AUGUSTA, Ga. — William McGirt has played in major golf tournaments before, but there’s something different about this week.
As the Fairmont native prepares to make his debut at The Masters on Thursday at Augusta National Golf Club, it’s clear the first major of the PGA Tour season is in a league of its own.
“There would be nothing better than winning a green jacket,” McGirt told The Robesonian.
McGirt, who will be making his fifth major appearance when he tees it up Thursday at 11:07 a.m. with Rod Pampling, punched his ticket to Augusta with a win last season at Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial tournament.
Once he learned he would be driving down Magnolia Lane in April, McGirt started thinking ahead. That’s where Rob Chapman, a member of Augusta National, comes in.
“My friend, Rob Chapman from Spartanburg, has been a huge help in my preparation,” McGirt said. “He wanted to get me down to play Augusta National as soon as possible to help me get comfortable out there. He was nice enough to let me bring (my brother) Keith along to play with us back in December. It was a very fun day for us.”
McGirt competed in three of the four majors last season, missing the cut at the U.S. Open and British Open before getting over the hump at the PGA Championship in Baltusrol en route to a top-10 finish.
But, as McGirt pointed out, the setup at Augusta National brings a new set of challenges.
“Augusta has been a blast thus far,” he said. “It’s completely different from any of the other majors simply because the golf course isn’t set up to kick you in the teeth all day. Augusta can be had, but you really have to pick your spots and take advantage of opportunities”
As is always the case at The Masters, putting will go a long way in determining which player puts on the green jacket — and McGirt knows it. He ranks sixth on the Tour in driving accuracy and 12th in greens in regulation percentage, but is 133rd in putting.
“The difference in speed between uphill and downhill putts is crazy,” he said. “You have to slug the uphill (putts) and just look at the downhill (putts). I think that’s part of what makes putting so difficult here.”
While McGirt is excited about the chance to play for a green jacket, Wednesday’s Par 3 Contest could end up being more memorable if the weather complies. Thunderstorms are expected to roll into the area around 10 a.m. and are forecasted to continue throughout the afternoon.
After winning his first PGA Tour title in June, McGirt said he looked forward to having his children, Mac and Caroline, alongside him at Augusta National for the pre-tournament event.
“We are really looking forward to the Par 3 Tournament on Wednesday,” he said. “The weather looks terrible right now, but I’m hoping they are wrong. I really want to share that experience with Mac and Caroline.”