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Golf: From Nicklaus to Nicolas: Belgian gets Masters insight

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

A week ahead of his Masters debut, Nicolas Colsaerts could hardly believe his good fortune when he found himself sitting down for an hour's chat with 18-time major champion Jack Nicklaus.

The 30-year-old Belgian learned a few things about the formidable Augusta National layout from the legend who has won a record six green jackets, but also found he had discovered a few of the course's secrets on his own.

"When I spoke to Jack about the place, I felt like I had the place pretty good screened up for somebody that has never played here," Colsaerts said.

"So if you add some of the useful information he has given me, it has actually given me quite a confidence boost to see that I had the right eyes on certain parts of the golf course."

Colsaerts met Nicklaus last Friday at West Palm Beach, Florida, after being in a clubhouse when Nicklaus' son, Jack Jnr, walked in and was asked about his advice for first-time Masters starters.

"I would just talk to dad," he said.

The younger Nicklaus set up a meeting one hour later between his legendary father and Colsaerts.

"I felt pretty lucky," Colsaerts said. "In one hour we spoke about one thing. We pretty much spoke about every hole. He said a few pin positions and a few shots that you might need to hit and the ones you don't want to hit.

"Usually when you play courses, you don't really think about the shots you don't want to hit, not as much as here. Here it takes such a bigger part of your tactical approach to the course."

Colsaerts is among 17 players making their Masters debut this week at the year's first major championship, and he knows that no one has won the Masters on their first try since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.

"There's always a possibility," Colsaerts said. "But who really believes it?

"This place is very different than the others. You have to be very calm, very patient and take your pars most of the time. If you get your ball off-line from the tee, everything gets very, very complicated.

"You have to accept the fact that you are going to hit it in certain spots that you didn't really want to, and you're going to try to limit the damage."

Colsaerts, who shared seventh at last year's British Open, led the European Tour in driving distance last season and won the Volvo Match Play Championship on his way to booking a much-dreamed date at Augusta National.

"It's very special," he said. "You look on TV when you're young and you just can't wait to walk these fairways and experience it for yourself. It's the tournament for me. So I can't wait to see what I'm going to do in it."

Masters reality proved very different from what Colsaerts imagined.

"It's so much more subtle than I thought," he said. "You think that after watching it for so many years, you have an idea of what it's going to be like, but everything is accentuated by a thousand times.

"These greens are very different than anywhere else. Hit it on the wrong side of the hole and you're praying to have a 10-footer back. Local knowledge on these greens is a huge thing.

"You see this piece of land in front of you, how green it is, how clean it is everywhere, underneath the trees, I don't think there's any place like this."

Colsaerts is only the third Belgian to play in the Masters, the first since 1973.

It has been 40 years now since somebody from Belgium has walked these fairways," he said. "So I'm proud to do it."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130408/golf-nicklaus-nicolas-belgian-gets-masters-insight