The world's top golfers are preparing for some of the toughest conditions experienced at the Augusta National this week.a
Only five months after Dustin Johnson shattered the course record with a 20-under par 268 in rain-softened conditions, the 85th Masters is set to get underway this week.
But golf's elite are expecting vastly different conditions with the Masters back in its typical April setting and serving up lightning-fast greens with firm fairways to roll balls into danger.
"With firm greens, this golf course needs to be respected," three-time Masters winner Phil Mickelson said.
"And I think it has been a long time since it has had to be respected."
Reigning US Open champ Bryson DeChambeau was one of the stars taken aback at the conditions.
DeChambeau, whose monster driving could benefit from the extra long rolls, said he could be focusing on his irons into the Augusta greens.
"I've never seen it this fast, this quick, this early, but I certainly love the challenge," DeChambeau said.
"We had a hole location on 17... if you just got it past the hole, it would roll off the front of the green. Literally it moves a dimple and it's gone."
Spain's Sergio Garcia, the 2017 Masters winner, admitted he has seen nothing like this ahead of his 22nd Augusta National.
"The greens are probably the fastest and firmest I've seen them on a Monday or Tuesday forever," he said.
"If we get lucky and the weather stays nice, it's going to be a challenging Masters.
"The way it's playing right now, there are some holes, some pin positions... some of them are almost impossible to get to."
Rory McIlroy also wrestles with conditions
Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy is looking to complete a career Grand Slam with a Masters victory.
But the Northern Irishman admitted the golfer who scrambles the best could fair well.
"Going to be a huge premium on accuracy, landing your golf ball on your numbers and being precise with your iron play," McIlroy said.
"The ball is not stopping so you're inevitably going to miss a few greens and scrambling is going to be key, too."
England's Lee Westwood, a runner-up at Bay Hill and the Players, is attempting to become the oldest Masters champions at the age of 47.
He said the conditions at Augusta might favour experienced golfers.
"It's a very strategic golf course, probably one of the most strategic, because a slight miss can really get you into a lot of trouble," Westwood said.
"You'll see people who have a lot of experience around here coming to the top of the leaderboard."
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