Power Rankings: Masters Tournament
4 Min Read
Written by Rob Bolton @RobBoltonGolf
Driving down Magnolia Lane
Hmm, let’s see, what possibly could be going on this week?
Oh, yes, the Masters. It’s the 86th edition.
It’s also the first time a golfer from Japan is defending a title in a major. This is Hideki’s Matsuyama’s experience all the while he focuses on recovering from a sore neck. It remains to be seen if it will thwart his intent of beginning the tournament.
Speaking of which, as you hear the sound of the elephant in the room, it’s actually a Tiger; Woods, that is. Not only is he “a game-time decision,” as he alerted 6.6 million followers on Twitter, but he’s chasing his sixth Masters title in his return to competition. It’d be his first official competition since the 2020 edition in November of that year.
The pursuit of a sixth victory at No. 86? Why not! We’re familiar with a sixth victory in ’86. Hmm…
Deeper analysis can be found beneath the expanded ranking of projected contenders.
POWER RANKINGS: MASTERS TOURNAMENT
Joaquin Niemann, Sam Burns, Webb Simpson and former champions Adam Scott (2013), Patrick Reed (2018), Hideki Matsuyama (2021) and Tiger Woods (five times) will be among the notables reviewed in Draws and Fades.
Indeed, there is no shortage of storylines entering the first major of the season – there never is – but the most compelling narratives among the current are atypical. Then again, there’s been considerably less of anything as we used to define normal with respect to everything for a little over two years now. It’s just that the Masters feels like home. It’s the constant amid the chaos.
For many years, not all, Augusta National Golf Club has served as the convergence in the funnel of fantastic form for countless household names upon arrival. It’s the arena in which the best of the best vies for the best of bragging rights. This is not entirely that this year.
So many of the most recent winners on the PGA TOUR were first-timers, four of whom will be making their professional debuts at Augusta National. Luke List (Farmers) competed as an amateur in 2005. In the field of 91, 20 are legitimate debutants, including fellow recent breakthrough champions Tom Hoge (Pebble Beach), Sepp Straka (Honda) and J.J. Spaun (Valero). Lucas Herbert (Bermuda) and Talor Gooch (RSM) also are making their first appearance, but they recorded their first TOUR titles in the fall. By and large, give all Masters rookies at least one appearance to soak as much as they can in before elevating expectations to contend for the green jacket.
Scottie Scheffler is yet another recent first-time winner (WM Phoenix), but he’s also a second- and third-time winner since! So, yeah, this on-ramp en masse has been different.
Augusta National is a stock par 72 that is everything but stock. It’s one of the reasons why the challenge is so respected.
This year, the par-4 11th hole is 15 yards longer and can reach 520 yards, while the par-5 15th has been stretched 20 yards to tip at 550 yards. The aggregate length of the property on which there isn’t an even lie is 7,510 yards. That the club continues to find room for expansion without visual representation suggests that, one day, it might violate the laws of spacetime to lengthen the course, and no one would notice.
Last year’s scoring average of 73.064 was the highest since 2017. That doesn’t seem that relevant, but the previous pair of editions in April (2018, 2019) yielded more red numbers than usual. Because there were only six first-time participants here last year, of whom only three were professionals, inexperience can’t be blamed for the increased value of par. As it will do, the course bit back.
Yet, Augusta National is equitable. Distance off the tee plays for days, but the shortest route to the title isn’t exclusive to the longest hitters. So, finding the sizable greens on approach remains the tried-and-true premium on the second-shot test. Naturally, landing on the proper segments to eliminate three-putts is Priority 1a.
Lasered technology isn’t released to the public, so we are left with old-school analytics, but turning back the clock still works on this track.
Matsuyama averaged 12½ greens in regulation per round to rank T7 last year. He needed each of his field-high three eagles (all on par 5s) to prevail by one stroke, and even though he three-putted four times (once for par), he skirted big numbers by getting up and down for par 16 of 22 times (second-best in the field). He’s proof that the elite among the long-hitting ball-strikers are rewarded with their experience on challenging bentgrass greens for which Stimpmeter measurements are not disclosed.
If scoring is favorable in the opening round, it could be due to rain that falls on Tuesday and Wednesday. The SubAir system will be in operation. An extra layer of clothing also might be necessary for the entrants as the daytime high on Saturday will fight to eclipse 60 degrees. Pleasant conditions throughout are expected otherwise. Strong winds could be a factor before the cut falls, however.
The Masters possesses a unique cut of low 50 and ties after the conclusion of two rounds. (This is the third consecutive edition since the elimination of the 10-shot rule.)
The winner is exempt into the tournament for life. He’ll also extend his PGA TOUR membership to the maximum of five seasons (through 2026-27) and secure entry into the next five editions of the other three majors.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.com’s Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous perspectives. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
MONDAY: Power Rankings
TUESDAY*: Pick ’Em Preview, Sleepers
WEDNESDAY: Draws and Fades
SUNDAY: Medical Extensions, Qualifiers, Reshuffle, Rookie Ranking
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.