Bryan feeling right at home at Experts despite 5-week layoff

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) Wesley Bryan believes the golf ball is somewhere in his house several miles from Augusta National.

It’ s probably in a cabinet or a closet. It still might even have Billy Andrade’ s pencil markings on it. The Former PGA Tour regular flipped the ball to Bryan a bit more than two decades ago during the Masters. Bryan was attending the event along with his dad and standing behind the No . 8 tee when Andrade singled him out.

It one of Bryan’ s first and fondest memories of the hallowed grounds.

” It went into the `my cool stuff drawer, ” ’ Bryan said Monday. ” Stuff that went into the `cool stuff drawer’ appeared to disappear over time when I moved a couple times and I first got married, so I’ m not sure exactly what ended up happening compared to that golf ball. But I bet it’ s somewhere. If I looked very difficult, I could find it. ”

If not, he should be able to able to replace it this week with better memories from golf’ s first major of the year.

The 28-year-old Bryan will make his Masters debut a year after his first tour victory, at the RBC Heritage in his home state of South Carolina.

How did the former trick-shot artist prepare for it? Partly by watching YouTube videos, naturally.

” Going back and seeing how guys play the course on Sunday, ” he said.

Bryan also took a five-week break from the tour schedule to grind out practice rounds in Augusta.

He played about a dozen times at Augusta National – shooting under par each time – with local caddies sharing their knowledge of the course’ s ultra-slippery greens. He also played nearby at Forest Hills and Bartram Trail, where he lipped-out a putt for a 59 at the final hole three weeks ago.

” I’ ve never been one to play my way into form, ” Bryan said. ” I’ m one of those guys, I kind of know what I got to do to get better and I don’ t need tournament golf to round me into form. So I’ ve been working very difficult these last five weeks. It’ s definitely not been a vacation by any stretch. Probably worked harder than I’ ve ever worked in my entire life to get ready for this one event. ”

A few of his best golf followed lengthy layoffs. He won for the very first time on the Web. com tour in 2016 after a five-week hiatus and was victorious at the Heritage following a two-week break.

He’ s hoping the latest reprieve will lead to better results than he experienced during nine events between October 2017 and February 2018. Bryan missed the cut the last 3 x out and finished no greater than a tie for 27th.

” It’ s been nice living just a few miles later on and being able to get over here and play a few practice rounds and obtain a little more comfortable on the course and learn all the little nuances, ” he said.

Bryan has gained so much confidence lately that he even started having some fun during practice rounds at Augusta.

The guy who turned trick shots into paychecks a few years ago with the help of his older brother, recreated some of the Masters’ most memorable winning shots.

He tried Mark O’ Meara’ s 18-footer at No . 18 in 1998. That he lined up Phil Mickelson’ s 20-footer at the final hole in 2004, a putt that gave Lefty his first major championship. That he got as close as possible to attempting Padraig harrington ‘ improbable chip shot for birdie at 16 in 2005 that helped him enter a playoff (and eventually beat) Chris DeMarco. He even walked down to the spot (340-plus yards off the tee) on the par-4 10th where Bubba Watson purposely snap-hooked his second shot from the trees and landed it on the green to beat Louis Oosthuizen in a playoff in 2012.

” That’ s hopefully not a place that I’ ll be, ” Bryan said. ” I don’ t think I can even obtain it down there even if I wanted to. ”

Where that he wants to be is in contention Sunday. It’ s a lofty goal for anyone in his first Masters and especially for someone who hasn’ t played his best in 2018. But given his knowledge of the course and being at home, Bryan feels like he has a chance to come away with a souvenir superior to Andrade’ s golf ball.

” It’ s not like entering the tournament I’ m among the front-runners to win, ” said Bryan, a 400-1 long shot. ” I might be one of the local guys, but I’ ve sort of got the chip on my shoulder a little bit seeing some of the odds to win. I would like to think, personally, that I have a little better odds than that. ”