The First Look: Masters Tournament
April 04, 2019
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM
- April 04, 2019
- Patrick Reed is the defending champion at the Masters. (David Cannon/Getty Images)
THE PLAYERS Championship winner Rory McIlroy, now carrying momentum to complete the career Grand Slam, is joined by defending FedExCup champion Justin Rose and current leader Matt Kuchar among nearly a dozen top names eyeing a Green Jacket to augment their wardrobe.
Brooks Koepka, winner of last year’s U.S. Open and PGA Championship, comes to Augusta National with a chance to hold three major titles at once. Dustin Johnson, No. 9 in the FedExCup, also seeks a first Masters victory, while Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson hope to add one more in their 40s.
FIELD NOTES: The expected roster stands at 86 names, which would be the smallest at Augusta National since the 1997 edition drew the same number. Last year’s turnout was 87 players, with the late addition of Ian Poulter, who won the event the week prior to the Masters. … Likewise, one final berth is open this week for the Valero Texas Open winner, if not already qualified. … Ireland’s Shane Lowry and South Africa’s Justin Harding, both winners during the Middle East part of the European Tour schedule, gained berths at last Monday’s final cutoff for the rankings' top 50. … Denmark’s Lucas Bjerregaard, who reached the final four of the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play, is among 16 entrants set to make their Masters debuts. Also among this year’s newcomers: 2018 PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year Aaron Wise and The Honda Classic champion Keith Mitchell.
FEDEXCUP: Winner receives 600 points.
STORYLINES: The spotlight shines brightest on McIlroy, whose win at THE PLAYERS capped a run in which he has yet to finish lower than sixth in any 2019 stroke-play event. This is his fifth try at fulfilling the career Grand Slam since taking the third leg at the 2014 Open Championship. … Johnson has won twice worldwide this year, telling friends he’s feeling his best since before the 2017 slip-and-fall that forced him to withdraw on Masters eve. … Woods makes his second Augusta start since a two-year injury layoff, with just one finish outside the top 20 but yet to get into Sunday contention. He owns two top-15s this year, plus a quarterfinal run at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. … Mickelson, 48, tries again to eclipse Jack Nicklaus’ 1986 win for the oldest champion in Masters annals. Lefty won at Pebble Beach as part of a strong West Coast Swing, but has tailed off since the schedule moved eastward. … Defending champion Patrick Reed is looking to become the fourth back-to-back winner in Masters history. He has yet to record a top-10 finish anywhere in the world in 2019.
COURSE: Augusta National Golf Club, 7,475 yards, par 72. The former tree nursery dates back to 1930 and has been nurtured over time into one of golf’s grand stages. Bobby Jones and co-designer Alistair McKenzie unlocked a timeless routing, with tweaks made annually as needed. An expansion era stretched the course four times from 1999-2006, but major changes have largely given way to more subtle revisions. One change made this year was to the par-4 fifth hole, measuring 40 yards longer. It now stands at an uphill 495 yards that doglegs around a pair of deep bunkers. Augusta National’s signature magnolia trees and azaleas are holdovers from the Fruitlands nursery operation that previously stood.
72-HOLE RECORD: 270, Tiger Woods (1997), Jordan Spieth (2015).
18-HOLE RECORD: 63, Nick Price (3rd round, 1986), Greg Norman (1st round, 1996).
LAST YEAR: Reed stared down Sunday pressure from McIlroy early and later from Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth, holding on to capture his first major title by one stroke over Fowler. Thrust to the front by a Friday 66, Reed took a three-shot advantage into the final round and held firm even as Spieth (64) and Fowler (67) threatened. A closing bogey dropped Spieth back as he finished some 40 minutes ahead of Reed. Fowler birdied four of his final seven holes, but also fell short as Reed parred No. 18 to cap a 71. Reed became the third straight winner to make the Masters his first major title. McIlroy, seeking to complete the career Grand Slam, could have drawn even with Reed with a short eagle putt at No. 2 but missed and slipped to a 74. Tiger Woods, in his first Masters back following spinal fusion, broke par just once all week and finished in a tie for 32nd.
HOW TO FOLLOW
TELEVISION: Thursday-Friday, 3-7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN), highlights show 11:30-11:45 p.m. (CBS). Saturday, 3-7:30 p.m. (CBS). Sunday, 2-7 p.m. (CBS).
PGA TOUR LIVE: None.
RADIO: Thursday-Sunday, 2-7 p.m. (Westwood One and SiriusXM).