AUGUSTA, Ga. (Reuters) - The course set-up for this week's Masters is shaping up to be fast and firm, a stark contrast from last November and one that three-times champion Phil Mickelson says will command respect.
Much is often made of Augusta National's fast, undulating greens, which during practice rounds this week have been much harder and faster than last year when soft conditions allowed players to fire at flagsticks without much fear of consequence.
"I would say for the last decade, the greens here are in the top 25 percent of softest we play on tour, and the golf course's only defence is the greens, right," Mickelson said on Tuesday in his pre-tournament news conference.
"So when the greens are firm, the precision, the course management, the angles, the leave where the ball is left, all of this stuff becomes incredibly important in your ability to play this course effectively."
Mickelson said the world's best players are so precise in their ability to fly the golf ball the correct yardage with every club that angles no longer matter when they are playing on a course with receptive greens.
"It's like having a military and then not giving them any weapons, right. It's defenceless," said Mickelson.
"So with firm greens, that's the defence. It's not like we have -- there's no U.S. Open rough here. There's no tight fairways. The defence is the greens, right."
Mickelson, who arrives at the year's first major fresh off a missed cut at last week's Texas Open, has no issue with a course playing to its potential and feels major championships should challenge the game's top players to strategise each shot.
"It's really a hard job to set a golf course up right, because you're always trying to find a line and not crossing it and it's a tough thing to do," said Mickelson.
"But I think with firm greens, this golf course needs to be respected, and I think it's been a long time since it's had to be respected."
(Reporting by Andrew Both; Writing Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Ken Ferris)