The 81st Masters
Augusta National Golf Club, 7,435 yards, par 72
Designers: Bobby Jones and Alistar Mackenzie, 1933
Field: 94 players
Defending champion: Danny Willett. The Englishman shot 67 on Sunday. Jordan Spieth had a tragic implosion on No.12, hitting 2 balls in the water and quadruple bogeying the hole, after taking a 5 shot lead into No. 10. After bogeys on 10 and 11 and a quadruple on 12, Spieth found himself 3 shots down and couldn't recover. Willett didn't have a bogey on his card Sunday, and surprisingly put on the Green Jacket in 2016.
72 hole record: 270, -18, Tiger Woods (1997), Jordan Spieth (2016).
Weather: Thursday: 62, partly sunny, winds 18-25 MPH, tricky; Friday: sunny, 64, winds 15-21 MPH. Saturday: Plenty of sun, winds 4-8 MPH. Sunday: Perfect, 77, sunny, warm, 5-9 MPH. Super scoring conditions on Saturday "Moving" Day and Sunday and could provide for some phenomenal theater.
TV: Thursday-Friday: ESPN, 2-6:30 PM CT/3-7:30 PM ET
Saturday: CBS, 2-6 PM CT/3-7 PM ET; Sunday: CBS: 1-6 PM CT/2-7 PM ET.
Key tee times Thursday:
9:34 AM CT/10:34 AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Martin Kaymer, Matthew Fitzpatrick
9:45 AM CT/10:45 AM ET: Phil, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Si Woo KIm
9;56 AM CT/10:56 AM ET: Brandt Snedeker, Justin Rose, Jason Day
11:24 AM CT/12:24 PM ET: Danny Willett, Matt Kuchar, Curtis Luck, U.S. Amateur Champion, Amateur
12:41 PM ET/1:41 PM ET: Rory McIlory, Hideto Tanihara, Jon Rahm
1:03 PM CT/2:03 PM ET: Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Jimmy Walker
No.12, Par 3, 155 yards
Always a pivotal hole where some dreams of donning a Green Jacket can be dashed. Just ask Jordan Spieth or Greg Norman in 1996. With the windy conditions on Thursday and Friday, it will be exceedingly difficult either carrying the lake in front of the green or staying on the green. Club selection is always at a premium on this hole. On Sunday, with the pressure ratcheted up tremendously, this hole could provide for some heartbreak or survival for the leaders, and some fireworks.
Amen Corner: No.'s 13-15
No. 13, Par 5, 510
An accurate tee shot to the center or right center of the fairway sets a player up to go for it over Rae's Creek guarding the front of the green. The hole will be exceedingly more difficult the first 2 days, and Sunday is always a massive challenge. Over the green with your second and the player will have a difficult up and down. But the hole could lead to some movement on the leaderboard with possible eagles and plenty of birdies on Sunday.
No. 14, Par 4, 440 yards
This is the only hole on the course without bunkers, but players must avoid trees on the left and right off the tee. The green is sloped and feeds the ball to the right.
No.15, Par 5, 530 yards
Accuracy is critical off the tee as there are a cluster of pines on the right and a creek running down the left side. Hitting it down city hall is critical. The green can be reached in 2, but Thursday and Friday might be more problematic with the winds. Saturday, moving day, and Sunday will give the players the opportunity to go for an eagle. Even for players laying up, their third shots will require precise wedges to stick it close. There is a pond in front guarding the green and a bunker on the right side of the green. Eagle is possible here. Would love to see the players make eagles at 13 and 15 and really set up drama for some classic holes forthcoming.
No. 16, par 3, 170 yards
The hole has water entirely on the left side, so any draw or pull is going to be costly. Two bunkers guard the right side of the green. The green slopes significantly from right to left. With a Sunday pin placement on the left side the player can hit it on the right side and hopefully for him, have it roll down close to the cup. Jack Nicklaus hit a classic shot here on his way to birdie in the '86 Masters that he won at age 46, Tiger Woods' dramatic chip shot in 2005 that curved from left to right and fell in the hole was one for the ages in his victory. Spieth had a key birdie here in 2015 on his way to his first major at age 21.
No. 18, par 4, 446 yards
With the pressure severe, the contenders and the leaders must be accurate off the tee as there are numerous trees on the right for a ball cut too much and two deep bunkers 280-85 yards ahead of them. Many players will hit a 3 wood off the tee to keep it short of the bunkers and be safe, though guys like Dustin, Rory and Bubba will clear the bunkers and have better shots at the green with 9 irons and wedges instead of 7 irons. There are bunkers on the front and on the right side of the green. Jordan was totally clutch on 18 in 2015 with a clutch shot on Moving Day that got him up and down for par. It was a beautiful flop shot that he sank from 8 feet for par and kept him from dropping another shot after he doubled 17. Classic theater and massive excitement here on Sunday.
The 22 year old from Barrika, Spain has all the tools to be a multiple Major winner. His play in winning at The Farmers on Torrey Pines in January was nothing short of spectacular. He has the length and all the tools to capture the Green Jacket. Like Jon's chances here.
Philip Alfred Mickelson
I like Phil, at 46, to have a shot at capturing his 6th major. He won at Augusta National in 2004, '06, and 2010, and has a 2005 PGA, and 2013 Open Championship to go along with his 3 Green Jackets. He's still playing super golf, so I like Phil the Thrill to be in the hunt with a shot to be in Butler's Cabin Sunday evening.
The 28 year old is very close and he's 3rd on the tour in scrambling, which is a super asset to have at Augusta National. He's also 4th on the tour in strokes gained tee to green, which is another tremendous asset as that just shows his play on each hole is stellar. He's T-9 on strokes gained putting. Rickie's got the game to win his first major and he'd like nothing better than to do it at Augusta. He finished tied for 3rd last week at the Shell Houston after having a pretty bad implosion on Saturday on the last 2 holes But the fact that he played is a major asset in my opinion. I like guys who play the week before. Competition is the best practice a player can get and the Houston golf course has some similarities to Augusta National. Rickie is a definite contender at the Masters.
With Dustin Johnson having to withdraw with a bad lower back as a result of a fall on some staircases yesterday, I am going with my other pick, Rory. The 27 year old from North Ireland is victorious at the 81st Masters and captures the career grand slam which includes Major titles at the 2011 U. S., Open, the 2012 and 2014 PGA Championship and the 2014 Open Championship. Hope you really enjoy this spectacular sports experience at the Mecca of golf, Augusta National.
2010 PGA Championship winner and 2014 U.S. Open Champion looks to have his game back. Like the 32 year old from Dusseldorf, West Germany to be a factor this weekend.