AUGUSTA, Georgia: Nick Faldo is one of only three players who have claimed back-to-back Masters victories and he rates Adam Scott’s prospects of joining that illustrious group as “good” in this week’s edition.
Scott has enhanced his status as one of the game’s leading players with a superb run of form over the past year, but needs to avoid “getting wound up about defending” if he is to retain his Masters crown, according to Faldo.
“Adam’s chances of winning this week are good,” Faldo said outside the iconic clubhouse at Augusta National.
“He has been playing so well, he sounds good and he’s enjoying it all. It’s all about if he believes he has prepared well, prepared freely without too many obligations and what-have-you.
“If he’s not twitched up about it all, he will be delighted to get to that first tee tomorrow, I should think, and get on with it.”
Scott won last year’s Masters in a gripping play-off with Argentina’s Angel Cabrera, becoming the first Australian to claim the green jacket, and is among the favourites this time.
However, repeat wins at Augusta National are rare with only Jack Nicklaus, in 1965 and 1966, Faldo, in 1989 and 1990, and Tiger Woods, in 2001 and 2002, accomplishing the feat since the tournament was launched in 1934.
Asked why he thought the feat was so rare, Faldo replied: “I guess you really have to wind yourself up for it before Masters week. I was very fortunate in 1990.
“About a month before, I was practising in England and I suddenly said to myself: ‘I’m not going to defend. Just go and win another one.’ So rather than getting wound up about defending, make it a mission to go and win another one.
“And when I got here and got momentum, it was a real motivation in the playoff. I thought to myself: ‘I am not giving up my jacket. I’m not putting this on somebody else.’ It was really quite good for me in the end.”
Faldo won the 1990 Masters in a playoff with American Raymond Floyd, and felt that the stars had aligned perfectly for him that week.
“It was great for me in 1990,” smiled the former world number one. “A lot of things were going on and (caddie) Fanny Sunesson was brand new on the bag. She had done a couple of weeks with me through the Florida Swing and it was her first Masters.
“Unbeknown to me, that was really good for me because when we played practice rounds here, I was constantly saying: ‘Well, we’re going to be doing this and trying to do that, I want to do this and I don’t want that.’
“That helped with visualisation, helped me stay positive, and I had a really good weekend. I shot 66 on Saturday, the low round of the day, and 69 on Sunday playing with Jack (Nicklaus). It was like the stars were telling me I had a shot at this.”
Scott, who has climbed to number two in the world rankings, is well aware that he faces a stiff challenge in one of the most open Masters in decades.
“I certainly don’t think any of the (champion’s media and sponsor) responsibilities are so draining that it’s going to cost you having a good week out on the golf course. “In time, I’m sure more and more guys will (record repeat Masters wins), but at the moment, it’s only a few. I’d like to add my name to that list this week.”
Victor Dubuisson, who will become just the ninth French golfer to compete in the Masters at Augusta National this week, has chosen experienced English caddie Mick Doran to help chart his way around the famed course.
Having separated from regular Argentine caddie Sergio Palma after a disappointing 62nd-place finish at Doral last month, the expectations had been that the rising 23-year-old from Cannes would link up with Ernie Els’ old bagman, Ricci Roberts.
But instead, he has opted for Doran, who has worked previously with the likes of Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Darren Clarke and Trevor Immelman, who won the Masters in 2008.
In all, Doran has caddied at 10 Masters and has been involved in several Ryder Cup campaigns.
World number 21 Dubuisson, who clinched his spot in the Masters with a runner-up finish at to Justin Day at the WGC Match Play tournament in February, had never played Augusta National before arriving in Georgia and inside knowledge of the course is considered essential to having some success in the first of the year’s majors.
“Victor has the good fortune of having at his disposal a very good caddie who knows the course inside out, having caddied there a hundred or so times,” said Thomas Levet, whose 13th place in 2005 is the best-ever showing by a Frenchman at the Masters.
“Mick Doran knows the course perfectly well,” said the player’s coach, Benoit Ducoulombier. “That will reassure him somewhat.”
Dubuisson, who is now based in Andorra, arrived at Augusta on Sunday but was unable to get accquainted with the course on Monday due to the bad weather that forced the cancellation of practice in mid-morning.
Yesterday, with the better weather, he played the back nine in the afternoon and looked at the front nine Wednesday morning before playing in the annual Par-3 Contest.
Dubuisson has enjoyed a rapid rise up the world rankings in the last 12 months, lifting his maiden European Tour title at the Turkish Airlines event late last year before finishing third the following week in the DP Tour Championship in Dubai.
But it was at the Match Play event in Arizona that he really caught the eye with a spectacular performance in the final against Day, where he pulled off three consecutive “miracle” up-and-down saves from desert scrub and cactus plants to force extra holes.
He eventually lost at the fifth extra hole, but he had done enough to ensure member status on the PGA Tour for the rest of the year and almost certainly seal his place in the European Ryder Cup team for the matches against the United States in Scotland in September.
His magical shot-making also made him an instant worldwide hit on YouTube. This week’s Masters will be Dubuisson’s second major, having missed the cut as an amateur at the 2010 British Open at St Andrews.