The world of golf descends at the Masters Tournament for the 81st time this week. No matter your narrative of choice at Augusta National Golf Club, nothing will be undercovered, underreported or underrated. It pins all of the needles.
As it concerns the perspective on this page, as it is promised to warrant discussion throughout the week, conversation will stir around the delight and drought of first-time participants. Nineteen are in this year’s field of 94. The class doesn't disappoint, either. Jon Rahm, Tyrrell Hatton, Thomas Pieters and Tommy Fleetwood are among the notables attempting to join inaugural champion Horton Smith (1934), Gene Sarazen (1935) and Fuzzy Zoeller (1979) as champions in their debut.
POWER RANKINGS: Masters Tournament
RANK PLAYER COMMENT 1 Rory McIlroy 2 Dustin Johnson 3 Jordan Spieth 4 Rickie Fowler 5 Justin Rose 6 Phil Mickelson 7 Jon Rahm 8 Bill Haas 9 Paul Casey 10 Jason Day 11 Daniel Berger 12 Marc Leishman 13 Brandt Snedeker 14 Matthew Fitzpatrick 15 Lee Westwood 16 Tyrrell Hatton 17 Louis Oosthuizen 18 Hideki Matsuyama 19 Sergio Garcia 20 Fred Couples
No shortage of notables in Tuesday's Fantasy Insider, including two-time Masters champ Bubba Watson, 2013 winner Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Martin Kaymer and Justin Thomas.
The last two winners prevailed in just their second appearance. Jordan Spieth set the tournament record of 28 birdies en route to a four-stroke title in 2015. He cratered late in his title defense last year, clearing the way for opportunist Danny Willett, who won by three, albeit 13 strokes higher than Spieth the year previous. The Englishman's 5-under 283 was the highest winning aggregate in nine years (Zach Johnson, 1-over 289 in 2007). Overall, the field scored 74.421 on the par 36-36=72, also the highest average since 2007.
Wind thwarted red numbers as it will again this week, at least early. Cool and blustery conditions are forecast on Thursday and Friday. However, come the weekend, Mother Nature finally acquiesces. Sunshine and relative warmth will cover Augusta, Georgia. Winds will abate. It sets up to be spectacular.
The 36-hole cut is two-fold at the Masters. The low 50 and ties at the midpoint are guaranteed 72 holes, as are all golfers within 10 strokes of the lead. (The MDF provision does not apply at any of the majors.)
Other than experience personal to every golfer, there are no secrets at Augusta National. To make the cut and consider contending, competitors will need to score on the set of four par 5s. In last year's treacherous conditions, ANGC's par 5s yielded a scoring average of 4.76, which is higher than usual but still only 14th-most difficult of any course all season. Meanwhile, at 3.24, the par 3s ranked as the most challenging. The par 4s averaged 4.24, second-toughest of 2015-16.
In terms of course management, a right-handed draw is the proverbial favorite shot shape, but despite its 7,435 yards, elevation change in favor of the field and the absence of intermediate rough, the course is a second-shot track. Hitting greens in regulation and applying knowledge on the nuance of the speedy greens is most valuable. Last year, Augusta National rated as the most challenging in both three-putt avoidance and putts per GIR.
ROB BOLTON’S WRITING SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Columnist Rob Bolton will be filing his usual staples leading up to this week’s event. Look for the following columns this week.
MONDAY: Rookie Ranking, Qualifiers, Reshuffle, Medical Extensions, Power Rankings
TUESDAY*: Sleepers, Comfort Zone, Fantasy Insider
WEDNESDAY: One & Done
THURSDAY: Expert Picks (PGA TOUR Champions), Ownership Percentages in PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf and One & Done presented by SERVPRO
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks, which also publishes on Tuesdays.