As a South Carolina boy who has attended the Masters more than any other PGA TOUR tournaments combined, it would be an understatement to say that this is my favorite event of the year. Hopefully, my work this week will produce a product that matches my enthusiasm for the official arrival of Spring.
Every week there is a debate as to how much emphasis to put on course history versus current form versus statistical fit. It cannot be overstated how much course history matters this week. There is a reason that Fred Couples and Angel Cabrera have value this week.
Let's get the particulars out of the way.
Augusta National Golf Course is a par-72 layout that stretches out to 7,435 yards. It has four par 5s, four par 3s and 10 par 4s.
The par 5s are all reachable by above-average players with the possible exception of the par-5 eighth, and it's reachable by the longer players. The par 5s are all stretched to their max distance given the constraints of their positions on the property. If they went back any further on the 13th, Augusta Country Club would sue them for encroachment. If they go back any further on the second, they would also be off the property.
The par 3s vary in difficulty, with the fourth hole being the most demanding and the 16th usually the easiest. The 12th is iconic, but it's difficulty is dependent on uncertain wind and the back right hole location. The par-3 sixth is an easy par if the tee shot is on the right level or below the hole, but can be difficult if a player gets above the hole.
With very few exceptions, the par 4s are very demanding. Par is a good score on all of them, but especially on the first, fifth, seventh, ninth, 10th, 11th, 17th and 18th holes. Actually, maybe I should have said the third and the 14th offer birdie opportunities with two good shots.
The key to cracking the code of Augusta National is actually quite easy. Score on the par 5s and hold on for the other 14 holes. That's why Tiger Woods dominated this place for so long. His dominance was defined by taking it deep on par 5s on every course he played, while breaking even on the 3s and 4s.
Speaking of TW, let's take a look at the winners and runners-up since 2005.
- 2005 - Tiger Woods (276) over Chris DiMarco in a playoff. Wow, that was 10 years ago?
- 2006 - Phil Mickelson (281) over Tim Clark (283)
- 2007 - Zach Johnson (289) over Retief Goosen, Rory Sabbatini and Tiger Woods (291)
- 2008 - Trevor Immelman (280) over Tiger Woods (283)
- 2009 - Angel Cabrera (276) over Chad Campbell and Kenny Perry (playoff)
- 2010 - Phil Mickelson (272) over Lee Westwood (275)
- 2011 - Charl Schwartzel (274) over Jason Day and Adam Scott (276)
- 2012 - Bubba Watson (278) over Louis Oosthuizen in a playoff
- 2013 - Adam Scott (279) over Angel Cabrera in a playoff
- 2014 - Bubba Watson (280) over Jonas Blixt and Jordan Spieth (283)
The winners paint a very clear picture. Be long. Very long if you can. Don't bring up ZJ's name. He won in a cold snap at 1-over-par and his year was an outlier for several reasons. Ball-striking / GIR matter, as does proximity. The greens at Augusta National are large, except they aren't. They are so sloped that each green has 2-4 sub greens, and you better be on the right one. Par 4 scoring almost always matters, and it does this week as well, and par 5 scoring average is a major key this week.
That's enough stats. Stick with those, focus on course history and keep an eye on current form.
Oh, and the weather! There is a high chance of rain during the tournament proper this week. What does that mean? The longer the better. Long. Long. Long.
We will return with a power ranking later in the week. Until then, happy research!