Tuesday, April 4, 2017

A Tradition Unlike any Other

Ladies and gentlemen...it's time.

It's time for pimento cheese sandwiches.

It's time for green jackets.

It's time for Amen Corner.

It's time...for the Masters.

It's the best week of the year, therefore, I apologize in advance for the length of this post. Sorry, I'm just excited! Golf's premier tournament, and 1st major, begins Thursday at Augusta National in Georgia.

Well, Masters week technically began on Sunday, with the annual Drive, Chip and Putt competition, featuring boys and girls from 7-15 from all across the country competing in golf's version of Punt, Pass and Kick.

Tonight is the annual Champions Dinner, a dinner exclusively for prior Masters champions. The dinner is hosted by the defending champion, who in this case is England's Danny Willett. Willett has the difficult task of putting together the menu for the night, although it looks like he did a pretty good job.

The festivities continue Wednesday in the annual Par 3 competition, a chance for players to bring their families onto the 9-hole par 3 course and relax before the biggest week of their season. Be careful though, no player who has won the Par 3 event has gone on to win the Masters.

The real fun begins Thursday morning.

The ceremonial opening tee shot from "The Big 3" will be one short this year, as Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player will be without The King, Arnold Palmer. This will be the 1st Masters since Palmer passed away last year.

After those tee shots, the tournament officially begins. Here's your look at the course, the contenders, and who I think will put on that famous jacket Sunday evening.

The Course

I don't think my words can effectively describe the beauty that is Augusta National, so see for yourself.


Just in case you're wondering, there are SEVERAL famous holes at Augusta. So here's a brief dialogue on those.

Amen Corner: The most famous 3-hole stretch in the world, the long par-4 11th, dangerous short par-3 12th (ask Jordan Spieth,) and famous risk reward par-5 13th, were famously dubbed Amen Corner because if you made it out at even par, you have to say "Amen!"

15 and 16: Another risk-reward par-5 at 15, and the picturesque par-3 16th, each have their fair share of thrilling moments, including Jack Nicklaus's famous iron shot in the '86 Masters, and Tiger Woods infamous chip that hung on the lip for what seemed like hours, then fell.

The Contenders

Defending Champion: Danny Willett

Talk about a Cinderella story.

Willett literally came "out of nowhere...to lead the pack...at Augusta," (gotta love Caddyshack.) Of course, everyone remembers Jordan Spieth's collapse on the dangerous par 3 12th. However, Willett played fantastic on Sunday, firing a 5-under 67. Willett hasn't made much noise since that win, but it's hard to forget about the defending champ.

Jordan Spieth

The aformentioned Spieth certainly gave the Masters to Willett last year, but let's not forget how much success he's had there the past 2 years. Aside from the 12th on Sunday, Spieth has been far and away the best player on the course each year, and that likely won't change this year. Spieth is the best putter in the world, so you better believe he will be in contention again on Sunday.

Dustin Johnson

The #1 player in the world, Johnson can't be touched if he is making ANY putts. His length, and his new dedication to his wedge game makes him an impossible force. However, the course doesn't necessarily fit his game. Johnson loves playing a high cut off the tee, but Augusta is set up for a draw on the majority of holes. That's not to say Johnson can't do it, because he has proved this year he can win multiple ways, but that's something to keep an eye on.

Rory McIlroy

Another young gun who hits it a mile, Rory has had success at Augusta, and could've had a green jacket if not for a second-9 collapse on Sunday back in 2011. Rory hits it a long way, and has the touch around the greens to be in contention just about anywhere, including the Masters. McIlroy lacks the green jacket to complete the career grand slam.


Phil Mickelson

Hard to consider a 3-time Masters champion a sleeper, but Phil has struggled a bit as of late, and missed the cut last year. His ball striking has been an issue, but Phil is the best short game player on the planet, and if he can find a groove with his irons, he has a chance.

Jon Rahm

He is everyone's favorite sleeper pick, and there's a reason for it. Rahm has burst onto the scene this year, already having a win under his belt, and multiple events has been in contention. He has the firepower to win at Augusta, but this being his first Masters, can he handle the nerves?

My Winner: Rory McIlroy

There's a formula for success at the Masters. That's why the same guys are in contention each and every year.

1. You need to be long off the tee. Not astronomically long, but longer than average.
2. Big high draws are a plus off the tee(fades for lefties.)
3. High approach shots make things much easier, as the Augusta greens are hard and fast.
4. Speaking of greens, you MUST be able to putt well to have a chance. The best putters in the world are generally the ones in contention.
5. Finally, it is absolutely imperative that you take advantage of the 4 par-5's. They aren't overly long, and are generally birdie holes. Take advantage, because there aren't many other opportunities out there.

Factoring all of these keys in, my winner this year is Rory McIlroy. The defending FedEx Cup champion has played well thus far, with 3 top-10s in 4 events, and he has a solid track record at Augusta. He's a long high ball hitter, and if his putter gets hot, he's the best player in the field. I like Rory to complete the career grand slam this week.

Have fun watching, and feel free to comment on who you think will put on the green jacket this year!

1 comment:

  1. I thought you'd be in it this year.. darn.