Ian Woosnam made careful plans for the defense of his title in the 56th Masters.
He planned the champions dinner. "A typical Welsh meal, hare," he said.After an early arrival in the United States, he planned the same routine that resulted in a green jacket last year at Augusta: one big, get-it-out-of-the-way press conference; then nothing but practice, concentration on his game, no interruptions.
He had it all planned.
Woosnam, however, had not planned on the yips.
But he's got them - a full-blown case of them - and all the fears and nerves and indecisions and frustrations that go with golf's most dreaded putting malady.
And that affliction makes everything else secondary going into the start of his defense Thursday at the Augusta National Golf Club.
"I'd like to be able to make a reasonable defense. I'm a bit down," the 5-foot-4 Woosnam admitted.
So down, in fact, there was a hint he was even looking beyond the Masters to some future time when he may be more likely to contend in one of golf's major events.
"Maybe it'll all come right by the (British) Open championship," Woosnam said.
It is a far different situation, he said, than a year ago when he came in with such high hopes and expectations - expectations that were achieved with his round-about, one-putt par on the final hole.
His dramatic, one-stroke victory provided Woosnam with his first major-tournament title and a different set of golfing priorities.
It was not that his values changed, just his priorities.
Woosnam, for all his success, still projects the image of a Welsh workingman.
He still resides in Oswestry, the town in which he was born. He still frequents the same pub he did when working on his father's farm. He still lifts his pint with the same set of mates.
And, after his Masters victory a year ago, he passed up the traditional champagne toast to hoist a beer.
But the Masters victory changed his outlook on golf.
"After you win your first major, you see how important they are. You see what they really mean. That's what people look at. That's what people talk about," Woosnam said.
Those became his target.
With some $6 million in career earnings behind him, the little son of a Welsh farmer felt his financial future was secure.
With more than two dozen titles from around the world - from Hong Kong to Kenya, from Scandanavia to Scotland, from Monte Carlo to Maui - he had nothing left to prove in the week-to-week competition.
So he turned his attention to the majors, the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open and the PGA.
"I want to devote myself to the majors," said Woosnam, 34 and now in his 15th season as a touring pro.
"I want to win as many majors as I can. I want to use other tournaments as preparations for the majors," he said.
But Woosnam failed to become a factor in the U.S. or British Opens or the PGA last year and saw his game begin to slide just a bit late in the season.
"Me putting hasn't been right since the World Match Play (in October)," he said.
It did not improve in his first three starts of the season, in Bangkok, Dubai and Spain.
And it slipped even more in the two American tournaments he added to his schedule. He missed the cut at the Nestle Invitational. The following week in the Players Championship, he missed again, one-putting only three times in 36 holes.
"I fear taking the club back," he said. "I fear I'm going to miss it, and I pop my head up to see if I have missed it. I just need to see a few go in the hole."
But he hasn't, and the slump is wearing on him.
"It puts pressure on the rest of your game. You think you have to hit your irons next to the hole to have a chance," he said.
"It happens to everyone. It's happened to me. But before, it always lasted about a month. This has been longer.;;