On the eve of the 2019 Masters, here are some facts that will enhance your knowledge of the season’s first major:
Nobody in the World Top 10 owns a green jacket
This is a very odd stat. One of the usual ways to make it to the Top 10 in the Official World Golf Rankings is by winning majors. The current Top 10 has a total of 11 majors to their credit but none of them has won the Masters:
- #1 Justin Rose (US Open)
- #2 Dustin Johnson (US Open)
- #3 Rory McIlroy (US Open, Open Championship, 2 PGA Championships )
- #4 Brooks Koepka (2 US Opens, PGA Championship)
- #5 Justin Thomas (PGA Championship)
- #6 Bryson DeChambeau (0)
- #7 Francesco Molinari (Open Championship)
- #8 Jon Rahm (0)
- #9 Rickie Fowler (0)
- #10 Xander Schauffele (0)
In fact, you have to go all the way down to #12 to find a Masters winner: Tiger Woods, who has won four times. Rounding out the Top 20, #17 Bubba Watson has won twice and #18 Patrick Reed once. The betting line for the 2019 Masters gives McIlroy, Rose and Johnson the best odds of winning so maybe by Sunday night, someone in the World Top 10 will finally own a green jacket.
The 5th Hole is likely to be the toughest
Augusta National Golf Club has always done things their way, often without any public consultation and with little fanfare. Holes are altered, trees are planted, new tees are added – all with the objective of making the Masters the best golf event of the year. The big change for 2019 is to the 5th hole – an uphill dogleg par-4, known as Magnolia, that has always played longer than its 455 yards because players must avoid two gaping bunkers on the left. Since last year’s Masters, Augusta has built a new tee deck alongside Old Berckmans Road behind the 4th green. The new tee adds 40 more yards to what was the sixth toughest hole at Augusta. There was no formal announcement about changes to the 5th but the 2019 Media Guide shows that the yardage has been set at 495 yards and the distance to carry the bunkers is now 313 yards. Last year, that carry distance was listed at 315 yards so presumably the bunkers have been moved forward to keep them in play from the new tee deck. With the additional yardage, expect the 5th hole to be the toughest on the course.
The Tournament Hinges on Azalea
Every year, countless articles try to answer questions about which hole at Augusta is the most pivotal. In 2016, Jordan Spieth might have said that the 12th was more important than any others after he dumped a couple of shots into Rae’s Creek and made a quadruple bogey, handing the title to Danny Willett. The year before he might have said #15 was crucial. He birdied the hole three out of four days enroute to winning the Masters. But since 1983, one hole has stood above the rest in terms of contributing most to variations in score. In other words, players make everything from eagles and birdies to bogeys, doubles and others. That wide variance is pivotal to moving up or down the leaderboard. Azalea (#13) has ignited many a back-nine charge on Sunday with a timely eagle on the short par-5. It worked most recently for Jennifer Kupcho at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur last week. History has shown that Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus routinely started their finishing kick at the 13th with a timely birdie or eagle.
The 13th may be the Most Pivotal Hole but the 12th hole is the scene of some of the worst disasters in Masters history. Coming smack in the middle of Amen Corner, this little par-3 punches way above its weight. As we all know, it’s only a short iron across Rae’s Creek to a narrow green. However, the hole sits in a hollow at the bottom of the property where swirling winds play havoc with club selection and players have a tough time getting settled. Here are five of the worst disasters at Golden Bell:
- 1959: Arnold Palmer came to the 12th with a five-shot lead. He dumped his tee shot into Rae’s Creek and made triple. Art Wall won the tournament.
- 1980: Tom Weiskopf plunked five shots into Rae’s Creek and made a 13, the highest ever score on the hole. Weiskopf had four runner-up finishes at Augusta but never won.
- 2003: Jeff Maggert started the day with a two-shot lead over Mike Weir. After hitting himself with a shot from the bunker on #3 and making a triple, Maggert battled back to with a single stroke as he stood on the 12th His tee shot found the back bunker, then he skulled his next into the water. After a drop, he dumped another into the creek. He ended up making a quintuple bogey 8 and missed the playoff by five shots.
- 2011: Rory McIlroy entered the final round with a four-shot lead, which he still clung to as he made the turn. However, a wildly hooked tee shot on #10 led to a triple bogey and started his downfall. On the 12th, McIlroy managed to stay dry but a four-putt double bogey all but ended his chance for a green jacket.
- 2016: Young Jordan Spieth had become something of an Augusta specialist with a T2 finish in 2014, a win in 2015 and in 2016, a five-shot lead to start the back nine on Sunday. Back-to-back bogeys on 10 and 11 reduced that lead but Golden Bell pretty much ended any hope he had of defending his title. His tee shot splashed into Rae’s Creek and after a penalty drop, so did his second. His fifth shot found the back bunker. The resulting quad all but handed the tournament to Danny Willett.
For all the disasters at Golden Bell, there is one bright moment. In 1992, Fred Couples’ tee shot landed on the bank above Rae’s Creek and rolled towards the water. Incredibly, the ball stopped and Couples was able to save par and go on to win his only major. Miracles do happen.
And the winner is …. Not likely Patrick Reed
In the 80-year history of the Masters, the defending champion has managed to win successive titles on only three occasions. Tiger Woods did it in 2001/2002, Nick Faldo in 1989/90 and Jack Nicklaus in 1965/66. For many players, success has come in bunches but not in consecutive years. Sam Snead won three times in a six-year period; Phil Mickelson three times in seven years; and Arnold Palmer won every other year in 1958, 60, 62 and 64. Defending is hard. We’ve seen the disasters that hit Palmer in 1959 and Spieth in 2016, even as they looked like they were coasting towards another title. That doesn’t portend well for Patrick Reed’s chances.
Twenty-four hours before tee time, here are the betting odds for the 2019 Masters:
- Rory McIlroy 8/1
- Dustin Johnson 11/1
- Justin Rose 14/1
- Rickie Fowler 15/1
- Jordan Spieth 16/1
- Tiger Woods 16/1
- Brooks Koepka 20/1
- Francesco Molinari 20/1
- Jon Rahm 20/1
- Justin Thomas 20/1
- Phil Mickelson 45/1
- Patrick Reed 60/1
- Corey Conners 200/1
- Mike Weir 1000/1
Hope to see you soon. Opening day is just over a month away.
Enjoy the Masters.