Would you believe it’s that time if the year again!!
It seems like just last week Patrick Reed was striding up the hill on 18 acknowledging the raucous murmuring from the patrons at Augusta National.
By now Magnolia Drive will be scrubbed down to the road base, the caddies overalls sprayed with White King Stain Remover for whiter whites and the Butler Cabin Moose Head horns will be sharper than ever. As for the course, the Pink Dogwood will be bursting with … dog!; and the Flowering Crab Apple … well, I have no idea really.
There’s no doubting Augusta National is one of golf’s great visual canvases. Pretty well everyone I know who’ve been there have returned with stories of its beauty, which they try and explain while having this really serene yet slightly creepy smile on their faces.
But in the time it takes for a ball to get a bad bounce this magnificent beauty can also turn “flat out nasty”. It’s common to see players left staring at a green which for some reason just decided to completely refuse a perfectly struck iron or send a seemingly gentle downhill putt right off the front of the green and back into the same divot from where it began its journey.
Just ask Sergio Garcia. The 2017 Champ thought he hit a pretty good pitch into the 15th green last year on Thursday only to watch in despair as his pill spun clean off the green back into the water. It got really weird when he went through another sleeve of balls before he managed to keep one Terra firma! They say score cards don’t have room for pictures; well Serge couldn’t have fitted this art work on the canvas of Blue Poles.
Then there was Tiger Woods attempt at an eagle on the 13th green some years ago. Not only did he not make eagle, he also failed to make dry land! Yes folks right off the green into cold hands of one of Rae’s Creek’s evil little tributaries.
And don’t get me started on the bizarre swirling winds which can change by 180 degrees from the split second it takes to move your club from the top of the backswing to the follow through. Some cynical and psychologically damaged Masters competitors have said they can hear a strange wicked giggling sound through the huge pines as their shot lands 20 meters over the back or splashes in the drink 20 metres short. Mind you these poor blokes were being wheeled away strapped to a stretcher at the time.
Despite all these fiendish manifestations there will always be someone being congratulated by the Chairman of Green Jackets and made to cry by the CEO of Emotion – Jim Nantz.
Who will that be? Well, whilst the golf course will have the last say, talent and current form will hopefully have some influence. We always talk about the sweeping doglegs to the left and the shallow greens which require iron shots to land like they are being dropped out of the Good Year Blimp. Whack a high drawing ball flight onto a human with the ability to roll the ball at the right pace in a generally good direction and you have the stereo typical pre-tournament favorite.
Now let’s see….who fits that mold???
One Jason Day, that’s who. Despite not winning for a little while he has shown consistent performances this year with one fourth and two fifth’s. It’s as if he is about to peak right when they call him to the first tee at The Masters. As I’m writing this Jason has just withdrawn from the Arnold Palmer Invitational with back issues and we know it takes something pretty serious for this gritty Aussie to pull the pin given he managed to play brilliantly at the US Open a few years ago despite Col Swatton having to lead him around by his hand due to a bout of vertigo.
Adam Scott is also showing signs of the form that saw him become the first Aussie to don the Green Jacket. But again, a recent injury to his putting stroke has temporarily slowed him down.
Marc Leishman has form at Augusta and Majors in general for that matter. He seems to love the attention when the big tournies are on and there aren’t too many bigger than The Masters.
But you know what? Cameron Smith is my pick this year. His striking has come so far over the past couple of years and his short game … well that has to be one of the best in the world!
Fifth last year … 1st this year, I say!!
I know you read this Cam so please wear something with a yellow theme on Sunday … Yellow shirt and green jacket… Love it!