The 78th Masters Tournament
Augusta National Golf Club
Yards: 7,435 per the scorecard
Par: 72 (36-36)
Rough: Ryegrass at 1.38”;
Water Hazards: 6
Course Architect: Alister MacKenzie and Robert Tyre Jones, Jr., (1933)
Purse: $8,102,801 in 2013
Winner’s Share: $1,440,000 in 2013
FexExCup Points: 600 to the winner
Dates: April 10-13
Format: Stroke play
Notes: Beginning in 2013, the top 50 and ties plus any player within 10 shots of the lead play the weekend.
Recent History Lessons
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won the first 17 of 21 events of 2013-14. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed (TWO), Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler, Bubba Watson, Russell Henley, Chesson Hadley and Matt Every have collected the hardware this year flying the US flag. Matt Jones now joins Steven Bowditch, John Senden and Jason Day as only Australia is representing the rest of the world with the other four victories. Is there any Fosters left then?
Matt Jones joins Steven Bowditch, Matt Every, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler and Chesson Hadley as the first-time winners this season. There were 12, first-timers in 40 events last year and we’ve had six in 21 events so far in 2014, including three in a row!
Young Guns Versus Prime Time Versus Old Guys
Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and has since added two more wins to lead the FedExCup standings. He has been joined by Ryan Moore (30) in Malaysia, Zach Johnson (37) at Kapalua, Kevin Stadler (33), at WMPO and Bubba Watson (35), joined them at Riviera. For the second week in a row a 30-year old joins the party as Steven Bowditch joined Matt Every in back-to-back weeks for the Prime Timers. This victory levels the ledger with the Young Guns at nine victories apiece.
Scott Stallings (28), Patrick Reed TWICE (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29), Harris English (24), Jason Day (26) and Russell Henley (24) are the twenty-somethings on the board.
Pay Attention: It’s FREE
In the previous 77 Masters, only Fuzzy Zoeller (1979) has won in his first appearance. He is also the only first-time to break par in all four rounds. Whoa.
Jack Nicklaus is the oldest winner at 46 years of age. He also has the largest collection of jackets with six.
Tiger Woods is the youngest winner at 21 years of age.
The last two Masters champions have won via playoff. There have been 16 playoffs in history.
Adam Scott is the only Australian champion.
Angel Cabrera is the only South American winner.
Mike Weir is the only Canadian winner.
Jose-Maria Olazabal is the last European to win. That was 1999.
Texas has the most green jacket winners with 12. The last Texan to don the famous blazer was Ben Crenshaw in 1995.
Interesting that five of the last seven winners at Augusta have been first-timers.
In the last 20 majors, only FOUR of the 54-hole leaders have gone on to win.
The last three winners at Augusta did NOT lead at ANY point in the tournament. #bizzare
The last four winners have trailed entering Sunday morning.
Never give up part III. The last four winners have all fired rounds in the 60s on Sunday to win.
The tournament record is 270 (-18) by Tiger Woods in 1997. His 12 shot margin of victory that year is also the largest.
The average winning score since the installation of Bentgrass in 1981 is 279 (9-under).
The last wire-to-wire champ was Raymond Floyd in 1976.
The most birdies made were 25 of them by Phil Mickelson in 2010.
Anthony Kim, remember him?, made 11 birdies in ONE round in 2010 but didn’t set the course record. #figures #noitdoesn’t
The low round for a first-timer is Jason Day’s 64 in round two in 2011.
The Par Three winner has never gone on to win the tournament. Go ahead and wait until Wednesday evening before submitting your roster.
The last player to win at Augusta and claim another major in the same season was Tiger Woods in 2005.
All past champions are eligible for life so I won’t bore you with ALL of them. He’s a look at who’s won recently:
2013 Adam Scott
2012 Bubba Watson
2011 Charl Schwartzel
2010 Phil Mickelson
2009 Angel Cabrera
2008 Trevor Immelman
2007 Zach Johnson
2006 Phil Mickelson
2005 Tiger Woods
2004 Phil Mickelson
2003 Mike Weir
2002 Tiger Woods
2001 Tiger Woods
2000 Vijay Singh
Inside the Ropes
One of the greatest players of all time wanted to create one of the greatest golf experiences of all time and Bobby Jones did both with Augusta National Golf Club. The property used for the course design was the old Fruitland Nurseries ground. Jones hired Dr. Alister MacKenzie to help him realize his vision of designing a course and a tournament that would bring the world his vision of what golf and a golf course should be.
Bobby Jones believed the best players in the world should be tested mentally as well as physically inside the ropes. He believed that most holes should hold the possibility of birdie as well as double bogey. His design included heavy mounding instead of heavy bunkering and plenty of risk-reward avenues that would make or break players. Great examples of this style can be found following the lapping of Rae’s Creek or the ponds in front of Nos. 15 and 16 which affect the mind and the body on Sunday afternoon.
The course provides an excellent test of golf. Players will have to deal with elevation changes, blind shots, water, sand and multi-tiered greens. If that’s not enough, for four days they’ll have to manage Georgia weather that can include plenty of wind, rain and/or heat and sunshine. Throw on top of that lightning-quick greens, no rough and the pressure of winning one of the most prestigious tournaments in the world and now we’re cooking!
In the end, Jones’ course wins. It always wins. The beauty of the grounds enhanced by the former nursery’s flora and fauna is immaculate in person and, thankfully for most of us, on television. The most fascinating part of the course, which is hard to decipher on the television, is how hilly it is. The players will have to adjust for elevation changes and blind shots. Inexperienced players will be taking in all the sights and sounds. The experienced players will be scouring their old yardage books for all of the answers they think they found the last time they were here.
This week, experience is the first criteria on my list. I have mentioned above that recently first-timer major winners have been the order of the day but I also mentioned that the average times of playing before a victory is six. Over 77 of these, I’m going to ride the averages rather than the short term trend. I bet in 1980 folks were wondering if another first-timer at Augusta could do what Fuzzy Zoeller did in 1979. Here we are 35 years later still wondering.
Fortune favors the brave but not the stupid, in my opinion. Young players these days are fearless and sometimes around a place like this, that’s not the best idea. There is no rough but there are plenty of areas that players can find trouble. With greens running as fast as nature allows finding the proper part of the putting surface with second shots is the most important playing quality this week. Guys who have trouble controlling their iron play must be ultra-premium putters or the bogey train will fill up quickly. Every pin location cannot be attacked. The experienced player knows which pins are for suckers and which ones are green light specials. Those with youthful exuberance will learn this lesson quickly if they choose to see how the weekend plays out.
The reason I love the Masters the most of them all is because players are forced to win the tournament. While par is always a great score in majors golf, Augusta National Golf Club is set up to identify the winner by who executes on the back nine on Sunday. As noted above, large comebacks are not out of the ordinary here unlike a U.S. Open or PGA Championship where the back nine is usually survive and advance. Nos. 10, 11 and 12 are the three hardest holes on the course. Nos. 13 and 15 are the two easiest. Nos. 17 and 18 are no picnic either. Remember, the Masters starts proper on the back nine on Sunday!
The winner this week will keep his golf ball out of trouble, take care of business on the par-five holes and should have some pop off the tee. Taking a look back at the list of recent winners only Zach Johnson and Mike Weir stand out as guys who don’t crush it. They are superb short-game artists. Ball-strikers should flourish because they will find the proper parts of the fairways and greens that will give them the best scoring chances. As we’ve seen the last two years with Watson and Scott, putting isn’t the key to success around Augusta as both of those gentlemen are nowhere near the top 100 in putting on TOUR and yet they both navigated these slick greens. The guys who can move it off the tee will be helpful if the course takes on rain as well. Playing wet, uphill and over 7,400 yards will favor the bombers and won’t require premium putting.
The players who should be atop the leaderboard come Sunday sunset; Yahoo! group in ( )
Rory McIlroy (B): The only question I have about McIlroy this week is if he can avoid the big round and scare away the ghosts of Masters past. In five tournaments, McIlroy has posted a score of 77 or higher every year except his first go-around. We all remember the collapse (80) on Sunday in 2011. I remember the hug he shared with Garcia in 2012 on the final green Saturday because he wasn’t too happy his 77. Last year, his 79 on Saturday turned a bad spring to even worse. The 2014 season has had some bumps with his water ball and subsequent playoff loss at Honda but I’ll remind you that this kid has won two majors and both by eight shots. His 65 on Sunday at SHO is exactly what I was hoping to see heading into this week.
Adam Scott (A): The defending champion showed flashes of brilliance and madness at the API three weeks ago but I have to keep telling myself it’s all part of his plan. His plan is to win majors, period. His plan involves peaking during these tournaments instead of the weekly TOUR stops. After becoming the first Australian to ever win a green jacket, he tries to join Nicklaus, Faldo and Woods as those who defended. I see no reason why this can’t happen. In the last three years he’s tied for second on the back of a 67-67 weekend, T8 after opening with 75 and closing with 66 and his victory last year. His caddy showed last year that he could be a factor as well. He’s been around this place quite a few times and knows what it takes to win as well.
Phil Mickelson (A): I should just type he’s won it three times in the last 10 years and be done with it but I’ll expound. He’s finished in the top 10 in 14 of 21 starts. In a major. Heck, he made TWO TRIPLES here in 2012 and was T3. He’s probably still pissed about that one. Where I believe that Pinehurst No.2 is his destiny to complete the career grand slam, I believe with his length and knowledge that he’ll be bothering the leaderboard on Sunday. He’ll be happy that there won’t water taunting him off every tee box and he should be even happier that Woods won’t be around to meddle in his chance to win No. 4. #motivationstation
Jason Day (B): He’s set the record for low round for a first-timer in 2011 with 64. His T2 finish was only bested by Fuzzy Zoeller’s victory by a first-timer in 1979. He’s been runner-up at a U.S. Open. Twice. He’s won a WGC event. Last season he was third here and followed that up with T2 at Merion and T8 at Oak Hill. His four best finishes of 2013 were in majors, WGC or FedExCup Playoff events. Water finds it level, eh? He withdrew from Doral and Bay Hill because his thumb was bothered after hitting too many balls after winning the WGC-Match Play. That’s my kind of guy. #neversatisfied
Matt Kuchar (A): Gamers will be upset that Matt Kuchar didn’t close the deal the last two weeks on the back nine on Sunday but I would suggest that the Georgia Tech grad would trade both of those wins for a deal-closer this week at Augusta. He squashed the Valero and came back to lead by four heading into Sunday at SHO so he’s doing something right! He’s happy with his ball-striking and his short game has been cruising along so the Group A monster this week will be filled with very interesting decisions. Kuchar has won every big event (THE PLAYERS, WGC, FedExCup Playoff) except a major. He’s been close here before and if he can overcome No. 16 on Sunday, he could be wearing his first green jacket. In his last 12 rounds at Augusta, five have been in the 60s. #strong
Sergio Garcia (C): Coming off another podium finish in Houston, Garcia heads to Augusta as one of the chosen few with the moniker of “best player not to win a major.” This will be his 16th Masters and he has exactly one more (3) top 10 than Stewart Cink does in 16 starts. He also has one less major. The last four years he’s been trending in the right direction with finishes of T45, T38, T12 and T8 last year. His total putting stats the last two years on TOUR are 31st and 27th. #causeandeffect I’m not worrying about his ball-striking or short game either. #vamos
Dustin Johnson: (B): Oh yeah. This guy. If I pretend nothing has happened to Kuchar the last two weeks I’m surely going to take that angle for Dustin Johnson. His form before his 80 and subsequent WD at SHO was quite impressive as he racked up T6, T2, second and T4 in stroke play events. Johnson was the 54-hole leader at Pebble Beach in 2010 at the U.S. Open before firing a million on Sunday. Johnson was the 72-hole leader later that year at the PGA at Whistling Straits before being assessed a two-shot penalty after grounding his club in a hazard. The following summer he was right in the hunt at Royal St. George’s before whacking one OB on the back nine Sunday. He’s done his time. He’s gone through the pain. The talent is there and he’s never MC at ANGC.
Bubba Watson (A): The 2012 champion was in the process of having a bounce-back 2014 until he WD from Bay Hill with allergy problems after 83. He really does like the course because he became a member there just a few weeks later. That didn’t help all the gamers who loaded up on him that week because of his 2014 form. In four stroke-play events leading up to Bay Hill, Watson turned in T23, T2, WIN and T2. He was also a beaten quarterfinalist (T9) in Match Play. He won’t be in the spotlight this week and I believe that’s exactly where he prefers to be. He’s 16 of 24 in majors but only has seven top 25s. Everyone has warts this week so I’m riding current form.
Justin Rose (B): Another Sean Foley stable mate that is having injury issues, Rose has missed time with a sore shoulder and that has slowed his start to 2014. After his win at the U.S. Open last year at Merion confirmed what we all believed would eventually happen now gamers wait for a consistent run of form. He’s 8-8 career and he’s going “Phil Mickelson” this week as he’s putting in a “mini-driver” (isn’t she an actress?) in his bag. He’ll have another option to attack the par fives and the longer par fours. This would suggest his confidence is quite high at the moment if he’s going to add weaponry before a major without testing it in tournament play. In his five of his last six majors where he’s made the cut, he’s finished T25 or better including three top 10s. #classispermanent
Brandt Snedeker (A): Wellllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll here we go again, gamers! Snedeker, who has had his heart broken here a couple of times, including last year on No. 13, is looking to break through for his first green jacket as well. In 2008, he learned a lesson and last year he learned another one. His closing 68 at API gave him his best stroke-play finish of 2014 (T8) so he arrives on form. He spent the last few weeks at Sea Island practicing and preparing with Todd Anderson. The folks at Sea Island are notorious for tricking out their practice facility to get it as slick and fast as the weather allows. His two best finishes here have been with final rounds of 77 and 75. He’ll be in contention.
Graeme McDowell: Having one finish out of the top 10 in five starts this season tells me that GMAC is enjoying married life and his new driver. He switched it out after 77 in round two at API and went on to finish 67-70 on the weekend his last time out. He’ll split fairways and I’m not worried one bit about his short game or putting. He’s second on TOUR in scoring.
Charl Schwartzel: His worldwide form is nothing but solid and he’s proven he can handle the heat on Sunday at Augusta. He birdied the final FOUR holes to win his green jacket in 2011. There’s not many better slick green putters in the world and he’ll be hoping it dries out as the week continues.
Jason Dufner: He’s had the 36-hole lead here (2011) and has never missed the cut. His current form suggests that he’s heating up, as suggested, as the weather heats up. He put on a ball-striking clinic to win the PGA last August and is the only player in the field that can win consecutive majors. He’ll need to bury his weekend demons (75-75 in 2011; 75-73 in 2012) but with the way he drives it and laces it with his irons he should have a chance at redemption.
Zach Johnson: His current form is what puts him on this list as he’s finding tons of fairways (fourth), greens (11th) and is getting up and down (11th). He hasn’t finished inside of the top 20 in six Masters since his victory in 2007. He’s played the weekend in NINETEEN consecutive events.
Jordan Spieth: #SpiethBoner is buddies with Ben Crenshaw. Ben Crenshaw has won this event twice. If Spieth is as smart as I believe him to be, he’s been cramming for this exam since last July after his victory at John Deere with Crenshaw and his long-time Masters caddy Carl Jackson. He’ll be playing practice rounds with the great Texan and will look to be the first Texan since Crenshaw to wear the jacket. He’ll also be the youngest winner if he does the business this week. None of this would surprise me. He’s cut from a different cloth.
Horses for Courses
Fred Couples: The term “horses for courses” was invented for him because of his play at Augusta. This will be his 30th Masters and he has 16 top 15 finishes. He’s also the 1992 champion. Since he’s turned 50, he’s finished sixth, T15, T12 and T13. The only question is whether his back can hold up for four days.
Angel Cabrera: The 2009 playoff champion lost last year to Adam Scott in a playoff. His shoulder has been bothering him lately so I have a feeling this week is going to be El Pato’s last stand before he gets his wing taken care of. Since his victory in 2009, he’s finished T18, seventh, T32 and P2 last year. He has six top 10s in 14 starts. #bueno
Nick Watney: He’s 6-6 in six consecutive trips to Augusta, more proof that ball-strikers are the key this week. He’s finished T19 or better in four of his six appearances with solo seventh in 2010 being the best of the bunch. His best finish this season in nine events is T24 so this is a stretch.
Hunter Mahan: But Glass he shot 76-82 here last year!!!! Yes, yes he did. He also MC in 2011 and 2008! But, he was T10 in 2009 and T8 in 2010 plus T12 in 2012. He’s all-or-nothing.
Ian Poulter: He was 8-8 before 76-75 MC in 2013. He seems to ramp himself up for only the big events. This qualifies.
This category was created for player in excellent form but without the pedigree in majors. It’s not a knock; it’s just a fact.
Jimmy Walker: After playing the U.S. Open in 2001 and 2002, Walker has only three other major appearances in his career and they all came at the PGA over the last four years. His only finish was T21 in 2012 at Kiawah. I think Walker has a puncher’s chance this week because missing fairways around here won’t be a huge penalty. His length and steady putting stroke could surprise.
Patrick Reed: If you’re a top five player in the world, these are weeks where you go out and prove it. Reed could do himself a favor by backing up his words by putting a scare into the ruling class this week. The former Augusta State NCAA champion will enjoy his homecoming and I bet he’s played here once or twice.
Harris English: His T15 at last year’s Open Championship should void him from this list but this will be his first trip to the Masters and we know how those guys usually fare. The reason I can make an argument for him is he’s plenty long and leads the tour in GIR and scoring. Yeah, and he’s in the long-shot category. I believe experience WINS this tournament but stud play can make some noise. He covers the second requirement.
Bill Haas: On the upswing in his career, Haas has competed in the last four Masters and made the cut in all of them. If anyone has any historical advantage, it’s Haas. His great uncle is Bob Goalby, the 1968 champion. His father, Jay, played here from 1976-2005. I won’t even mention his uncles Jerry Haas and Dillard Pruitt who also knocked it around here. He’s got plenty of information at his disposal for this track. The reason he’s on this list is because he’s hasn’t had a top 10 in his last 15 majors.
Ryan Moore: After winning the Low Amateur in 2005, Moore has never been cut in six chances at Augusta, including twice as an amateur. He has one top 25 in his last 13 majors but Augusta fits his eye to some degree. Great roster fill this week. I’ll take a shot with a guy who is 10th in the all-around ranking and that course history but he’s not the longest guy on TOUR.
Graham DeLaet: The Canadian ball-striker tees it up for the first time so we’ll see how he handles it. He currently ranks No. 4 on TOUR in the ball-striking. This will be his third MAJOR and first Masters.
Russell Henley: This will be his sixth major championship and second Masters. Henley played the full rotation last year after his win at Sony. He went 1-4 with T73 as his best finish. He was Low Amateur at the U.S. Open at Pebble in 2010 but I’m not sure if he can hit enough greens this week. He’ll have to putt it lights out to contend.
Louis Oosthuizen: Most folks will remember his spectacular double eagle on No. 2 two years ago before he lost to Watson. I focus on his wonky back and the fact that his other four appearances saw him MC with zero rounds under par.
Martin Kaymer: He’s broken par twice in six tournaments. He’ made two cuts.
The Par 3 Winner: He’s never won. Ever.
The Man with His Own Section
Lee Westwood: His game started showing signs of life last week at SHO where he played all four rounds at par or better and finished T19. His T19 finish was his first inside the top 20 on TOUR this season. As Westwood heads to Augusta, he’ll provide the ultimate fantasy quandary this week: Do gamers ride the horse-for-course on the upswing or do they just sit this one out. Westwood loves Augusta and major championship golf. In his last four trips around ANGC, he posted second, T11, T3 and T8 last year. Only three of 16 rounds were played over par during that stretch and six of those rounds were in the 60s. In the last 23 majors that he’s played, he’s finished T8 or better in 10 of those. At the Masters, he’s finished second, T11, T3 and T8 last year. Here’s more evidence that short-game artists are not NECESSARY around these hallowed grounds.
Jordan Spieth of the Week Last Week
The column was taken over and thrashed by the kid from Texas last year. Out of respect, I’m not changing the title of it for 2013-14. It will remind me just how good Spieth was in the last three months of the season. This year, we’ll still identify an up-and-coming player and/or rookie that fantasy players should have on their radar.
CIMB: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 24, might have enough money after this week to earn Special Temporary Membership. Pay attention!
McGladrey: Scott Langley turned 24 last April and is in his second season on TOUR. He finished T22 last week and No. 124 last season. #slimpickinngsthisweek
OHL Mayakoba: Harris English turned 24 last July. He won.
HTOC: Er, Jordan Spieth, solo second.
Humana: Patrick Reed won. He’s 23. You need to pay attention.
FIO: Ryo Ishikawa, 22, bagged another top 10 finish. That’s his sixth in his last 10 events on TOUR or the Web.com Tour. He’s an alternate this week as of Monday afternoon.
WMPO: Hideki Matsuyama is 21. In 11 events the last two years, he’s hit the top 25 in NINE of them, including T4 last week. #ALLRIGHTYTHEN
Riviera: Harris English won’t be 25 until July. He was T10; Spieth was T12.
WGC-CC: Patrick Reed is 23. He’s now won three times in eight months on TOUR.
Puerto Rico Open: Rookie Chesson Hadley, 26, took home his first title on the big boy circuit.
API: The young Japanese lad Ishikawa racked up another top 10 (T8) this week. Yep, he’s still just 22.
Valero: He’ll be remembered for all of the wrong reasons but Andrew Loupe, 25, finished T4 in only his eighth start on TOUR. #slowgolfclap
Shell Houston: Russell Henley’s T7 shows him heating up before heading back for another crack at Augusta.
Coming Later TUESDAY Afternoon
Playing the Tips will be up and running this and every Tuesday afternoon and will list all of the Rotoworld experts picks in the GolfChannel.com game, the Yahoo! Fantasy Golf game and my One-and-Done feature. Look for it around 5 ET every Tuesday for the rest of the season.
And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat Wednesday at NOON p.m. ET. We will be breaking down the field at the Masters and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter.