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The Masters Tournament Preview
The first major championship on the golfing calendar is edging ever closer, so while the world’s best golfers sharpen their short games, polish their clubs and iron their plus fours, let’s take a look at the Masters, its host course, Augusta National and why this is many golf fans’ favorite tournament of the year.
Let’s start with Augusta National. It is fair to say that this Georgian gem is firmly planted atop many a golfer’s bucket list and, unfortunately, the fact that it remains one of the most exclusive golf clubs in the world means that 99 percent of us will never get to play it. Unless, of course, you can buddy up to one of the existing members and convince them to take you for a quick 18 holes. Again, the chances are slim as it’s not every day you run into billionaires like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet in your local Starbucks, is it?
Measuring 7,435 yards from the championship markers, Augusta is the seventh-longest course the pros will play this year and, with danger lurking at every turn, as well as notoriously quick greens, it represents one of the best challenges Tiger, Rory and co. face each and every year. However, it is Augusta’s tendency to reward good shots, offering lots of birdies and eagles, as well as its ability to punish poor ones that makes the Masters so exciting. Life on the fairways of the world’s most famous golf course is balanced on a knife edge and that’s why we love it!
We all know about the course so let’s take a look at five players who could well waltz off into the sunset, Green Jacket in tow in 2013.
Any list of likely contenders for the Masters should include Tiger, especially after multiple wins already in 2013. At Doral Tiger looked back to his best and a win at Bay Hill returned him to the top of the golf world rankings. His record at Augusta is also excellent, with 10 top-5 finishes (the second highest in history) including four wins, one of which came by an earth-shattering 12 shots in 1997. Tiger has accomplished many amazing feats on Augusta’s lush fairways including the completion of the Tiger Slam in 2001. Can he “officially” complete his comeback by winning his first major since 2008?
Mickelson has started well in 2013 with a wire to wire win at TPC Scottsdale and a 3rd place finish at Doral and he seemingly makes an annual push for the Green Jacket at Augusta. He is a three-time champion at Augusta and is only one behind Woods when it comes to top-5 finishes, with nine to his name. Had it not been for an unlucky bounce off a grandstand in last year’s final round he could have made it four. As a lefty “Phil the Thrill” can fade his way round Augusta so he always one to watch here.
It may seem strange to include “Rors” in this list considering his extremely poor start to life as a Nike staff player but he showed signs of life at Doral with a top-10 finish and he has well documented unfinished business at Augusta. There is no hiding the fact that when Rory is hot he is very, very hot but, equally, his head can drop when things don’t go his way. With a solid first 36 holes at Augusta, the world No. 1 could be in the picture come Sunday afternoon.
There are plenty of current players who could be painted with the “the best never to have won a major” brush and Adam Scott is one of them. He doesn’t win as often as he should but when wins do come they are usually on the biggest stages. Currently ranked first on the PGA Tour for ball striking, the Aussie has had close calls in majors before, with an excellent display at Augusta (wrecked by four closing birdies from Charl Schwartzel) in 2011 and of course at last year’s Open Championship. If Scott can get the broom handle putter to behave he will be a threat.
After winning the 2011 Masters courtesy of four closing birdies, Schwartzel went off the boil a bit but finished 2012 with two blowout wins, one by 11 shots and another by 12! He also started this season well, coming close to winning in his first outing of the season at Riviera in Los Angeles. With one of the best swings on Tour, Charl is a long, straight driver of the ball and is well-equipped to tackle Augusta; a return to form could see him featured on Masters Sunday.