It’s the first Major of the season and Augusta needs no introductions. You’ll read plenty of past champions and commentators wax lyrical about Augusta this week and with good reason, it’s a very special place. When all is said and done, however, it is just a golf course and there’s something to be said for Ian Poulter’s approach in that he’ll be playing his own game as opposed to taking any advice from past champions.
The world’s top 50 are in Georgia together with those lucky enough to get offered an invitation. Most of them will feel like they have a genuine chance of success and even though it’s a course that rewards those with experience, that’s not to say a first-timer couldn’t land the Green Jacket.
The modern pro has virtually all the skills required to do well here so don’t be surprised to see the likes of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy not getting it all their own way. If the weather is kind then there are good scoring opportunities all over the course. Charl Schwartzel’s -14 winning total last year may be a modest one compared to most regular tournaments, but there were plenty of birdies and eagles to be had.
The reason why Rory McIlroy wasn’t donning the Green Jacket on Sunday afternoon may have had something to do with his errant drive on the 10th, but in truth he could have been out of sight was before hooking his tee shot if he’d had his putter working to its full potential earlier in the week. Up until the back nine he gave the perfect demonstration of how to play Augusta National and the Ulsterman shouldn’t be far off on Sunday again this year.
Venue: Augusta National, Augusta, Georgia
Date: Apr 5-8
Course stats: par 72, 7,435 yards
Purse: $8,000,000 Winner: $1,440,000
Defending champion: Charl Schwartzel (-14)
Wednesday 4 – Par 3 Contest Live on Sky Sports 1 from 6.30pm
Thursday 5 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 7pm
Friday 6 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 7pm
Saturday 7 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 8pm and BBC 2 from 8.30pm
Sunday 8 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 6.30pm and BBC 2 from 7pm
Tiger Woods – The resurgence in recent weeks of the 14-time Major champion is ominous for the rest of the field and on a course that he loves you would expect the former world number one to be in the mix come Sunday.
Rory McIlroy – Surely there can’t be a repeat of that fateful Sunday 12 months ago for the Northern Irishman, can there? We think not. Expect last year’s US Open champion to be fighting for his first Green Jacket.
Luke Donald – The current world number one shows every week that distance isn’t everything and with a short game and putting stroke to die for, the notorious Augusta National greens could be the key to the Englishman claiming his first Major.
Key hole: 15th. The last par 5 and an eagle opportunity for someone charging through the pack on a Sunday.
Skills required: Where do you start? Good driving, a sound bunker game and excellent putting are all required. However, specifically it’s advantageous to have a soft draw and razor sharp distance control to leave putts below the hole. Get that wrong and Augusta will give you the weekend off.