Commentary

Ready to tackle the big course Thursday

Originally Published: April 8, 2009
By Ryuji Imada | Special to ESPN.com

Hello again, everyone. Things have gone very well in my preparations since I last wrote.

Masters correspondent Ryuji Imada


Masters rookie Ryuji Imada will make his first stroll down Magnolia Lane as a competitor on Thursday. All week, the 32-year-old Tampa, Fla., resident will share his insights into being inside the ropes at Augusta National with ESPN.com.

Imada has one PGA Tour victory (the 2008 AT&T Classic) and has earned more than $6.5 million since joining the tour in 2005.

While attending the University of Georgia, Imada was a first-team All-American in 1999, leading the Bulldogs to their first NCAA championship. He was the runner-up in the individual competition.

Imada moved from his native Japan to Florida when he was 14 and captured his first junior tournament at 15.

Make sure to check back daily during the Masters for Imada's commentary on the year's first major championship.

Earlier diaries

• Something still to play for

• Pressure-packed 18th

• Thursday's frustrations

• Ready for Thursday

• Prep started in November

I'm really glad I was able to come in late last week and get comfortable, and not put pressure on myself to play an unnecessary amount. I feel very good about my play, as well as my comfort with the golf course and the challenge it will present.

None of us expected the abnormally cold weather we've had, especially on Monday and Tuesday. I played 14 holes Monday and nine holes Tuesday and Wednesday. With the wind blowing as much as it was, most of us played less than we normally would have because the conditions were different from what is expected during tournament competition.

As for my practice rounds, I played with Chad Campbell and Nick Watney on Monday. There are no set practice round times or pairings; some guys prearrange matches, but the majority just pick up a game on the range or at the chipping area.

I think, for the most part, we're all worried more about learning the golf course than about which players we're practicing with. For that reason, I went out by myself on Tuesday and played with Shingo Katayama on Wednesday. In addition to playing every day, I've spent some time on the chipping and putting greens.

As I mentioned earlier in the week, getting a feel for what types of shots will be most effective given the green firmness and slopes is very important. You'll see a variety of different shots around the greens this week: high flops, low bumps, putts, etc. What and when you'll see them will depend on what each player feels most comfortable doing that day, sometimes even that minute.

The golf course hasn't changed a whole lot since Monday. The greens are a bit firmer and faster, but not exponentially. I expect a bit more speed in the morning Thursday, and it'll be nice to get out quick and get the pace down early. The greens present an incredible putting and chipping challenge, and I enjoy being creative. Maybe you'll see some of that practice pay off on ESPN's coverage Thursday and Friday.

As many of you know, the Par 3 Contest was held Wednesday. The contest, which was really fun to be a part of, is one of many elements of Masters week that is unique. It gives families a chance to be involved, with kids caddying and hitting shots.

I had my wife, Kanae, carry the bag for me. We played with J.M. Singh and Soren Kjeldsen. The crowds were incredible and we had a great time. Jack, Arnie and Gary Player were a few groups behind me in the contest, which was cool. I'm a professional golfer, but I'm also a golf fan. I appreciate what those men have meant to the game, so it was great to see them competing and hitting great shots. And it was a nice way to end the week from a preparation standpoint. No holes-in-one for me this year, but maybe I'm just saving that for the big course. Let's hope so.

I got a great first-round pairing, with Mike Weir and Padraig Harrington. They're both major winners who have had success at this event in the past. There probably won't be a lot of back-and-forth chatter in our group because that's just not their personality. But they are great guys and great players.

On the eve of my first Masters, I'm relaxed and ready to go. I've done what I can to prepare myself, and now it's time to let it go. I promise all of you that I'll enjoy it and give it my best shot. I'm sure many will be watching in Japan very early in the morning, and I hope to give them a good show. Check back with you tomorrow.

Ryuji Imada joined the PGA Tour in 2005. You can visit his official Web site for more information.