Masters Week is obviously special for every golf fan. It holds an even more special place for me because of the time I was fortunate enough to call Augusta National Golf Club my place of employment. That look that every visitor gets as they enter the gates for the first time - that was me, every single day while I worked there. The work was hard and demanding, the hours were long and the expectations were high. Good enough was not good enough - being the best was the standard.
So when I was asked to contribute an article about this week's Masters for this week's "A Lesson Learned", it was an honor and great opportunity to offer a lesson not only based on a shot or putt, but based on my time spent on the hallowed grounds and my special feelings I have for this tournament.
It was - as always - a tremendous week in Augusta. From the inspirational play of 14-year old Tianlang Guan (amazing!), to us learning a new application of a rule to a dramatic and classy playoff between two great champions; this is a week that will stand out among many unbelieveable weeks at the Masters.
When you are watching the world's best players at the Masters, you are watching a culmination of the best talent, best minds, and best preparation. The one thing that people seem to forget about the Masters is, the name 'Masters' is a chosen name. The other three majors, all tremendous events of course, are named to describe what they are. The Masters was originally the Augusta National Invitational, but the name Masters was adopted as it was designed to identify the player who can master all aspects of their game. So I ask you, are you prepared to best 'Master' your game?
There are five basic components of golf, all of which come into play at the Masters, that I'd urge you to work on to get the best of your golf game in 2013.
First let's talk about fitness. If you've never been to Augusta National, you really can't develop a true appreciation for the elevation changes on the property. These golfers know that walking up and down these hills will be a test of their endurance as well as their golf games. How often have you had a good round going, and your swing tires out a little as you come to the closing holes. A little more endurance, strength and flexibility will help you play your best, I promise you.
With the events of the week, I'll simply say that it wouldn't hurt to brush up on the basic rules. Got a flight coming up? Waiting at the dentist's office? Perfect reading opportunity. No one expects you to be an expert but having a basic understanding could spare you some anxious moments while on the course. It's not a bad idea to carry a pocket rules book in your bag. The rules can actually help you more than you probably think. And knowing them can only help you understand all aspects of the game better.
Then there's equipment. Every player that showed up at this year's Masters had their equipment so finely tuned to their swing, they are going to have complete faith that their clubs can only help them play their best. You may not have access to a Tour truck, but you do have access to PGA Professionals that are trained to put you with clubs best for you. I would recommend you evaluate your clubs every single year.
Of course, I can't stress the importance of instruction enough. If you saw the range at Augusta National this past week, you saw virtually every player under the watchful eye of their instructor - someone who not only knows the basics of their swing, but also how to identify possible flaws before they become ingrained, how to put positive mental thoughts in their player and how to approach various scenarios so that you have a plan even before the situation presents itself. If you haven't had your swing looked at by a good PGA Professional, you're not optimizing your ability to play good golf.
Finally, golf is not a one-size fits all model and your preparation will depend on your skills and your talent. At Augusta, a player's course management skills are as equally important as the swing they bring to the course. Of course you need to know the right place to hit your shot, you also need to know the right place to miss your shot. Have you worked on your course management skills?
What you saw this week, from the best players in the world, was a perfect combination of these components. Adam Scott obviously performed the best of the field - but each and every player should leave Augusta proud of their effort and their game. If you work on these five components as your golf season kicks off, you'll feel much better about your game as well.
Michael Breed is the 2012 PGA National Teacher of the Year. He is the host of "The Golf Fix with Michael Breed' on The Golf Channel and the Director of Instruction at the Michael Breed Teaching Academy at Metropolitan Woods in New York.