like to acknowledge young talent, but that, in the end, the old Technicolor dreamscape that is Augusta National tends to side with experience, as Tiger well knows.

Maybe this is what happened to Rory McIlroy last year on that tenth tee. It's the highest point on the course, but one that turned swiftly into the lowest point of his career. It is, of course, a very different McIlroy who's back this year.

For many, Rory's now golf's current poster boy. A smiling Northern Irish lad who was Tiger's biggest popular rival as, once again, Augusta hosts the old game's generation game. In a largely unpredictable world, the one near certainty is that the Masters delivers these big moments more regularly than anywhere else. And that the handing over of the baton from one generation to the next, more often than not, happens deep in Georgia on a sultry Sunday evening when lots of men in jackets watch rather sternly as another man is handed his own green blazer and who then knows that his life will never be quite the same again.

So, will it be Tiger, Rory, Luke, Me, Bubba? Maybe even Charl Schwartzel again. Who knows? Predictable? Yes. But not that predictable. Ask Greg Norman about the predictability thing. He'll tell you.


O'DONAGHUE: Of course, Rory's implosion last year was just part of one of the most gripping final days in Masters' history. Suddenly, the tournament was thrown wide open and the two Australians, Jason Day and Adam Scott, made a brilliant charge for the lead.

They were only beaten by a stunning final round by Charl Schwartzel, who became the first winner ever to birdie the last four holes at the Masters.

Now, well before this year's honorary starters got things underway here, we had a chance to relive that dramatic final day with Charl, Jason Day, and the Open champion, Darren Clarke, and to get their thoughts on this year's tournament.


SCHWARTZEL: Probably some of the best advice you can possibly ask for. Jack Nicholas shared some thoughts with me. The year before I actually won the Masters and sat down with him. And I just wanted to know how he played Augusta.

I figured he's going to just give me a few holes or something that he thought about, then he actually took the time to, you know, take me through the whole 18 holes the way he used to play it. The way his thought process was on all the shots. The whole week, everything felt right for me.

O'DONAGHUE: Living this, as well, was Jason. In your debut in the Masters where you played alongside Rory McIlroy. And what was it like for you?

JASON DAY, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: It was - I've had the most fun I've ever had on the golf course was at Augusta. And that's my favorite tournament and it always has been. I've grown up watching Augusta - you know, waking up at four o'clock in the morning every - you know, every April. And watching Augusta as a little kid.

But to be there, it's amazing how different the course actually plays. I've never seen a better round on a major stage in front of a lot of people. That first day that Rory played, when he shot seven under, was some of the best ball striking I've ever seen. And I just walked off the golf course just amazed how much game he had.

DARREN CLARKE, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: If there was ever a golf course that's probably suited to Rory, it would be Augusta. But it's also suited, obviously, to these two guys as well. But, you know, Augusta required a high ball through the air and carry it as far as you can. And then how you've got to come in - the softer the green, the easier it is to get around.

O'DONAGHUE: Charl, was it fun for you?

SCHWARTZEL: It was a bit (ph).


O'DONAGHUE: Those last four holes were just outrageously good.

SCHWARTZEL: It was just such an exciting afternoon. You know, I got off to a good start and Rory got off to a little bit of a shaky one, and it was all square after four holes. And, you know, the game was on. From five all the way to 14, I just kept on making (UNCLEAR). I played so good. And, you know, those greens get tough, they get firm and it's tough to make putts. And, you know, I just sort of tried to stay patient.

But I've made 10 (UNCLEAR) and I could see that - it got so crazy after Rory made a triple (ph) on 10, you know, it felt like I was falling behind. And I needed to birdie 15. So I hadn't made a birdie. And then that was basically my last (UNCLEAR). To me, that was the biggest putt of all four that I made was that one. Because that got me going. That sort of broke the ice all of the sudden.

You know, getting a birdie on the scoreboard for me again and starting to move in the right direction. And then I made a big putt on 16. And then everything almost became like this - like a blur, almost, to me. And I don't know, at that stage it was just so - I don't actually know how to explain it. But it just kept snowballing.

O'DONAGHUE: Darren, for you in particular, you know, it's been quite a gap. What does it mean to you to be playing in the Masters in 2012 and beyond, now?

CLARKE: Yes, it'll be exciting. You know, the last time that I played at Augusta, they were in the process of lengthening the back nine and making it tougher and tougher. This past couple of years, whenever I watched it, you know, watching these guys play - the rowers (ph) seem to have come back again.

And you know, when I first started playing Augusta, the first one, I think 1998, the rowers (ph) were synonymous with the back nine Augusta, Sunday afternoon. That all went quiet, you know, because they'd toughen up the course - they've taken it to the extreme. And now I just sort of got my back a little bit again where the guys can make birdies and eagles.

And, you know, the last couple years have been a fine example of that. So, it'll be exciting to get back there again, to get back to what it was when I first started playing -- where you can make birdies and eagles in the back nine.

O'DONAGHUE: And one final question - just excluding yourself or even present company with regard to the Masters - who's the one player you really fancy? Darren?

CLARKE: I would say, apart from these two guys, you'd have to go with Rory.

SCHWARTZEL: I mean, Adam Scott did so well. Yes, I don't know. I think Ozzie (ph) is close.


DAY: I think Tiger's heading back in the right direction. He's starting to hit the ball a lot better.

CLARKE: I think Lee Westwood could figure as well. You know, Lee's done really well right there and he's been one of the best players in the world for a long time. And he did finish the end of last year so -

DAY: Lee is very sneaky. He's always under the radar. You look at it and he just pops up and he finishes second of third.

CLARKE: Yes, he makes very few mistakes.

O'DONAGHUE: Jason, the very best of luck in all the majors and, in particular, the Masters as you return for your second visit.

Charl, congratulations on winning the green jacket last year.

Darren, fantastic to see you back.

CLARKE: Thank you, sir.

O'DONAGHUE: Thank you guys. Thank you.


O'DONAGHUE: And if we'd spoken to our contenders a little bit later, after Tiger's Bay Hill victory, then perhaps Jason Day's view would have been a little more strongly supportive.

Still to come on "Living Golf" - the man with the Augusta and go- carting jinx takes us go carting.


O'DONAGHUE: Welcome back to "Living Golf". Now, for a major champion and a former world number one, Martin Kaymer had an unenviable record going into this years' Masters Tournament. Four appearances, four missed cups.

He made his debut in 2008, the year before he seriously injured himself in a go-carting accident. So, when we decided to meet up to discuss Masters preparation, his choice of venue took us a little by surprise.


O'DONAGHUE: Martin, of all the places, I wasn't expecting you really and truly to give it here. You love go carting, don't you?

MARTIN KAYMER, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: I do love go carting. I've done it for many years. And, obviously, 2009 was not so good experience, but we'll see what happens today.

O'DONAGHUE: I can tell you now that there is one problem that you have not yet competed for. But you are going to compete for it today - it is the "Living Golf" trophy. It's between you and me. It's Germany versus Ireland. Are you ready to take the challenge?

KAYMER: I'm sure we have to do very best to get it. But let's see.

O'DONAGHUE: All right, let's go.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, gentlemen, today we'll be doing three races, 10 laps each. Whoever wins two of the three races wins the "Living Golf" trophy. Just remember, don't jump the start until you get the green flag. Also, no bumping. Good luck.

O'DONAGHUE: Well, that's a turn up for the books, Martin. One-nil to Ireland.

KAYMER: I definitely think you need a lot of luck now, Shane.

O'DONAGHUE: Is this probably your main hobby, then, outside of golf?

KAYMER: Yes, I do that quite a lot. You know, I've done it, obviously, more often before my accident, but I still do it quite a lot. It was a very unfortunate thing, you know? It was not really my fault, to be honest. You know, it was a very busy day on the go-cart track and was very unlucky what happened there. But you know, I just love it. It's something completely different than golf. I just like the smell and the dirt and everything, you know? It's fun.

O'DONAGHUE: We were with you 12 months ago. We were at whisper rock and you were world number one. How do you assess that now?

KAYMER: Well, to be honest, it was a very crazy time, because it was very different, what I was expecting. You know, the focus got away from golf a little bit until I realized, you know, that is the main thing, you know. That is what I love to do, and then I got back to the golf course and can focus on my passion.

O'DONAGHUE: 12 months ago, you were putting yourself under pressure, as well, to change your shape of shot to tackle Augusta in a different way. It didn't really work.

KAYMER: No, not yet. But, you know, it's a long process. If you want to change something, you know, I'm not a big fan of dramatic changes. You have to do it slowly. And it's a long process. I can tell you, I think I'm a lot better golf player now than I've been 12 months ago. I feel a lot better about my golf swing. I became mentally a lot stronger, and my personality has changed, but I think in a good way and a stronger way.

O'DONAGHUE: So, with regard to all the learning that you've done, where's your head at right now, insofar as the first major of the year?

KAYMER: I was never really a big fan, you know. When I went to Augusta, it was always one of those things - bad memories. You know, I didn't feel good about the place. But I see it very positive now, because it's the biggest challenge that I ever had. So I have never done well there, but one day I will. And that is the main thing, you know, that I focus on right now. To do well at the Masters. I can promise you, every year I see this, probably the biggest challenge of my year.

O'DONAGHUE: Are you rested? Martin, great to talk to you.

KAYMER: Thanks Shane.

O'DONAGHUE: The very best luck for the rest of the season, too.

KAYMER: Thanks. Race now?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, gentlemen. One race each, this is the decider.

KAYMER: It wasn't a major, but it's almost as special for me.


O'DONAGHUE: Still to come, the world number one, Luke Donald, gives us a short game master class.


O'DONAGHUE: Welcome back to "Living Golf". Now, Augusta tests a short game like few others. But if there's one man you'd bet your house on to get that critical up and down, it has to be the world number one, Luke Donald. So we were delighted when he asked us to his home club, as he prepared for the Masters, to share some of his short game technique.


O'DONAGHUE: How much work do you put into your short game, and specifically these type of shots?

LUKE DONALD, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: I put in a lot. And, actually, this is my own little playground as such, here at the Bear's Club. This is a little par three course that they have on the side. And I use it all the time for wedge play.

So, maybe it's just a little too far for my long wedge. So I'm going to take a little bit off the 54. And that changes my setup just a little bit. As I'm taking a little off it and I still want to create spin - you know, the harder you hit the shot, the more spin you're going to create.

I'm going to move the ball up in my stance just a little bit. It's going to feel like I'm almost cutting it just a slight bit. Again, a little bit more action. You know, everything's very neutral, though.

The only thing I really would stress to amateurs watching, there's making sure when you go back that the clubface is getting open enough. You know, hinged with the toe going up.

O'DONAGHUE: Lovely shot.

DONALD: A lot of amateurs say, "Well how do I spin it?" I'm like, "Well, really it's just good strike and good contact". And the first main thing you have to get correct is the grip. By getting it more on the fingers, you can hinge the club up and down. Ok? And that creates that downward hit on the ball - creates that divot, creates that compression - and that's what creates spin.

This club is just a little bit inside you, so here, you get the club, put it down, you get it a bit here - one of you feel more out here.


DONALD: Close. I can see you grew up, you know, in Ireland, in the wind.

O'DONAGHUE: Let's now just vary it ever so slightly. And talk about how to play into tougher, breezier conditions.

DONALD: The best way to take spin off is to shorten the length of the swing and also hit the ball a little bit softer. I like to get the ball further back in my stance, so obviously, the club is leaning more forward and taking some loft off it.

On the way back, I don't transfer my weight so much to the right - I keep it a bit more central and then drive through. Again, keeping the ball coming out low. But the main one is to really take a little extra club and hit it softer. See, that one's just rolling up a little bit more, so got that grip.

O'DONAGHUE: OK, let's put this to the test and see how Luke manages with three balls each, for the 54 degree from 90-odd yards. And also, the more knockdown shot, which you play into the wind with a pitching wedge. We're going to check it out with TrackMan, because we're going to get all the numbers here, launch, angle and spin rates and see exactly a visual image of what Luke is trying to create with these particular shots.

DONALD: OK, we'll start with the 54.

O'DONAGHUE: That's controlled. And the numbers from TrackMan Justin, what are they?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Launch just over 30 degrees and spin rate was a little over 9,000 rpm.

DONALD: About what I expect.

O'DONAGHUE: Beautiful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, right at 30 degrees on the launch and slightly over 10,000 on the spin on that one.

DONALD: Now I'm finding my groove.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pretty similar. Still a little over 30 degrees and just over 10,000 rpm.

DONALD: It's nice to see that the numbers are similar. It just means that everything I'm doing is consistent.

O'DONAGHUE: OK. The other one we've been discussing, obviously, is the knockdown shot.

DONALD: Just a little pitching wedge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, the launch angle was at 20 degrees, which is about 10 degrees lower. And then the spin is at 7,800, which is 2,000 lower.

O'DONAGHUE: It's quite a bit.

DONALD: I think we could even get it to come down, even, a little bit more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pretty similar, launch angle 22, spin rate 7,200.

DONALD: I'll take that one.

O'DONAGHUE: Right at the stick.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Launch angle 21 and a half, spin rate, 7,400.

O'DONAGHUE: So, again, very consistent, you know, and that shot's not going to get affected by the wind. So, mission accomplished.


O'DONAGHUE: Luke Donald, there. A magician with the wedges. And I'm delighted to say that he'll be showing us some more of his short game mastery over the next few months on the program.

But that is it for this edition of "Living Golf". Don't forget that that master class from the world number one and, indeed, all our reports are now online. And you can keep across what we're up to on Twitter.

But, for now, from the home of the Masters, it's good-bye.