Quick look at the Masters
Who’ll win the Green Jacket? These factors could decide it.
April 05, 2017
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
- April 05, 2017
- Jordan Spieth will look to best his T2 finish from 2016. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, Ga. – Is there a single formula for winning the Masters? Probably, although it might take a PhD from MIT to figure it out. Are there certain factors that improve a player’s chances to claim the Green Jacket? No doubt – and here are three of them.
Start in the red. It’s been 12 years since the eventual winner opened with a score of par or worse (Tiger’s first-round 74 in 2005). Last year Danny Willett started with a 2-under 70, ending a streak of eight consecutive rounds in the 60s by the eventual champ.
More to the point, the eventual champ has been inside the top 10 on the first-round leaderboard for 11 consecutive years (Tiger was T-33 in ’05). Bottom line: Start with a red number and don’t shoot yourself out of the tournament on Day 1.
“You don’t want to feel like you’re playing catch-up on this golf course, because you feel like the more you force the issue, the more things can go wrong,” Rory McIlroy said. “You start to shoot at a few pins and you short-side yourself. …
“Look, you don’t need to come out and shoot 65 in the first day but at the same time, you’re better off shooting something under par just to get yourself off to a nice start.”
Avoid double bogeys. Of the last 20 winning scorecards, just three include a double bogey – the last one in 2015 when Jordan Spieth doubled the 17th hole in the third round. Considering he set the Masters record with 28 birdies that week, he more than made up for it.
“Double bogeys add up real quick,” World Golf Hall of Famer Colin Montgomerie said. “You can make bogeys all day long. They don’t add up very quickly. But if you make a double around Augusta, in my view, you’ve made an amateur error, an error in judgment between you and your caddie. And the classic case is an amateur thinks after they have hit the shot; a pro, he thinks before it. You’ve got to think like a pro around Augusta.”
Six-time Masters champ Jack Nicklaus said there are six shots at Augusta National that easily lead to big numbers – tee shots at hole Nos. 2, 11, 12 and 13, and the second shots at 13 and 15 (the par 5s on the back nine).
“You’ve really got to watch those shots because that’s where you can build a big score,” Nicklaus said.
Scramble well. Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee says the Masters winner averages about 75 percent scrambling, which is one reason why McIlroy has yet to complete the career Grand Slam – he has averaged less than 50 percent scrambling the last three years.
“That’s just an unavoidable glare,” Chamblee said. “He’s going to have to have the week of his life around the greens – or have the ball-striking week of his life.”
Dustin Johnson has yet to win a Masters, but he’s certainly a better scrambler this year. He ranks 21st in that category on TOUR compared to 70th a year ago. Given the weather forecast for the first two rounds – winds of 30 mph or more – scrambling could very well be the decisive factor.
“The short game is going to be very important around here,” Johnson said. “… You’re going to really have to be careful where you hit it and just try to make pars.”
Unfortunately, Johnson may not even get the chance to show off his improved short game. In falling down some steps Wednesday afternoon, Johnson injured his back and now appears to be a gametime decision before his late tee time Thursday.
THREE PLAYERS TO PONDER
The most difficult hole on the course last year was the start of Amen Corner, the 505-yard par-4 11th. It played to a stroke average of 4.521, which ranked it as the second toughest par 4 on the PGA TOUR (behind the 482-yard 11th at Royal Troon). The tees have been moved back twice since 2002, the last time in 2006 by 10-15 yards. Players must deal with wind and a downhill, left-to-right tee shot, then hit a mid- to long-iron into a green protected by a pond on the left and a bunker right center.
“I believe it’s the hardest hole on the golf course,” Phil Mickelson said. “It’s certainly the toughest par on the course.”
In Saturday’s third round last year, Rory McIlroy felt the pain of trying to be a hero at 11. His tee shot landed in the pine straw on the left. He attempted a low hook, hoping to catch the green. Instead, he found the water and made double bogey.
“I needed to hit it to the right of the green and try to make my up-and-down,” McIlroy said. “… The golf course tempts you to do something. It’s just a matter of being smart, taking your medicine when you have to and moving on.”The 505-yard par-4 11th hole. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images for Golfweek)
Windy conditions are expected to impact the tournament in the first two rounds. Gusts of 30 mph or more are in the forecast, with steady winds in the 20-25 mph range. It’s not just shots in the air that will be affected. “The biggest change, it puts more of a premium on speed putting,” said 2015 champ Jordan Spieth. “You don’t want to have 5-footers from above the hole when the wind is blowing. … Because of the speed of the greens and the amount of slope there is, the wind affects the ball that much more.”
TEMPS: Will be pleasant, warming up to the 70s on the weekend.
RAIN: The heavy rain – along with lightning -- was forecast for Wednesday, forcing the suspension of play on the final practice day and the cancellation of the Par 3 Contest. But rain shouldn’t be the big issue once the tournament starts.
WINDS: Those winds will be nasty, but will taper off on the weekend.
For the latest weather news from Augusta, Georgia, check out PGATOUR.COM’s Weather Hub.
SOUND CHECKI doubt I’m very scary. I think around this place,
given our success, other players may feel it might be harder to beat us.”
ODDS AND ENDS
1. DJ VS. HISTORY. The world’s top-ranked player the week of the Masters has not won at Augusta National since Tiger Woods did it in 2002. That doesn’t bode well for Dustin Johnson. Neither does the fact that no player on TOUR has won at least four consecutive times in a single season since Tiger in 2006. Asked why No. 1s have not fared well lately, DJ shrugged: “I don’t know. It’s the first time I’ve ever been the favorite.”
2. RORY UNDER THE RADAR? He’s once again going for the career Grand Slam, but the buzz around Rory McIlroy, at least in his perspective, seems a bit more subdued this week. “I don’t feel like I can fly under the radar anymore, but at the same time, it’s sort of felt that way to me,” he said. “It’s been nice to be able to prepare and just go about my business and try to get ready for this tournament.”
3. WOOSNAM’S NEW MATE. As the Masters champ, England’s Danny Willett now dresses in the champions locker room. He shares a locker with 1991 champ Ian Woosnam of Wales. “I saw him on the golf course the other day,” Willett recalled. “He said it’s been a shame – he’s had a nice clean locker for however many years and now it’s full of other stuff in there.”
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2017 Masters preview show