The 77th Masters
Augusta National Golf Club
Augusta National Golf Club
Par: 72 (36-36)
Greens: Bentgrass; 6,486 square feet on average
Rough: perennial ryegrass playing at 1.38”
Water Hazards: 6
Course Architect: Alister MacKenzie and Robert Tyre Jones, Jr., (1933)
Purse: $8,000,000 (2012)
Winner’s Share: $1,440,000 (2012)
FexExCup Points: 600 to the winner
Defending Champion: American Bubba Watson defeated South African Louis Oosthuizen in a two-hole playoff to win his first green jacket and first major.
Dates: April 10-13
Notes: Darren Clarke WD on Monday with hamstring injury so the field will play 31 threesomes Thursday and Friday to accommodate 93 players.
As a bonus, Rob Bolton will be hosting a live chat during the final round of the Masters. (Despite how weather has dogged the PGA TOUR this year, we'll go ahead and assume that will be on Sunday.) The time of the chat will depend on tee times, but count on around lunchtime to settle in.
Come share your fantasy misery; come share your joy. We can all be together as one, big, happy, dysfunctional fantasy golf family on this special afternoon!
This is the 77th edition of the Masters
The only players to defend their titles over the years are Jack Nicklaus (1965-66), Sir Nick Faldo (1989-1990) and Tiger Woods (2001-2002).
No Australian player has ever won this tournament.
Jose-Maria Olazabal (1999) is the last European to win the Masters.
Nick Faldo (1996) is the last Englishman to win the Masters.
Mike Weir is the only Canadian to win the Masters.
Angel Cabrera is the only South American (Argentina) to win the Masters.
Since 1994 (Olazabal), the first-time major winners include Mike Weir (2003), Zach Johnson (2007), Trevor Immelman (2008), Charl Schwartzel (2011) and Bubba Watson (2012). Four first-time winners in the last six years are quite interesting.
Tiger Woods is the only multiple winner on TOUR in 2013.
Wednesday is the Par-Three Tournament. Nobody has ever won the Par -Three title and the Green Jacket.
Rank and File
According to the OWGR, 54 of the top 58 players are entered this week.
Augusta National Golf Club was built in the early 1930’s by Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie on the old Fruitland Nurseries. Jones wanted to create a tournament where the greatest players annually graced the grounds and a place where golf could be played at its highest level, not at its most difficult. The course has been set up to reward players that play aggressive, scoring golf. To win the Masters, you must do just that, win it. There are too many opportunities on the back nine to par it into the clubhouse. Birdies will be made, balls will find Rae’s Creek and there will be drama on Sunday, just as Jones envisioned 77 years ago.
Mark Twain once remarked something to the effect that golf is a good walk spoiled. I would venture to guess he’s never been to Augusta. It’s gorgeous and I will never forget my one trip to the hallowed grounds. Sure, it was just a practice round, but heck, I’m just a fantasy golf writer! The green grass is immaculate and there isn’t a blade out of place. The course is hilly and the greens undulating. The players will have to use just about every shot in their bag this week if they are going to don the Green Jacket.
Reading every article, quote and tweet and the same truisms keep coming through loud and clear: Players must have course knowledge, short game magic and they must be able to have the confidence and skill to putt lightning quick and undulating bentgrass greens. Augusta, with its light “first cut” will play as a second-shot course. Some of those shots are blind while some are draws and others are fades. Players who are a bit wild off the tee will still have plenty of chances to hit GIR and those who don’t must be able bump-and-run, flop, hybrid, putt, pitch, check-and-spin their way to the hole. Hitting the green is the first battle.
The players who have been around the block will know which pins to attack and which pins to leave alone. The young and fearless might be sucked in to locations that look great but, if they miss, might find themselves in more trouble than it’s worth. You will also here over 100 times this week that “it breaks towards Rae’s Creek, the lowest spot on the course.” I know this. You know this. The first-timers and young’uns don’t always trust it; the veterans do. The veteran players at Augusta won’t let the slight misreads ruin his day.
I’m looking for guys who are premium ball-strikers, slick-green putters and short game sensationalists. You must have one of these three traits plus the ability to take advantage of the par-fives and have experience around these parts. Current form will have more of an influence in long-shots selections but guys who play well here and are playing well are welcomed!
Let’s see who makes the list.
The One Plus 11 More
Tiger Woods: Last year was his worst finish, T40, since his maiden voyage in 1995 when he finished T41. In the other 16 events he’s played here he’s won five times and hit the top 10 a staggering 12 times. He’s never missed the cut. His wedges are dialed in. His putter is heating up. He’s won three times already in 2013. He’s long, strong, and his short game is in out of this world. He dominates par fives. Mother Nature might be the only force to slow him down this week. Green Jacket No. 5 on the way.
Phil Mickelson: Since 1995 as well, Mickelson has three green jackets and 14 top 10 finishes. His worst finish in that time is T27 in 2011. He’s never been cut. He finished T3 last year with TWO triples! TWO! He sets his entire spring schedule around peaking for this event and it has shown to be the right formula over the years. Mickelson will relish the challenge with the healthy Woods.
Justin Rose: His three stroke-play events this season have resulted in finishes of T4, T8 and second. He’s seven-for-seven at Augusta and has finished T11 (2011) and T8 in his last two starts here. Another horse in the stable of Sean Foley, Rose has been excellent in WGC and major fields over the last few years. He’s looking to become the first Englishman to win here since Faldo.
Rory McIlroy: Some will tell you his second place finish last week means absolutely nothing because he didn’t win. I’ll agree that he’s not firing on all cylinders but what the hell is wrong with 66 on Sunday ANYWHERE? Some people are quite hard to please. If he hits 78.6% GIR on Sunday this week, he’ll be in the conversation around 6 pm. At least he won’t have to answer questions about winning the week before Augusta. He is having his lady friend caddy for him in the par three. If he wins THAT, we’ll all know he has NO CHANCE of winning this week.
Adam Scott: He’s lightly raced, just as most years heading into the first major at Augusta. His ball-striking has been his calling card as he’s made nine of 11 cuts here. He finished T8 last year, T2 in 2011 and T18 in 2010 so he’s found early season balance and knows his way around this track. He should have won his first major last year at The Open but we all know how that ended. His worst finish in a major last year was T15 so you know where he’s the most focused.
Lee Westwood: For a guy who supposedly has a suspect short game and cannot putt, Westwood has fared pretty well over the years around these parts. He has been working over the last few years to get more consistent around and on the greens and he is also looking for that first major. Time is running out as not many guys start bagging majors in their 40s and Westwood turns that magic number in two weeks. The Englishman will be playing in his 14th Masters and has made six straight cuts. The last three years he’s finished T3, T11 and second.
Louis Oosthuizen: Before his P2 last year, Oosthuizen had never shot lower than 73 in his first six rounds around Augusta. The 2010 Open Champion scrambles it, stripes it and showed last year that he knows he has the game to add another major to his trophy cabinet. His 65-70 finish at SHO shows his game is rounding into shape and South Africans have had successes on this track.
Ian Poulter: We are constantly reminded how well he plays in match-play format but gamers have been waiting for Poulter to take center stage in the majors. We had a taste last year as he finished seventh here, T9 at The Open and T3 at the PGA. He’s hit the top 10 here two of the last three years and has no problem on or around the greens so I’m back on board in 2013 as well.
Dustin Johnson: Last year he missed Augusta with a back problem but this will be his fourth start in the last five years. He finally broke into the 60s in 2011 with a second round 68. His length never hurts and his short game has been significantly improved since he’s sought out Butch Harmon as his coach. After winning the season opener at HTOC, Johnson cooled off as his love life heated up. He’s found a way to manage both now evidenced by his T12 at WGC-Cadillac Championship and T4 his last time out, including 65 on Sunday at SHO.
Charl Schwartzel: The 2011 champion will be happy that the spotlight is not on him this week as defending champion so he can go about his business as usual. He admitted in interviews that being the defending champion was a distraction and it affected his game last year. He’s proven that he can handle the speed of these greens and is a fantastic putter (T11 total putting). After seven straight major finishes of T18 or better, Schwartzel’s best finish of 2012 was just T38. I look for him to rebound this week on a course that suits his game.
Matt Kuchar: His T3 finish last year proved to me that he knows what it takes to compete here on the weekend. If you remember, on Sunday, he lipped out a few putts on the back nine that would have had him in or around the playoff. His short game has been on point this year and after winning THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP and WGC-Match Play in the last 11 months, he should feel the confidence on the big stage this week.
Bubba Watson: Last year, Watson bought the General Lee, rocked out with the Golf Boyz and adopted a baby before winning the Masters. This year, he’s cruising around in a new hovercraft, bought Tiger Woods’ old house, rocked out with the Golf Boyz AND is in the process of adopting another kid. Ok, then! He’s made five cuts this year and his worst finish in those events is T18. His worst finish in the last 16 months, where he’s made the cut, is T33. He’s said he’s physically and mentally in the right place. I’m not counting him out. Sounds like he’s in a happy place!