There’s something incredibly unique about Augusta National in Georgia. Drenched in traditions such as sexism, racial segregation and elitism, it also the only course to permanently host the US Masters – the first golf Major of the season.
Providing you’ve not picked up an injury, dropped down the world rankings or suddenly become Anthony Kim, it’s a fixed entry in the itinerary. The same every year. The same challenges, the same spray-painted grass, the same pointless cries of ‘get in the hole’ off the tee.
Players with proven course form at the Georgia track seem to perform best and apart from getting their sponsors plenty of network airtime it generally keeps them in the hunt over the fours days. And that gives you a better shot at being a contender right?
Similarly, players who hoover up unnecessarily over-sized trophies pre-Augusta just don’t seem to cut it when faced with four days of Amen Corner.
Yes Louis Oosthuizen, we’re looking at you.
The Paddy Power Blog has had a look at who could – and some who definitely will not on all previous course form – be in contention for the first Major of the season come next Sunday night.
Drum roll please…
We’ve deliberately left Jordan Spieth off the grid despite a 50 per strike rate at Augusta. Not bad!
Second on debut and a pillar-to-post winner last year, the scarily assured 22-year-old Texan has spat in the face of Amen Corner on his last two visits and is looking to become the first back-to-back winner of golf’s first Major since Tiger Woods (remember him?) in 2001/02.
Jason Day has two top 6 finishes in four trip to Augusta. Despite claiming to be sicker than a small hospital every time he hits the fairways, the current World No 1 has won his last two tournies on the bounce and popped his Major cherry with a USPGA victory last season.
At the other end of the spectrum, triple Masters winner and Major tipper Phil Mickelson gets the honour of being the most ‘successful’ Augusta player on show through his course mastery, longevity and no little skill. Lefty is back having fun again and shouldn’t be underestimated around the Georgia track.
Bubba Watson’s two Masters titles from seven appearances, means he has as many Green Jackets as he has friends on Tour. That’s pretty impressive considering his ‘fails’ came both times he was defending his title and talking to the media, fans and anyone not in his immediate family would have been a real strain for the World No 4 with an apparent phobia of strangers.
No belly putter has proven no problem for 2013 champ Adam Scott who threatened to become the next Luke Donald as golf’s forgotten man, before back-to-back triumphs at the Cadillac Championship & the Honda Classic last month.
Arrives in Georgia with an ‘A’ game and some seriously solid course form in his bag. A second Green Jacket isn’t out of the question for the smooth swinging Aussie.
Former US Open champ Justin Rose chased home Spieth last year with a career best T2 in Augusta and depending on which Rory McIlroy shows up, the English pro, who has never missed a cut at Augusta could go closest to ending the European jinx (no winner since Jose Maria Olazabal in 1999) if he can nick an extra birdie or two.
Mr Predictable Matt Kuchar has played eight times, missed the cut only once and despite 45th place last year has finished tied third, eighth and fifth since 2012.
On the flipside, there are some players who take to Augusta like a golf ball to water. Whatever it is about the course, they just can’t get it right.
Chief among them is dual Major winner Martin Kaymer whose form is more in-and-out than a professional hokey-cokey-er. At the Masters, he’s normally just out. A missed cut last year on the way to a missed Tour card in the States doesn’t inspire confidence in the German.
Northern Amer-irishman, Graeme McDowell either loves the craic in Augusta or gets a serious case of stage fright everytime he tees it up at the Masters. If you’re considering backing the self-styled G-Mac, a T12 in 2012 is his best finish at an event where he’s had the weekend free on five of his last eight visits and was an also-ran last year.
And despite Louis Oosthuizen’s stellar season so far and a second-place finish in 2012, the South African has also posted four missed cuts in seven appearances.
The most contentious of categories that houses players who’ve shown flickers of Augusta form, but also mixed it up with some less successful visits.
Chief among them is Rory McIlroy whose Augusta form is about as inspiring as a Donald Trump foreign-policy speech. But like Trump the graph is pointing in the right direction and he’s finished eighth and fourth in his last two visits – the latter after a slow start at Augusta and gaps in his pre-Master tournaments last year.
The way he stormed through the first three rounds of the 2011 edition suggested he had the course in his pocket, but imploded on the last day. If he gets out of the blocks quickly and gets hot with the flat-stick, McIlroy has the game and temperament to tame Augusta.
Close but no cigar
Everyone else in the graph could be broadly described as ‘you wouldn’t be surprised if they went close, but equally there’s a decent chance they’ll screw it up’. That pretty much describes Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia’s major hunts to date.
They’ve done well at Augusta at times but the feeling remains that despite being talented, they’re about as mentally tough as toddler with low self-esteem.
Saying a former winner doesn’t play Augusta particularly well feels about as ill-advised as praising Thatcher’s legacy in any town north of about Luton, but you could certainly say that about 2008 winner, Trevor Immelman.
He may have a Green Jacket hanging up in the clubhouse with his name on it, but he’s also got a patchy record. He’s finished in the Top 50 category or missed the cut in eight of his 13 Masters.
He’s not quite the course expert some may assume, but he’s got a Green Jacket so he probably doesn’t care.
Argentinian boomer Angel Cabrera has an over-sized Green Jacket in his locker from 2009 and just lost out on a second Masters dinner when beaten by to Adam Scott in 2013. He could be on the list of an ever expanding ‘close-but-no-cigar’ merchants while Brit Ian Poulter is a strange case – and that’s not just a jibe at his fashion sense.
After missing the cut in 2013, Ian was back to his fantastically average best, posting a course-best sixth last year. A Masters win would be some way for the self-styled ‘Poults’ to register his first stroke-play victory on the US Tour.