April 07, 2011

A few thoughts on The Masters

Somebody once asked me how much I would pay to play Augusta National Golf Course - the venue for The Masters golf championship. The answer was "As much as it takes". The reason being that this hallowed venue is off limits to most of the golf playing population of the world. If you look at the other major venues, most of them can be played - albeit at a high green fee - by anyone with a suitable handicap. Hell, St Andrews in Scotland is a public course and - on a good day - you can turn up in the morning and play (I know, I did it a couple of years ago).

But Augusta is a private club. It has a limited, exclusive, membership. It allows no women members and - up until very recently - it didn't allow coloured members. Whether this is right or wrong is not the objective of this post, it is to talk about the competition itself.

The Masters is the only golf major played on the professional circuit which always plays at the same venue. It is a completely independent major in that it is not sponsored by any golf organisation such as the PGA or the USGA. It is completely managed by the committee of Augusta National Golf Club. As such it holds a unique place in the pantheon of golf mystique.

This is the venue where - for example - anyone found littering, misbehaving or even using a mobile phone on the course will have their access revoked then and in future. It's a strict place. The committee define just about every facet of the championship - including the entry list. It is an invitation-only event, unlike the other majors which are merit based and rely on knock-out competitions to narrow the field.

So let's look at what's in store for this years Masters. As usual the field contains some of the best players on the circuit. It also includes past champions (such as Sandy Lyle and Jose Maria Olazabal) who will probably not be contending come Sunday afternoon. But it also contains the top two players in the world - Martin Kaymer and Lee Westwood, the other top Brit - Graeme McDowell - and the man who many people feel will win this competition one day - Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy. In there as well are the usual suspects such as Phil Michelson (coming off a win last week), Luke Donald (who always seems to get himself into a great position before falling away on Sunday afternoon) and - of course - Tiger Woods.

Regular readers of my blogs will know of my opinion of Tiger Woods as a player (In short, excellent player, but not the deity he is made out to be by commentators), and this has been bourne out by recent events. He is now ranked number 7 in the world and hasn't won a major since 2008 - which in Tiger's world is a lifetime. So what will he do this year? He's made no secret of the fact that he likes Augusta. He has 3 Green Jackets from this venue and has won almost $5million dollars in prize money since he first competed as a professional back in 1999. The course is set up for him as a player and we know he has the ability to survive the pressure of the Sunday afternoon back nine. So will he do it this year? I'm not sure. The one thing that Tiger has never been able to fix in his game is his tee shot. Long and powerful, but more often than not inaccurate. Statistics show that he is the best on tour at recovering from bad lies with his second shot, but at Augusta that might not be enough. The speed of the greens, the severity of the course and the hunger of thefollowing players will be enough to accentuate the shortcomings of his game. Couple this with the fact that his swing is going through another rethink (his third, I believe), under his new coach, and this might be another year he misses the top spot. Having said that he finished 4th last year amidst all the scandal about his private life so now that that has died down he might go one or two better.

One thing's for sure - I shall be watching.

Sunday afternoon will reveal all.

0 comments (See Policy http://tinyurl.com/5qgr5x):

Post a Comment