Augusta National Golf Club Par 72 7,510 yards
Tiger Woods is back
Just 14 months since his car accident that caused severe injuries, Woods is back to playing competitive golf, returning to Augusta National. Augusta National is a course full of steep hills, so it will be a test for Woods to walk up to 72 holes. But his game appears to be in top shape, and with his history there, do not count him out being in contention on Sunday.
No Phil Mickelson
For the first time since 1994, the Masters will be played without Mickelson competing. Mickelson has still not played on the PGA Tour since his comments about the Saudi Golf League, and it remains to be seen when he will make his return.
Augusta National will look a bit different this year. Holes 11 and 15 underwent some changes that will undoubtedly draw the players’ attention. Hole 11 not only plays longer this year at 520 yards but on the right side of the fairway, multiple trees were removed, keeping only three, making second shots more strategic for those who hit it there. Also, gone are shots like Larry Mize hit to win the 1987 Masters because the bail-out area on the right side of the green was hallowed out. For Hole 15, the tees will be moved back 20 yards to 550 yards. It seems like a minor change, but it will make the hole much more challenging, especially to those who aren’t big hitters. It will be interesting to see who will be able to go for the green in two and who will now have to layup even with a good drive at Augusta National’s final par five. Again it seems like a small change on paper, but it will make the players think more about their second shots. Other minor changes to the golf course include changes to three greens the 3rd, 13th, and the 17th hole.
It’s a storyline few are talking about, but it still should be a featured one. It’s another year of Mcllroy trying to conquer Augusta National and not only win his first green jacket but also complete the career grand slam.
World Number One Race
Scottie Scheffler comes into this week at No. 1 in the world, but by no means does he have a grip lock on it. Jon Rahm, Collin Morikawa, Victor Hovland, and Cameron Smith all have scenarios to overtake Scheffler this week.
A First-time major winner?
Augusta National has been kind to those looking for their first major championships in recent years. Jordan Spieth in 2015, Danny Willet in 2016, Sergio Garcia in 2017, Patrick Reed in 2018, and Hideki Matsuyama last year all won their first major championship at the Masters. Scottie Scheffler, Victor Hovland, Cameron Smith, Patrick Cantley, Xander Schauffele, and Sam Burns are among those at the top of the world rankings looking for their first major.
Back to Back
Hideki Matsuyama is seeking to become the first Masters champion to repeat since Tiger Woods did it in 2001 and 2002.
Patrons back in full force
The Patrons did return to the Masters last year, but there’s no attendance limation this year. So, the full force of the Augusta roars will be back to be heard around the golf course.
The Back Nine
The Masters doesn’t start till the back nine on Sunday for a reason. With the major changes to 11 and 15 things may look different this year, but somebody will have a chance to have their Masters moment come Sunday afternoon.
Talor Gooch, Seamus Power, and Harold Varner III
All three are making their first starts at the Masters, but that shouldn’t phase them whatsoever. All three have played well and all three golf games fit Augusta National and will be good sleeper picks this week.
The two-time Masters champion has always had success at Augusta National. His game may not be as sharp as he wants to come in, but he can always recapture the magic this week.
A T8 finish last year makes him a popular sleepers pick this week. His iron and ball striking game is elite to attack the greens. The only issue with his game is hit putting if he figures that out eventually he could become a major champion.
This is another name nobody is talking about this week but has some experience in 2020 playing in the final group shooting a 76. His short game has been a struggle but this could be the week to conquer that demon.
Who’s up for an encore performance? Zalatoris broke onto the golf scene with his runner-up performance last year. Since then, he’s proven it’s not a fluke performance, as his game has only improved since then. Hit putting is the weakness of his game, but he started knocking down putts at the WGC Match Play. With more confidence and a hot putter, Zalatoris could very well win it this week as my main sleeper.
Golfers I do not like this week
It be a good story if he won this week, but Augusta National has his number, and he could be in the top 20 this week. Mcllroy missed the cut last week, and last year, Rory opened with a 75 to fall behind. It’s always the wedge game with Mcllroy. If he gets that going, he may finally do it.
Injuries, poor play, and Augusta National have his number. That’s all you need to know to pick Bryson this week.
After his breakout win at the Northern Trust, one would figure Finau would have taken off? That was not the case, as his 2021-2022 season has been characterized by poor play meaning the struggles will continue this week.
T18 in 2021 is his best finish at the Masters, so despite being high in the world golf rankings, I don’t expect him to contend this week, especially after missing five out of the last seven cuts at majors.
Augusta National does not fit his golf game and his results here have not been the best, especially with a missed cut last year. His collapse with a weak field at the Honda Classic does not give my endorsement he will contend this week.
Johnson has been stellar at the Masters throughout his career, including his dominant win in 2020. But this year, Johnson has not played his best, not being in contention in a stroke play event. Putting is always the concern with Johnson, especially in majors. He could put it together this week and do well and prove me wrong.
11 Sam Burns
Burns has three wins in 11 months; that’s all you need to know about him and his recent play. I wouldn’t worry about pressure either. Burns has handled playing with Tiger Woods as a rookie. The only thing keeping him low on this list is that this is his first Masters.
10 Jordan Spieth
Spieth has been unable to win after winning the Valero Texas Open last year, and this year has been bad outside of one great round. You can look at putting being the main reason for that. But, it’s Augusta National, and Spieth is ranked because of his history and he will somehow find a way to get his name towards the top of the leaderboard. But, if he wants to win his first major since 2017 those 5-10 footers will tell the story of if that happens.
9 Justin Thomas
His play has been disappointing at majors, but he has an x-factor Jim Bones MacKay as his caddie this year. He needs to do better in the first round to win it all, but the stars could align for Thomas this week.
8 Patrick Cantley
In 2019 he could taste a green jacket but fell short of beating Tiger Woods. A breakout fall has put him in a position to claim No. 1. His game is perfect to win a major championship. This could be the week.
7 Jon Rahm
Rahm comes into Augusta National looking for his first green jacket. After his win at Torrey Pines last year. Rahm hasn’t won since. His putter has been an issue lately and Augusta National requires patience so Rahm will need both in order to contend this week.
6 Xander Schauffele
Schauffele is arguably the best golfer to not have won a major yet. Last year was his best chance until he hit it into the water on 16 to lose out on the green jacket. But winning a gold medal for your country can match the pressure of winning a major championship on Sunday. So Schauffele’s redemption story could be a thing come Sunday.
5 Victor Hovland
Hovland has broken out now being top five in the world rankings. Hovland’s ball-striking is beautiful to watch and the strongest part of his game. There’s one issue, however, his short game, especially in the bunkers with sand saves. If Hovland wants to win his first major championship and join fellow golfer Collin Morikawa as an under 26 major champion he will need to conquer that demon.
4 Collin Morikawa
Morikawa is arguably the best iron player in the world. With already two majors to his name in his young career, Morikawa will look to get major number three and put himself in a position later this year to complete the career grand slam. If he putts as he did at the Open Championship lookout for Morikawa this week.
3 Cameron Smith
Wins at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and the Players have Smith coming into the Masters as hot as you can be. Let’s not forget that he’s comfortable on these greens and he’s the only golfer to ever shot four rounds in the 60s at Augusta National in 2020. His wedge game also matches his putter which is a great duo to win your first green jacket.
2 Scottie Scheffler
Yes, you have Victor Hovland and Collin Morikawa as the stars of this historic class of young golfers. That was until Scheffler’s breakout season so far with three wins in his last five starts to become the No. 1 in the world rankings. His Ryder Cup performance also proves he can handle this moment but majors talk and winning one would prove Scheffler is the best golfer in the world. Oh, and having Ted Scott the caddie who’s been on the bag for Bubba Watson for his two Masters wins also helps. Expect Scheffler to contend on the back nine come Sunday.
1 Brooks Koepka
Mr. Major himself, Koepka always seems to come out and contend at these events. While he has four majors he’s still hunting for his first green jacket. It seem like his playing coming in was poor until the WGC Match Play where he found something in his game and clicked to a quarterfinals appearance. Getting a head start his prep for this week by not playing last week is new but a move I like. Oh did i mention he’s healthy as well? That’s pretty big considering last year he missed the cut not being 100%
Tiger Woods prediction
Woods is playing, and we should all be happy to see that. After watching him in person on Monday, his game looks sharp, and he believes he can handle the physical pain that will come from walking Augusta National. It’s a safe bet that Woods will contend in this tournament and it will be fun to watch so I’ll go with a top 10 finish.
Winner: Cameron Smith
Toughest Hole prediction 11th hole
The changes and the length will make this hole a monster. It was already a monster being the second-toughest hole at Augusta National historically. But, with water on the left and trouble on the right, no bail out a par is a good score here that will get you a stroke on the field.
Winning Score -14
Augusta National has enough holes to make you stress, but it also has enough holes that you can attack. Last year, the winning score was -10, but I believe that some low scores on the weekend will increase the winning score this year.