Horses for Courses: Masters
April 09, 2019
By Mike Glasscott, PGATOUR.COM
- Jordan Spieth's final-round 64 last year helped him to a 3rd place finish. (Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
A field of 87 gathers at Augusta National Golf Club for the first major of the season. In 1932 Bobby Jones and Dr. Alister MacKenzie transformed Fruitland Nurseries into one of the most revered courses in the game. The course and tradition have stood the test of time and the famous Green Jacket will be donned again by the winner this week.
The first major course change this decade comes at the par-4 5th hole. A new tee box extends the hole by 40 yards to max out at 495.
The par-72 is set up for scoring, on the scoring holes that is (read: par-5 holes) and almost touches 7,500 yards.
The undulation on the greens and the change of elevation tee-to-green make this a full examination of shot and decision making.
The bentgrass greens will run at tournament speed and will test even the most expert green readers.
With the second cut playing less than two inches recovery shots, and decisions, will have to be made. Remember, this is the major that takes winning, not surviving, because of how the back nine is set up.
Finding the proper tier and landing area will reward with makeable birdie putts. Everyone else will be lagging or chipping to grind out pars.
Patrick Reed will look to join Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods as the only players to defend their title. The field is the smallest since 1997 and 18 first-time players will tee it up for a chance at a prize pool that will approach or exceed $13 million (to be determined). Reed took home $1.98 million and 600 FedExCup points last year.
Of the last eight green jacket winners, seven have picked up their first major championship by navigating a deep field and this historic track.
Patrick Reed (2018): Playing in the final group with Rory McIlroy, he shook off early jitters to defeat Rickie Fowler by a shot. Cool weekend temperatures and light wins saw him post 273 (-15) as he made his three-shot 54-hole lead stand up.
Notables: Reed made 22 birdies to lead the field. ... Jordan Spieth posted 64 on Sunday to finish third, his fourth podium in five appearances. ... Henrik Stenson (T5) and Louis Oosthuizen (T12) joined Reed as the only players to put all four rounds under-par.
Sergio Garcia (2017): The 19th-time was the charm for the Spaniard as he defeated Justin Rose on the first playoff hole. It was only his second top-10 paycheck since 2004 as he joined Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal in the Spanish Armada of green jacket winners. His ball-striking clinic and clutch putting saw him share the 36-hole lead with Fowler and 54-hole lead with Rose.
Notables: Gusty conditions early in the tournament saw 67 as the low round of the weekend. ... Garcia and Rose were the only two players to put all four rounds in the red. ... Fowler (76) and Spieth (75) played in the penultimate group and both cashed T11. ... Charley Hoffman posted the first round lead with the low round of the week, 65.
Danny Willett (2016): The Englishman joined the "second time" club (Charl Schwartzel 2011, Jordan Spieth 2015) as he posted 283 (-5) and won by three. He also joined Nick Faldo as the only English winners. His masterful, bogey-free 67 on Sunday saw him come from three shots off Spieth's 54-hole lead.
Notables: Spieth's water troubles on No. 12 saw his streak of leading after the conclusion of play end at seven consecutive rounds. Only five players have gone wire-to-wire as he did in 2015 and almost did in 2016. ... The last player to overcome a three-shot deficit was Bubba Watson in 2012 as he chased down, caught and beat Louis Oosthuizen in a playoff. ... The last European to win was Jose Maria Olazabal in 1999.
Key stat leaders
Golfers around the top 25 in each statistic on the 2018-19 PGA TOUR are listed only if they are scheduled to compete this week. This is the 25th event of the season.
* - Finished inside the top 10 since 2010
Greens in Regulation
1 *Matt Kuchar
2 Charles Howell, III
3 Corey Conners
4 *Tiger Woods
5 Gary Woodland
8 Justin Thomas
10 *Rory McIlroy
15 Emiliano Grillo
16 *Ian Poulter (T6, 2015, 7 2012, T10 2010)
16 Patrick Cantlay
20 *Paul Casey
22 Xander Schauffele
23 *Hideki Matsuyama (5 2015, T7 2016, T11 2017)
24 *Jason Day
25 *Dustin Johnson
1 Justin Thomas
2 Bryson DeChambeau
3 Gary Woodland
5 *Paul Casey
5 *Adam Scott
5 Xander Schauffele
5 *Matt Kuchar
12 Si Woo Kim
12 Brooks Koepka
12 *Bubba Watson
15 *Ian Poulter
15 *Tony Finau (T10 debut 2018)
15 Keith Mitchell
23 *Jon Rahm (4th 2018)
23 *Sergio Garcia
26 *Marc Leishman (9th 2018, T4 2013)
Strokes Gained: Putting
4 *Jason Day (two podiums and T10 2016)
8 *Rickie Fowler (see above)
11 *Brandt Snedeker
13 *Dustin Johnson
14 *Adam Scott
14 Charles Howell III
17 *Cameron Smith (T5 2018)
19 Xander Schauffele
22 Stewart Cink (first appearance since 2014, T3 2008)
23 Francesco Molinari
Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green
1 *Rory McIlroy
3 *Hideki Matsuyama
4 Justin Thomas
5 *Dustin Johnson
6 Tommy Fleetwood
7 Corey Conners
8 Gary Woodland
9 *Tiger Woods
10 Patrick Cantlay
11 *Matt Kuchar
14 *Paul Casey
16 Xander Schauffele
17 *Jon Rahm
19 Keegan Bradley
23 Keith Mitchell
24 *Bubba Watson
25 *Sergio Garcia
26 *Justin Rose
Levels of Confidence
Champs (not listed above)
Tiger Woods: Has any other course been "Tiger-Proofed"? The four-time champion (1997, 2001, 2002 and 2005) doesn't need much of an introduction at this point but he's healthy for the first time since 2013 when he was T4. His stroke average is 70.93 and his only MC in 21 starts was as an amateur in 1996. We know what happened the following year. It's why we're all employed!
Jordan Spieth: The only player ever to reach the milestone of 19 under, Spieth should probably have at least three green jackets from his five starts. No. 12 has baked his chicken more than once but his scoring average is still 70.05. His 28 birdies in 2015 are the record and 13 of his 20 rounds are in the red. In five attempts his worst finish is T11.
Phil Mickelson: Lefty went through ups-and-downs before finally cracking the code at age 34 in 2004. He added two more titles in 2006 and 2010 and a pair of podiums over his last seven tries. Over the years he's racked up 15 top-10 paychecks from 26 starts while MC just three times.
Bubba Watson: The 2012 and 2014 champion continued the left-handed tradition that Mike Weir started in 2003. The mercurial Watson is known in fantasy land for being a factor when he's invested or an event has his full attention. He picked up his first top-10 finish (T5) last year outside of his two wins although he's made nine of 10 cuts.
Adam Scott: No point over-thinking the only Australian to win as he's cashed 15 of 17 weekends with five top-10 finishes.
World No. 1 Justin Rose has long-time looper Mark Fulcher back on the bag this week after he recovered from heart surgery. Rose has never packed up early (13 of 13) and has cashed T14 or better the last five years. He will look to continue his streak of 72 or better, which is now at nine consecutive rounds.
World No. 2 Dustin Johnson hasn't posted a round above 73 in his last three visits, all top-10 paychecks (T6, T4 and T10 last year). Remember, he was the favorite in 2017 before falling down the stairs and WD before the event began.
World No. 3 Rory McIlroy has plenty of scar tissue and demons to exorcise but his last five starts here are T8, fourth, T10, T7 and T5 last year from the final group. Toss in his 80 on Sunday in 2011 and he knows exactly what NOT to do here. A win gives him the career grand slam.
Paul Casey and Matt Kuchar are a pair of 40-somethings that will look to join Hogan, Snead, Player, Nicklaus, Crenshaw and O'Meara in that exclusive club. The Englishman broke a streak of top-10 finishes last year with T15 but he did it in style with 69-65 to close. Kuchar has collected T8 or better in four of his last seven.
Jon Rahm has proven to be a quick study everywhere and ANGC isn't the exception to the rule. Last year he played the final 54 holes in 14-under and finished fourth in his second appearance.
Brandt Snedeker has been in position on Sunday twice here without getting it over the finish line. He's cashed in eight of 10 trips and has painted the top 10 three times.
Jimmy Walker arrives for the sixth consecutive season and has never gone home early. In those five starts he's collected T29 or better in four of them.
A familiar name early in proceedings, Charley Hoffman's next step is to make it translate into the weekend. Like Walker, he's never missed in five tries and six of his 20 rounds are in the 60s.
Last year's T5 saw Henrik Stenson pick up his first top-10 accolade in 13 trips.