With 2020 the ice breaker, only five months later and in a new season, Christiaan Bezuidenhout is relishing the privilege of teeing off at the Masters again this week, writes ANDRE HUISAMEN.
An awful lot has changed since Bezuidenhout’s T38 finish at ‘The One in November.’ Not a bad outcome for a first-timer taking on the greatest challenge in the game, under the most unprecedented of circumstances faced by humanity.
Back-to-back victories in South Africa, on the European Tour, would follow only weeks after his Masters debut.
A surge up the rankings board was greeted with his highest placing ever after the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in January – establishing himself as the 33rd-best player in the world.
With a new driver in the bag for this week, two inches shorter and in contrast to Bryson DeChambeau’s obsession with making his shaft longer, Bezuidenhout is locked in a perfect space to provide a real challenge over the coming four rounds of golf.
‘I’m very honoured to be here again and to have the opportunity of playing again, especially with it only being such a short time since my first Masters,’ Bezuidenhout told Compleat Golfer in an exclusive interview from Georgia.
‘I don’t think you ever get used to playing at Augusta. When we drove down Magnolia Lane the other day, I was like a kid. The previous time I tried to make the most of it, because there were no spectators. It gave me the opportunity to just experience the course and figure it out. But now, fans are coming back so it’s not that overwhelming, which could be to my advantage.
‘Mentally, I’m at a very good place. Last year was a long year and the Masters was at the end of it all. Now it’s a bit earlier and the energy levels are a bit higher.’
The 26-year-old admits that he needed a break after last month’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, where he failed to get past the group stage.
A tight, difficult pairing in a different format awaited him in Texas where he suffered defeats to former Masters champions Patrick Reed and Bubba Watson.
A few days off and a clearing of the mind helped Bezuidenhout to get his approach back on track as he began his preparation for the Masters.
‘We regrouped after Austin, took a few days off and just chilled it out for a bit at our base in Orlando. Since then we’ve worked on a lot of things that weren’t quite right in Austin. Played practice rounds with Louis [Oosthuizen] on Sunday and Monday and it felt a lot better on the course.
‘It certainly helps that I’ve played here before. I’m not going into the week with a blind eye like I did last year. I have a better idea of what lies ahead of me. The greens are extremely firm and fast. It’s almost impossible to stop the ball on the green. So, it is much different than last year where you had a bit more control over stopping the ball on the green. It changes the game completely.’
Added to the buildup hype, Bezuidenhout has been paired with two Major winners in a group for the 2021 Masters. Sergio Garcia, who knows all about winning the Green Jacket and Webb Simpson, with a US Open title under his belt, will be the South African’s partners on Thursday and Friday.
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