PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 April, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 April, 2000, 12:00am

Like so many first-time Masters participants, British Open champion Paul Lawrie has found many surprises at Augusta National Golf Club.

'It is fabulous and beautiful. The course is much hillier than I thought. It is very hilly,' said 31-year-old Lawrie, whose only previous impressions of Augusta came from watching the Masters on television. 'The greens seem smaller than they look on TV.' Lawrie, who played a practice round with fellow Scot Colin Montgomerie on Monday, also said he was surprised by Augusta's notorious swirling winds.

'We were walking down the 11th and the wind was at us, and on the 12th it was against us - and they're right next to each other,' Lawrie said with a trace of wonder in his voice.

He said he had always dreamed of playing in the Masters when he was growing up, but never really expected to be playing in the fabled tournament.

'When I became a professional, I expected to be a club pro,' he admitted. But his playoff victory in last year's British Open at Carnoustie earned him an invitation to the Masters for five years.

Lawrie said he did not have any illusions about his chances in his first Masters. 'I just want to play one hole at a time and see what happens,' he said. 'A top-10 finish would be a good week.'