Par 72, 7,435 yards
Augusta National is one of the most beautiful, eye catching golf courses on the planet and has seen so much emotion over the years. The first edition of the Masters held in 1934 and has seen many modifications since, with the most recent changes being made by Tom Fazio in 2002. Fazio mostly added length to the course and tightened up the fairways making it a long demanding test with very tricky greens and lots of run off areas.
The Masters was started by Clifford Roberts and Bobby Jones. Jones designed Augusta National with course architect Alistair MacKenzie. The field of players is smaller than those of the other major championships because it is an invitational event, held by the Augusta National Golf Club.
This course measures just under 7,500 yards and will demand a mixture of power and accuracy. There are a few elements to consider at Augusta, the first is experience. Players that have played well here in the past tend to go well again, even more so if they are showing some good current form. The second element is a hot putter and a good short game. Augusta National’s teeth are its lightning fast greens with its tricky slopes and run off areas.
If a player misses the fairway at here, the key is to land the ball in the right part of the green with a high penetrated ball flight. If a player has a high ball flight with a draw, or a fade if you’re a lefty, that will be a big advantage. The main reason for this is that many of the holes in Augusta are dog legs so players that can shape the ball should score well.
Greens in regulation will be a key stat here along with approaches, strokes gained putting, scrambling, par 4 and par 5 scoring.
I don’t know what it is about Augusta but it seems to really suit Jordan Spieth. Despite missing the cut last week in Houston, Spieth has been in great form with a win and five top 25’s in his last seven starts. He started 2017 off with a T3 at the SBS Tournament of Champions and followed that with a T9 in Phoenix, a win in Pebble Beach, T22 at The Genesis Open and a T12 at the WGC Mexico Championship.
He has a superb record here with a win and two runner up’s in his last three appearances. Spieth was in the final group with Bubba Watson in 2014 and went on to lose by three which Spieth put down to lack of experience. He won by four strokes over Phil Mickelson in 2015 and played the par 5’s in 11 under par in total. He came agonisingly close to winning last year but had a major hiccup on the par 3 -12th which took him out of the running and ended up finishing second to Danny Willett.
Spieth ticks a lot of boxes for Augusta ranking third in GIR, first in SG Approaches to the green, 14th in SGTTG and 39th in strokes gained putting. I think missing the cut last week could work out in Jordan’s favour giving him an extra couple of days to prepare. He will have a big point to prove after last year which could be a big motivator.
Granted, this one is a bit of a risk but I think it’s one worth taking on Rickie Fowler here. Fowler is playing decent golf lately and as I mentioned in my preview last week, he got the psychological relief of a win in Florida a couple of weeks ago at the Honda Classic which takes some of the pressure off a bit. He has been in good form so far this year with a T3 at the Hero World Challenge, T4 in Phoenix, T16 at the WGC Mexico, solo 12th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and a T3 last week in Houston. In Houston he led the SGTTG, SG approaches to the green and total birdies and was in the top 5 in GIR and putts per GIR, which are very favourable stats coming into this week.
Despite missing the cut last year, Fowler has played well here finishing fifth in 2014 and 12th in 2015. He ranks 20th in GIR and ninth in strokes gained putting this season, two important stats for the lively greens of Augusta National.
The Englishman has been playing some great golf recently has been slipping under the radar lately. He has only finished outside the top 15 twice in his last seven starts including three top 10’s. He had a good week at the Sony finishing solo second and followed that with a T4 in Torrey Pines, T4 at The Genesis Open, T13 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and a respectable T15 last week in Houston.
Rose has a good record here with form figures 5,36,20,11,8,25,14,2,10 in his last nine appearances in Augusta. Statswise he ranks eighth in SG off the tee, 19th in SG Around the green, 11th in SGTTG and 25th in driving distance. With great current form and a good record here, Rose could be a big danger man here if he putts well.
The South African has been in mixed form recently but played super golf earlier in the year. He had a good week at the World Super 6 in Perth in February finishing solo fifth and didn’t shoot worse than a 69 in three rounds. He followed that with a solo third at the Phoenix Open and didn’t shoot worse than a 68 throughout the tournament which included a pair of 65’s. Most recently he then travelled to Florida and finished a respectable T21 at the Honda Classic and a T28 in Bay Hill.
Oosthuizen has played well here over the last five years finishing second in 2012, 25th in 2014, 19th in 2015 and 15th last year. He ranks 21st in SG off the tee and 21st in SGTTG so far this season and could be another player with a decent chance here.
The young Englishman has been playing well over the last few months. He won the European Tour finale, the DP World Championship in Dubai back in November beating fellow in form countryman Tyrell Hatton by one stroke. His good form continued when he returned to Dubai, this time for the Desert Classic finishing T5 on 12 under par for the tournament. Fitzpatrick then went over to the other side of the pond posting a T16 at the WGC Mexico Championship and a T13 at The Arnold Palmer Invitational. Last year was his second appearance in Augusta but the first appearance as a pro and he finished T7 after shooting a superb final round 67. He played as an amateur in 2014 and ended up narrowly missing the cut.
Statswise he looks like another player that could suit this course ranking fourth in strokes gained putting, ninth in sand saves and 19th in GIR (European Tour) and 19th in par 5 scoring. He comes to Augusta in much better form this time around and could go well at a generous price.
I’ve had Marc Leishman in mind for the Masters ever since he won in Bay Hill a couple of weeks ago. He has been playing very steady golf this year and only finished outside the top 25 twice in his last ten tournaments. He played very well at the CIMB in Malaysia finishing solo fifth and followed that with a T24 at the OHL Classic, T9 at the World Cup of Golf, back to back T20’s at the Sony and Torrey Pines and a T24 in Phoenix.
The Aussie then shot rounds of 71,66,71,69 to win by one from Charley Hoffman and Kevin Kisner at the Arnold Palmer Invitational where he led GIR and was second in strokes gained putting for the week. Leishman also played well at the WGC Matchplay and got the last 16 but was beaten by Phil Mickelson. Statswise the Aussie ranks third in strokes gained putting, 14th in scrambling, second in par 3 scoring, 19th in par 5 scoring and ninth in 3 putt avoidance. Good value for a guy bang in form.
Final selections – (PP 1/5 – 8 places)
Jordan Spieth 1pt EW 7/1
Rickie Fowler 1pt EW 22/1
Justin Rose 0.5pts EW 25/1
Louis Oosthuizen 0.5pts EW 50/1
Matt Fitzpatrick 0.5pts EW 60/1
Marc Leishman 0.5pts EW 60/1
Good luck and enjoy the golf,
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