MASTERS: New dad Rahm has work cut out ... How hard will Augusta play? ... Enjoy the Masters, you deserve it!

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It has been quite a week for Jon Rahm, who figured out how to hold a baby, change a diaper, and even had one day left to see Augusta National.

Luckily, he sounds like a fast learner.

“I had never changed a diaper in my life, apparently never really held a baby in my life, and as soon as it was my turn, somehow I knew what to do,” Rahm said.

Rahm and wife Kelley welcomed a baby boy into the world on Saturday, and the World No. 3 finally made it to the Masters on Wednesday morning. He’s going to have to use all of those natural instincts at an Augusta course playing firm and fast for the first time in his career. Rahm has an impressive three top-10s in four previous trips, but he has never seen the course like this.

They say that ignorance is bliss but they likely have never played Augusta National.

Kevin Kisner was born and raised a half-hour from Augusta, in Aiken, S.C., and figures he has played the course about 100 times. Even he was still trying to figure things out on Wednesday.

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“Still working a lot of pitch shots around the greens, just trying to get used to how firm the greens are and how the different shots are going to react,” Kisner said. “It’s going to be a big week on angles with how firm they are. It’s the real Augusta again. Looking forward to it.”

Rahm met with media on Wednesday before seeing the course, before even registering for the tournament.

“I haven’t been here since November, I mean, the course hasn’t changed,” Rahm said. “I might need to spend a little bit of extra time today hitting lag putts and hitting some chips because the last time we played here it was a little softer and slower, but tee to green it doesn’t really change much. Luckily I’ve played here before, and I always have a good vibe when I come here.”

Just guessing, but I don’t think having “a good vibe” is the treasured advice passed down from generation to generation during Masters Week.

“Again, some minor differences,” Rahm said. “I’m guessing because of how good the weather was, it might be a little bit firmer on the greens, which is a great thing. I’ve been looking forward to that.”

What Rahm has going for him is sublime talent, a wonderful touch around greens, and boundless confidence at this golf course. If he still has that confidence at the end of this week there could be a closet full of green jackets in his future.

HOW HARD IS IT?

Much of the pre-tournament talk has been about the difficult conditions players are expected to face this week.

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How hard will it be?

“I think the course is in the best condition I’ve ever seen it in the 20 years that I’ve been a member here,” Augusta National Chairman Fred Ridley said on Wednesday. “This is probably the first year probably going back to 2013 when we actually came into the week with the golf course playing firm and fast, as it is right now.”

Ridley said the course is playing much the way it was originally intended it to play.

“Bobby Jones said often he wanted to create an inland links course when he built Augusta National,” he said. “So when you think about that, we certainly don’t look like a links course because we have a lot of trees, but we can have the characteristics of a links course by having the ground play a big part in how the course is played, and that’s what we are trying to do.”

I asked Mike Weir about about the difference between a firm, fast Augusta and the one that players have seen more recently, especially last November. He said when it’s playing like it is this year, the angle of your approach shots into greens is supremely important, as is knowing where the flat spots are on the fairways.

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The example he gave was on the par-5 15th hole. Weir said if the hole is playing into the wind, or for whatever reason a player is forced to lay up, the smallest mistake or lack of knowledge can ruin your chances.

“If you lay it up to a number but leave yourself on a little bit of a downslope you might only have 80 yards in, but if you were five yards away on a flat lie the different between those two shots will be incredible,” he said. “If you’re on the downslope or the line isn’t perfect, your margin for error is so small compared to being on a flat spot or having a better angle. It’s the difference between having to play safe 25 feet away on an 80-yard shot or being able to take dead aim.”

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He said all of those little details are magnified in firm conditions.

“Those guys who have the experience and have put in the work to pay attention to those things, there’s a chance for some separation there,” Weir said. “Those guys who don’t pay attention to the details don’t have much of a chance.”

CHIP SHOTS

Let’s get to the fun stuff. Who do I like? Between the heavy favourites, there’s not much between them other than what you just read about Rahm, so pick your favourite. But in the mid-range odds I like Patrick Cantlay, Patrick Reed, Cam Smith and Paul Casey. When it comes to longshots, I liked what former World No. 1 Jason Day had to say about his quest to make it back to the top of the game, and the fact his back hasn’t been a problem in quite a while. Day also hits moon-shots with his irons which will help on firm greens, and has a wonderful short game … It’s great to hear the drone cameras from November are returning. They offered incredible shots of the entire property that give fans a far better perspective of what it’s really like at Augusta. There is also a new fly-cam at the 12th tee that should provide a new look at Amen Corner, perhaps the most special place in golf … The Masters is returning to video games through a partnership with EA Sports. The Road to the Masters is scheduled for release ahead of the tournament next year … I think we all deserve the Masters right now. Enjoy it.

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