By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy Columnist
The early spring of 2012 rendered Augusta National Golf Club devoid of its usual vibrancy. No worries. With his trademark colorful kwan, Bubba Watson wielded a pink driver en route to victory in the latest of memorable Masters. That 53-degree wedge from the trees in the playoff served as his signature. There was no question that he fulfilled the spirit of the 76th edition.
A sub-headline to the left-hander's breakthrough in a major is that Augusta National played its most difficult in four years. The field posted a scoring average of 73.50 that included a 74.43 clip during a breezy second round. After the cut (which allows the low 44 plus ties and all golfers within 10 strokes of the 36-hole lead to complete the tournament), the third- (72.94) and final-round (72.87) scoring averages also checked in as the highest post-cut since 2007 and 2008, respectively.
Augusta National isn't so much a challenging track as it is one that requires experience and the proper gameplan upon arrival. Picking up par breakers on the par 5s is always essential. Watson went 8-under (averaging 4.50) with nine birdies, six pars and a bogey on the quartet of par 5s (holes 2, 8, 13 and 15). Overall for the field, the par 5s averaged 4.72.
The par 4s served as the primary challenge as they do every year. Augusta National ranked T2 among all courses played in 2012 on the par 4s at 4.20. The par 3s averaged 3.14, tied for seventh-most difficult last year.
The greens are where the contenders are separated from the hopefuls. In 2012, Augusta National relented a greens-in-regulation percentage of just 60.08, 12th-lowest on the PGA TOUR. Its scrambling split was 51.82 percent, which was seventh-lowest. Tack on three-putt percentage of 4.88 (second-highest) and putts per GIR average of 1.835 (also second-highest) and it's easy to understand why Fuzzy Zoeller is the most recent champion in his first appearance in 1979.
A reasonable chance for rain and thunderstorms exists on Thursday and Friday during which the wind is expected to blow. Gradually cooling temperatures will extend into a mostly dry weekend when the highs may not hit 75 degrees. Scoring should improve post-cut as well as winds are forecast to abate.
NOTE: For similar characteristics among recent winners at Augusta National, please look for "Stats Suggest" in The TOUR Report on Wednesday.
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