Masters champion Danny Willett admits he struggled to adjust to the pressure of being a Major winner following his breakthrough triumph at Augusta 12 months ago.
Willett has endured a prolonged slump since donning the Green Jacket, with just three top-five finishes and no wins from his subsequent 23 appearances.
The Yorkshireman has shown few signs of reversing that trend ahead of his return to the Masters, with two missed cuts and only one top-30 performance in six events.
“There is more pressure as a Major champion. You’ve achieved the greatest height in your game. You have got to the pinnacle. You’ve climbed Everest and you’ve put your flag in,” he said.
“Unfortunately, you’ve got to either climb down or stay up there, and it’s incredibly difficult to stay up there all the time. The pressure has been more from myself. It’s not a nice feeling to not hit good golf shots when you know what you can do. I think the last 12 months has made me a little more impatient.”
Willett, meanwhile, has been grouped with US Ryder Cup mainstay Matt Kuchar and Australian amateur Curtis Luck for his opening round on Thursday.
Three-time Major winner Rory McIlroy is to begin his quest for Masters redemption alongside Spanish rising star Jon Rahm and Japan’s Hideto Tanihara.
Favourite Dustin Johnson is part of an all-American trio also comprising two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson and Jimmy Walker, while Olympic champion Justin Rose is set to play alongside world No3 Jason Day and Brandt Snedeker in another high-profile group.
Former Green Jacket winner Jordan Spieth is with England’s Matt Fitzpatrick and German Martin Kaymer, while the fancied Rickie Fowler and Hideki Matsuyama are joined by US-based Scot Russell Knox.
Erstwhile European Ryder Cup team-mates Sergio Garcia, Shane Lowry and Lee Westwood form another group.
Young Englishman Tyrrell Hatton is to play alongside Open champion Henrik Stenson and Argentinian veteran Angel Cabrera, who won at Augusta in 2009.
Selected first round tee-times (BST)
3:12pm Russell Knox, Rickie Fowler, Hideki Matsuyama
3:34pm Jordan Spieth, Martin Kaymer, Matt Fitzpatrick
3:56pm Brandt Snedeker, Justin Rose, Jason Day
5:24pm Danny Willett, Matt Kuchar, Curtis Luck
5:46pm Angel Cabrera, Henrik Stenson, Tyrrell Hatton
6:19pm Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Shane Lowry
6:41pm Rory McIlroy, Hideto Tanihara, Jon Rahm
7:03pm Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Jimmy Walker