“The first time, I found out what I mostly didn’t know, and that was that I didn’t know how to putt these greens. That was the first thing I had to learn,” said Nicklaus, who made his debut in 1959 and first won in 1963. “After a couple of years, I pretty well figured the greens and what I had to do.”
Bradley is one of a handful of players making their second appearance who could play their way onto this year’s Masters leaderboard. Webb Simpson (tie for 44th last year) is the reigning US Open champion; Michael Thompson (missed cut in 2008) finished a stroke behind Simpson at the US Open and already has a PGA Tour win this year; Kevin Streelman (missed cut in 2011) also has a win this season, at the Tampa Bay Championship in March.
Plenty of players have experienced marked improvement from their first Masters to their second. Nicklaus went from a missed cut to a tie for 13th; Tom Watson and Raymond Floyd from missing the cut to a tie for eighth. All three ultimately won a green jacket.
No Year 2 leap was greater than Schwartzel’s, who tied for 30th in his debut before winning. Now Bradley, Simpson, Streelman, and Thompson are trying to match the rare feat.
“I really feel like I know the course a lot better this year. I feel like I’m better equipped to contend this year than I would have last year,” Bradley said. “Every year you play here is a big advantage. I think it’s going to be a lot easier for me to contend in the tournament.”