AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Sometimes golfers just get lucky and Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts could not believe his good fortune after spending an hour last week chatting to golfing great Jack Nicklaus about how to play the Masters.
Nicklaus has won a record six green jackets at Augusta National and the chance to pick the American’s brain was “one of the highlights of my humble golf-life experience”, Masters debutant Colsaerts later wrote on his official website.
“I feel pretty lucky to have the chance to talk to someone like Jack Nicklaus for an hour, considering how his schedule is,” a smiling Colsaerts told reporters at a sun-splashed Augusta National on Monday.
”We pretty much spoke about every hole. He told me about a few pin positions and a few shots that you might need to hit and the ones you don’t want to hit.
“Usually when you play courses, you don’t really think about the shots you don’t want to hit; not as much as here. Here it takes a bigger part of your tactical approach to the course.”
Nicknamed the ‘Belgian Bomber’ because of his prodigious length off the tee, Colsaerts readily admits the sage advice from Nicklaus had given him a massive jolt of confidence ahead of Thursday’s start of the year’s first major.
“I felt like I had the place pretty well screened up for somebody that’s never played here,” the 30-year-old Belgian said of his acquired knowledge about Augusta National.
“So if you add some of the useful information he’s given me, it’s actually given me quite a confidence boost and made sure that I had the right eyes on certain parts of the golf course.”
Colsaerts had his initial look at Augusta National a month ago when he played the fabled back nine first and he is still savoring the special allure of the hilly layout.
”Course-wise, it’s so much more subtle than I thought,“ the double European Tour winner said. ”You think after watching it for so many years (on TV) you have an idea of what it’s going to be like, but everything is accentuated a thousand times.
“It’s very special here. It’s the tournament for me, and I can’t wait to see what I‘m going to do in it.”
Asked how he assessed his chances of victory this week, Colsaerts replied: ”Certain players come here and look at this place and feel like they have the game that suits it, and I definitely think that I do.
“Any tournament you win, you’re going to have to hole some putts. It might be a little more difficult to do out here because the greens are very different, but yeah ... I like my chances,” he said with a broad grin.
Colsaerts, who announced himself to American golf fans with a stunning debut at last year’s Ryder Cup when he fired a 10-under-par 62 on his ball in his first match, is proud to become only the third Belgian to earn a Masters invitation.
“It’s pretty special for a small country like us that doesn’t have a lot of golfers to have somebody represent a country and play in this very exclusive tournament,” he said.
Flory Van Donck played in the 1958 Masters and Donald Swaelens qualified for the 1975 edition but had to withdraw after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Swaelens died on April 25, 1975 at the age of 34.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Gene Cherry