Thanks for your US Masters questions. I’ve done my best to answer some of you…
Q. What time do the gates open and do the crowds queue outside overnight a la Wimbledon or do they just turn up on the morning and go to their favourite pitch?
A. The gates opened at about 7.30 this morning with Nicklaus and Palmer teeing off just before the first group at 8. I think it’s pretty busy first thing but people don’t have to queue up too long because there are so many great vantage points to put your seat.
Q. My question is they have just added an extra ten minute programme to the red button over here just to show Tiger teeing off, what is the reaction of the media over there to Tiger? Is this masters going to be all about one player? And what feeling do you get from the other players about Tiger?
A. I’m going to write a blog about this later as there was an interesting development last night. In terms of the players, they all seem genuinely happy to have him back. It also takes the limelight away from them so most of them can do their preparation under the radar.
Q. Titleist is advertised as being the No1 ball in golf and I believe Srixon is coming up 2nd. Is this statement true for the Masters? Are there other manufacturers closing in as the pros preferred choice?
A. Yes, that statement would be true. The majority of the field are sponsored by the following manufacturers – Nike, TaylorMade, Titleist and Cleveland/Srixon. They all produce their own balls and for the most part, the players are obliged to play the ball designed by their sponsor. There is
some scope for choice among Ping players to use what they like but again most of these seem to be on a shoe, glove and ball deal with Acushnet so they play Titleist too.
Q. Is there a clear favourite amoung those inside the ropes at this early stage? Is anyone looking rather sharp and confident? How fast are the greens running? Is anyone particularly bothered about how the balls will react on the greens this year compared to last with the new grooves?
A. Having seen a fair bit of practice play, I’d say Rory looks to be hitting it better than ever. Whether his short game is sharp enough right now remains to be seen. Phil Mickelson was talking up Fred Couples chances after winning three times on the Champions Tour… The greens will be about 12 on
the stimp… They can’t really make them any quicker than this because the slopes are so severe that would become unplayable in places. There has actually been quite a lot of chat about the new grooves this week. At first players didn’t think it was going to make much of a difference but this week they seem to be saying the opposite. Of course, creating short game spin is crucial here and so the new grooves may make life a little tougher for them. We shall see.
Q. Does the fact the course looks like it may play a wee tad shorter due to the fine weather mean a pea shooter may be able to compete or will it still be a big boy winner??
A. Good question. There is no doubt that the course will be slightly firmer than the last few years so I guess that will open it up to more players. Personally, if this is the case I like the look of Furyk’s chances. He’s in form, scrambling well and has played well here in the past. Now that I’ve said that, you can probably expect him to miss the cut.
Q. Have you heard anyone shout “get in the hole” yet??
A. No, and the crowd here is really good. As good, if not better than at the Open. They are, however, allowed to drink and Tiger’s late tee time today may come at a bad time…
Q. Do most patrons park themselves in one spot for the day or is there much ‘roaming’ between holes?
They have a unique system here where the crowd can place their seat at a point on the course, place their business card in a pouch in the back and then wander off. This means that most find a good spot to sit later in the day and spend the morning wandering around.
Q. What’s the temperature difference between the early morning and mid afternoon, and does this give any advantage to later tee times as balls warm up and fly further later in the day?
The weather is due to take a turn for the worse today. Rain is predicted for this afternoon and then it will be significantly colder for the rest of the week. It does warm up through the day and doesn’t really get colder in the evening. However, with the rain forecast I can’t help but think those drawn
later today (Woods, Poulter etc) have got the wrong end of the draw.
Q. In your opinion is there a natural shot shape that gives an advantage around Augusta i.e draw, fade, high flight etc?
A. Definitely a draw. It’s an interesting one but a draw is undoubtedly the shot for Augusta. It helps on the following holes – 2, 5, 8, 9, 10 and 13.
Q. What’s the percentage of players playing “adjustable” drivers versus non-adjustable? Of those playing adjustable ones, is there a bias towards closed or open set ups?
A. In terms of a percentage, I’m not sure but there are quite a few – maybe even 50%. Those using adjustable usually have it set square or open but half a degree. Most of the pros hate hitting the ball left so that helps them guard against this.