AUGUSTA, Ga. – Pain.
That’s what players could expertise in the 85th taking part in of the Masters beginning Thursday as the sphere of play among the many Georgia Pines is agency, fast and primed to deliver punishment.
“I think every guy who plays professional golf is a little bit of a masochist,” stated world No. 6 Xander Schauffele, who has six top-10s in majors the previous three years, together with a tie for second in the 2019 Masters. “So, I’m here for the torture, and my caddie and I will do our best if it gets really tough.”
It actually wasn’t threatening when the 2020 Masters was performed in the autumn cool of November as a result of COVID-19 international pandemic. It was a pleasure, if you’ll, with mushy greens, moist fairways and fewer penal chipping areas permitting players to shun worry and 0 in on targets with heightened aggression.
The outcome? The scoring was astounding. World No. 1 Dustin Johnson turned the primary in Masters historical past to card a number of rounds of 65 or higher and shattered the scoring file by changing into the one participant to succeed in and end at 20 beneath.
Cameron Smith turned the primary in the Masters chronicles to shoot all 4 rounds in the 60s – and misplaced by 5. Smith completed in a tie for second with Masters rookie Sungjae Im.
Dustin Johnson performs from the green on the third gap throughout the closing spherical of The Masters golf match at Augusta National GC. (Photo: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports)
But the season has modified, and the heat of spring has produced a fiery structure that can demand precision, accuracy and a mushy contact on and across the greens. Johnson stated if the course stays agency and fast, “you’re definitely going to have to be a little more careful about where you hit the ball.” Fred Couples, the winner of the 1992 Masters, stated the course could play “as difficult as the course has played in a long, long time.”
It actually will if Mother Nature cooperates. Augusta National has bathed in sunshine for six consecutive days however the forecast exhibits menacing clouds are en route. The likelihood of rain and/or thunderstorms stands at 50 p.c per day Friday and Saturday. If the storm fronts half or shift away, or if little rain falls, then Augusta National will stand as a hardened, supreme take a look at as soon as once more.
“When the greens are firm, the precision, the course management, the angles, the leave where the ball is left, all of this stuff becomes incredibly important in your ability to play this course effectively,” three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson stated. “When the greens are soft, it’s irrelevant because you can fly the ball over all the trouble. Angles don’t matter. I plugged a 5-iron last November into the second green. It plugged.
“The guys are so precise in their ability to fly the golf ball the correct yardage with every club that if you have soft receptive greens, it’s like having a military and then not giving them any weapons, right? It’s defenseless.”
So defenseless that reigning PGA champion Collin Morikawa noticed one thing in final yr’s closing spherical he’d by no means seen.
“Someone that I played with on 7 stopped their ball in the middle of that slope, like the middle of the green on the right,” he stated. “I’m like, that’s not possible.”
During a follow spherical earlier this week, reigning U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau noticed what Augusta National is all about when the course is on the dry facet.
“We had a hole location on 17 that was up on the front part of the green about five or six (paces) on, and if you just got it past the hole, it would roll off the front of the green. Literally it moves a dimple and it’s gone.
“It’s pretty unique and interesting. I’ve never seen it this fast, this quick, this early, but I certainly love the challenge.”
Masters: Players must make birdies or better on the par 5s at Augusta National
Four-time main champion Rory McIlroy, who’s a Masters triumph from finishing the profession Grand Slam, stated players must have their distances dialed in heading to the primary tee.
“This week’s going to be a huge premium on accuracy, on landing your golf ball on your numbers and being precise with your iron play,” he stated. “And the ball is not hitting and stopping. You’re inevitably going to miss a few greens, and scrambling is going to be key, too.
“It’s certainly a different test than it was a few months ago.”
It didn’t take lengthy for Brooks Koepka to see the distinction. In a late afternoon follow spherical on Sunday, the four-time main champion was already considering what the ultimate spherical could entail.
“There was a big bounce on the green on my first approach. I said to Rick (Elliott, his caddie) on one of the holes, if they’re this firm now, and you got a week, what’s Sunday going to be like?” he stated. “They can do anything; they can soften it or make it twice as firm as it is now. They got the capability to do whatever they want with it.”
That was in reference to the SubAir system at Augusta National, which permits match officers to syphon moisture from the floor of the bottom.
“If the membership here and those who are setting up the golf course get the weather they want to get, and get less than 10‑under par as a winning score, it will be where it requires a lot more kind of course knowledge where you leave the ball and you have to hit an even more precise shot to get it where you want it to go,” 2015 Masters champion Jordan Spieth stated. “I think the firmer the better, the way this golf course plays.”
The approach it ought to play, in different phrases.
“I think Dustin’s 20-under record will be pretty safe for many years to come,” stated world No. 10 Patrick Cantlay. “I expect it to get really firm and fast, and I think that’s when this golf course shines.
“Everyone loves seeing the chips and putts that seem to trickle out forever and take forever to get to the hole, and that really brings out the great design that the golf course is.”