The 80th anniversary of the Masters began with a meteorological bang, patrons being ushered off the premises barely two hours after the gates had opened. Some big weather, as they say in these parts, and the threat of lightning was enough to ruin first-day preparations.
Welshman Jamie Donaldson wondered what all the fuss was about. Born in Pontypridd, raised in Macclesfield, Donaldson is at one with a wet day. A year ago he could not get out of his Cheshire home for snow and ice, and had to prepare for his Masters debut on a computer console.
Having completed seven of his planned practice holes on the back nine on Monday, he was not overly discomfited, and no amount of falling water was going to dampen his enthusiasm for the week ahead, his eighth major championship.
“I got here on Sunday. I was just going to play nine holes, hit a few balls, get registered, get organised then go back to the house and chill out in the afternoon,” he said. “I only missed the last two holes, and the course is in great shape, so pretty happy so far.”
Donaldson is a man transformed since his first tournament win in Ireland two years ago. He brings some serious form into his second visit to Augusta, underpinned by the runner-up spot he secured at the prestigious WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral last month, which earned the 38-year-old temporary status on the PGA Tour.
There is none of the wide-eyed awe of a year ago, capped on the first day by a hole-in-one at the sixth, only the fifth ace at the dramatic, downhill par three. “Every time you come here it’s awesome, but the first time it’s like, wow, it’s the Masters, got to do this, got to do that, overpractise, play too much golf and before you know it you get to the first tee knackered.
“This year I’ve treated it like a normal event. I’m in good shape, playing well and feeling very comfortable in my own game. I’m looking forward to this week. Last year I was buzzing, bouncing off the walls, couldn’t wait to tee off. This year I’m much more settled and know the course better.”
Donaldson lost almost three years of his career to a back injury, but since returning on the Challenge Tour in 2007 he has seen the graph rise in his favour. Having taken 255 tournaments to register a victory at the Irish Open, he added a second in Abu Dhabi six months later to begin his climb toward the world’s top 30, the door to elite competition.
“I’ve always been pretty much a late developer in most things, really,” he said. “I left school before I could develop there so I had to play golf, really. It’s been up and down for me. Early doors started off pretty good and then I had a sort of big loss in the world for four years after injury, and then I just had to regroup and do things that worked.
“I’ve found something that was working and just kept doing it and kept getting better at doing it, and then here we are getting better, again, so I’m happy.
“I’m in a position now to contend in major tournaments. I’ve played a few now but I’ve not played that many. So it’s all experience that I have to keep working towards pushing doors open.”