Golf's greatest tournament The Masters is back this week. From Thursday to Sunday, commentators will tell us about the gruelling mental challenge of taming Augusta. Think of Norman's front nine in 1996, McIlroy on 10 in 2011 or Speith on 12 in 2016: inevitably, each year, Augusta will mentally break a few of the world's best golfers. What punters at home don't often realise is just how physically demanding it is to win The Masters.
The eyes of the golf world will again be fixed on Rory McIlroy this weekend as he seeks the elusive green jacket which will allow him to complete the career Grand Slam. Augusta has tormented McIlroy over the years, so it's intriguing to see how McIlroy has tailored his physical preparation for the tournament over his career.
When it comes to fitness and conditioning, McIlroy is one of the most progressive golfers in the world. A Golf Magazine writer learned this the hard way last year when he attempted the Rory McIlroy workout right alongside Rory, only to be greeted by a training regimen that included lunges, lateral duck walks, dumbbell plank rows, rotation work, pull ups and much more.
While McIlroy will of course be working with his team to be sure his game is technically honed for the big weekend, he'll also need to get the physical side of Augusta right. What makes Augusta so unique from a conditioning perspective are the wild variations in elevation. Each player will walk at least 5.5 miles in normal round, but as Golf.com explained in an article last month, the real physical demands come up with the uphill and downhill climbs.
The roller coaster begins immediately with the noticeable drop from the first tee to the first fairway, followed by the trek back up to the first green, the highest point on the course. The second hole drops nearly 90 feet from tee to green, while the eighth hole goes in the opposite direction, climbing 72 feet from tee to green.
Players then continue to walk upward to the elevated ninth green and on to the 10th tee, where they stop briefly to don their skis: The dizzying drop from No. 10 tee to the 10th green is about 110 feet. The back nine is somewhat more humane, but still features notable ascents and descents, including the walk up to the 11th tee, the big drop to the green at 15, and the daunting uphill approach on the closer.
Speaking with TheMasters.com, McIlroy has shed some light on his physical preparation for The Masters. Rest and recovery are especially key, which explain why McIlroy took last weekend off and skipped the Houston Open to prepare for Augusta. He calls it the most physically-intense tournament on the golf calendar and says he has learned the value of energy conservation over the course of his career.
"It’s the toughest walk in golf, in my opinion. You feel it in your legs after you play. You’re logging at least two practice rounds, and then you have the walk up 18 to the green to finish each round. It takes a lot out of you. What I’ve learned over the years at Augusta National is that you can’t afford to wear yourself out early in the week. It’s part of the reason why I practice for the Masters the week before. That way, I don’t have to do as much prep work when I arrive for the tournament. It helps me conserve energy."
Judging by some of the trick shots he was playing yesterday, McIlroy seems to be in decent form ahead of what could be a defining weekend in his vaunted career.
— Rory McIlroy (@McIlroyRory) April 8, 2019