WHO CAN WIN AND WHO CAN’T

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Contents - By John Huggan and Dave Shed­loski

Can­did and catty com­ments about the field at Au­gusta.

ONLY 50 PLAY­ERS HAVE WON the pre­vi­ous 80 Masters tour­na­ments. Only 32 of them are still with us. And only 19, some of them play­ing cer­e­mo­ni­ally, are ex­pected to tee it up on April 6 at Au­gusta Na­tional.Which means a lot of play­ers – in­clud­ing Jason Day, Rory McIl­roy, Dustin John­son, Hen­rik Sten­son, Rickie Fowler, Ser­gio Gar­cia, Justin Rose and many more – are still try­ing to fig­ure out how to earn a green jacket.Then there’s Tiger Woods, who is try­ing to fig­ure out how to win his fifth (but his first in a dozen years).

Who’s got what it takes, and who doesn’t? What are their strengths, and what’s hold­ing them back? To get the an­swers, Golf Di­gest in­ter­viewed dozens of play­ers, cad­dies, coaches and other keen ob­servers for can­did ob­ser­va­tions on past cham­pi­ons and those who are still try­ing to break through. Our in­ter­vie­wees didn’t hold back.

“THERE ISN’T A PIN JASON DAY DOESN’T THINK HE CAN GET AT, BUT YOU HAVE TO HAVE THE DIS­CI­PLINE TO NOT GO RIGHT AT SOME OF THEM.”

MAN­AG­ING FLAWS

“Ilook at all the top play­ers, and ev­ery one of them has a flaw. The question is, how big is the flaw, and how do they make it less of one for that week? Ev­ery guy is clearly tal­ented enough to win.Are you go­ing to tell me Jason Day or Rory McIl­roy or Justin Rose aren’t go­ing to win the Masters? Rickie Fowler? Jon Rahm, even­tu­ally? Pa­trick Reed? Dustin John­son could still win two or three. But they all have their is­sues. Or maybe it’s just that they don’t play to their strengths as well to make up for the weak­nesses.Adam Scott won a Masters, and he’s a ter­ri­ble put­ter – well, he’s be­low av­er­age. But his ball-strik­ing is so good, and those weeks he’s re­ally on hit­ting the ball, he only has to be a be­low-av­er­age put­ter to win.” . . .“Peo­ple these days learn golf on the range, not on the course, and we’re see­ing the re­sults of that at the top level. Ev­ery­one learns how to hit it rather than how to play, which is not how to play Au­gusta. Seve learnt how to play with one club, and not many played the Masters bet­ter than he did.To me, only Phil, Bubba and Ser­gio learnt how to play golf the right way.They play golf, not swing, which is the way to play Au­gusta. But it goes the other way, too.Tiger was a real golfer when he came on tour, but he ended up a sci­en­tist. Padraig Har­ring­ton, the same. Justin Rose, too.And Adam is a sci­en­tist with his short game. None of which helps them at Au­gusta. It isn’t a science course.”

BOMBERS VS SHORT HIT­TERS

“I n this day and age, the guys who don’t hit it very far – Jim Furyk, for ex­am­ple – have no chance to win the Masters. Matt Kuchar is an­other.You can’t win there if all you have is guile and strat­egy. Dufner won’t win there.” . . .“You have to go with guys who hit the ball a long way and high. For Jason, Dustin, Adam, Rory, Bubba, the par of the course is closer to 68.” . . . “It’s the eas­i­est event to pre­dict be­cause you can break it down.Who can putt, and who can’t? Who can reach the par 5s in two? And so on. Jor­dan Spi­eth’s par is 70. He can reach the par 5s on the back nine. But he’s also the best put­ter. So that brings him down to, say, 69. Rory’s ball­strik­ing starts him at 68. But his putting takes him up to 72.Any time a player wins with­out that for­mula, it has to be be­cause weather takes away that in­her­ent edge – say, when no one can reach some of the par 5s.Then you get Zach John- son or Mike Weir win­ning.” . . .“Pure yardage is way more im­por­tant than creat­ing the right an­gle into the flag. Hit­ting a 9-iron in­stead of a 6-iron makes up for a bad an­gle.You can ar­gue that it shouldn’t be that way, but it is.”

. . .“Lee Trevino always said he didn’t like Au­gusta be­cause he hit the ball left to right. But the truth is that he knew he wasn’t long enough off the tee. He couldn’t get to the tops of some of the hills.Well, to­day’s shorter hit­ters have pretty much the same is­sues.” . . .“It’s just too hard over four days to hit hy­brids and long irons to holes where the long guys are hit­ting 7-irons.You can’t com­pete with that.” . . .“If I have, say, two more short irons than you do into those greens, that’s eight more scor­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties in the tour­na­ment. Odds say I’m go­ing to whip your ass.” . . .“Phil, Bubba, Adam, (Charl) Schwartzel – they have proven that long and crooked can work there.” . . .“Be­tween the 5 000 trees they planted and the sec­ond cut, you don’t have the lux­ury of a bit of lee­way off the tee. I know Phil says he doesn’t care where his tee shots go, that he can re­cover, but be­lieve me, he cares.” . . .“The way Tiger played it in 1997, bomb­ing it all around, you can’t do that any­more. You might get away with it on a hole or two, but that’s not a strat­egy that’s go­ing to work for 72 holes.They make you play Au­gusta the way they want you to play Au­gusta.”

PA­TIENCE, PA­TIENCE

“T en times in ev­ery round you’re go­ing to have a shot where, if you get too ag­gres­sive and miss, you’re go­ing to make a bo­gey at best. Ser­gio is im­pa­tient. So is Rory.And Bubba.And Dustin. Jason can get too ag­gres­sive be­cause he likes to take shots on. Jor­dan is the most pa­tient of the elite guys.As much as he car­ries on be­tween shots, he knows his

“JOR­DAN SPI­ETH DOESN’T WORRY SO MUCH ABOUT THE SHORT PUTTS. HE NEVER THINKS ABOUT THE NEXT PUTT BE­CAUSE HE AS­SUMES THIS ONE IS GO­ING IN.”

lim­i­ta­tions.And he’s the best scorer of that bunch. Phil is im­pa­tient. So is Pa­trick Reed.And Louis Oosthuizen – he switches off if things aren’t go­ing well.” . . .“The big­gest thing ev­ery player has to get his head around is the Mickey Mouse pin po­si­tions. So much of Au­gusta is un­fair.You can hit a shot to eight feet, and you can hit an­other shot that lands three inches from the first ball, then fin­ishes 60 yards down a hill. If that’s f------ right, I know noth­ing about golf. It’s dra­matic, but it’s not right. And that sort of stuff gets to play­ers.” . . . “Ex­pe­ri­ence is ev­ery­thing. I know cad­dies who have been go­ing there for years and have books on the place.Yet they add to those books ev­ery year. Some­thing changes ev­ery year, even if it’s just a lit­tle thing.” . . .“More than pa­tience, it also takes some­one who isn’t afraid to lose and who has re­ally big balls – I don’t know any other way to say it.You have to be able to stom­ach the thought of win­ning, be­lieve it or not.” . . .“Each round there are prob­a­bly nine holes you can make birdie and nine holes you can make par, depend­ing on the pins, and you can’t re­ally al­ter that equa­tion a whole lot.”

TOUGH DE­CI­SIONS

“O ne of the best things Au­gusta does is mess with you.And the way they mess with you is they give you op­tions. Pros don’t like op­tions, be­cause then they have to make a de­ci­sion.At the US Open, when you’re sit­ting in four inches of rough around the green, you have one op­tion:You take out your sand wedge, open it up and hope it lands soft. But at Au­gusta you can bump-and-run it, you can putt it, you can loft it, you can use a hy­brid or a 3-wood – that makes you un­easy be­cause you’re pray­ing you don’t pick the wrong op­tion. It puts doubt in your mind.” . . .“Au­gusta is the great­est setup of any tour­na­ment in the world. And that’s with­out long rough. Short grass is used as a haz­ard there. Peo­ple think nar­row fair­ways and a bunch of rough is hard. Driv­ing it, yes. But around the greens, short grass is a haz­ard, and it’s ex­pertly used that way at the Masters.” . . .“Mow­ing the fair­ways to­wards the tees is just one trick they use at Au­gusta, but it does more than just slow down the ball.You hit the fair­way and think you’re okay, but be­cause of the way they mow it, the ball can nes­tle down a lit­tle bit. It’s tough to always get a clean lie.That adds to the anx­i­ety when you’re try­ing to get the dis­tance right into the green.”

A CLOSER LOOK AT THE CON­TENDERS JASON DAY BEST AT AU­GUSTA: T-2 (2011)

“Jason is the No 1 put­ter on tour, and he hits it long and high. He’s per­fect for Au­gusta.” . . .“There isn’t a spot on that course where he’s go­ing to be un­com­fort­able.” . . .“What he doesn’t need is a windy Masters. His ball flight is too high when the wind is swirling. Plus, he’s always sick. He wants to win Au­gusta so bad it pretty much guar­an­tees he’ll be sick that week. He’s like Tiger in that re­spect – there’s always some­thing wrong with him.” . . .“He hasn’t quite learnt to play the golf course cor­rectly. You can’t just play all out, and he seems to do that a bit too much.There isn’t a pin he doesn’t think he can get at, but you have to have the dis­ci­pline to not go right at some of them be­cause your misses are so mag­ni­fied there. But he’ll learn, and I think he’ll even­tu­ally win.” . . .“The only thing that hurts Jason is that he doesn’t seem to have a half-shot. Ev­ery­thing is full tilt.” . . .“He just hasn’t put it all to­gether in one week there, and the game is filled with guys who did that, be it Tom Weiskopf or Ernie Els. Not say­ing Jason won’t win. But the longer he waits, the harder it gets.” . . .“He maybe wants it too badly.” . . .“He has great pa­tience. I just wish he would do it faster. I mean, the guy wears out ev­ery­one else’s pa­tience.”

RICKIE FOWLER BEST AT AU­GUSTA: T-5 (2014)

“Rickie seems to have a text­book game for the Masters. If you can win at Saw­grass, you can move the ball both ways.And he can fin­ish well. So he’s not afraid of the big sit­u­a­tion. But his putting is the weak link, like so many of the lead­ing play­ers other than Jor­dan.” . . .“The prob­lem is his chip­ping. He’s a lit­tle flippy at the bot­tom. Hit­ting to greens that don’t give him much mar­gin for er­ror; that leads to a lot of bo­geys if he isn’t hol­ing out from 15 feet all day. At Au­gusta, you have to be com­fort­able chip­ping into the grain, and I just don’t think Rickie is.When you take the lit­tle bump-and-run shot away from him, he looks a lit­tle lost.” . . .“He’s start­ing to put dou­ble bo­geys back on his card, and I thought he’d got over that when he went to Butch. He’s overly ag­gres­sive at the wrong times. Bo­geys aren’t bad some­times, but dou­ble bo­geys – and then you press some more. Bad combo.”

SER­GIO GAR­CIA BEST AT AU­GUSTA: T-4 (2004)

“The irony is that, ball-strik­ing-wise, Ser­gio is suited to Au­gusta more than any­one other than Bubba. Ser­gio hits it both ways. He can hit the draw off the tee and the fade into the greens. He plays old-school golf. But he’s talked him­self out of win­ning there. He clearly hates the place. He’s beaten be­fore he gets to the first tee. His putting weak­ness is a prob­lem, of course.As Ernie showed, you can be ex­posed on the first hole of the Masters. (Els six-putted the open­ing hole in 2016.) The same could hap­pen to Ser­gio.Three-foot­ers in the Masters are as stress­ful as 10-foot­ers on other cour­ses. If you miss, you’re go­ing to be as far away again.And to hole them prop­erly, you have to risk hav­ing an eight-footer com­ing back. Ser­gio’s wor­ried about the next one, so he doesn’t hit the first one very well.” . . .“He sees it as a tricked-up course, one they would never build to­day. But he should like it more than he does.The most strik­ing as­pect of the course is that the shape asked off the tee is so of­ten the op­po­site of the ap­proach shot.That should suit Ser­gio. But he can’t get his head out of his arse.” . . .“His his­tory in the ma­jors only com­pounds his bad mood when he plays in the Masters. It’s a shame. He has ev­ery­thing, all the shots.And now he’s putting just fine. But his attitude is aw­ful at Au­gusta. He can’t es­cape his past there, es­pe­cially when he’s re­minded of some of the things he has said.” (Af­ter a third-round 75 at the 2012 Masters, Gar­cia said,“I’m not good enough . . . I don’t have the thing I need to have . . . . I’ve come to the con­clu­sion that I need to play for sec­ond or third place . . . in any ma­jor.”) . . . “He doesn’t han­dle ad­ver­sity well, and yet he’s been a pretty good US Open player. I think he’s just fed up with try­ing and com­ing up short.” . . .“I think he’ll win a ma­jor, but I don’t think it will be the Masters. Some peo­ple turn up and rel­ish the prospect. Oth­ers dread it, and Ser­gio is one of those.”

BRAN­DEN GRACE BEST AT AU­GUSTA: T-18 (2013)

“Some­one like Bran­den, even though he drives it so well, has lit­tle or no chance to win. He sim­ply hits the ball too low, both off the tee and with his irons.” . . . “He shapes his shots left to right. He’s likely to be ex­posed by that. It’s a mas­sive dis­ad­van­tage to be up the right side on, say, 10. It’s like a half-shot penalty. The same is true at 13 and 14. Holes where a 20-yard draw gives you a big ad­van­tage, he’s go­ing to be found out. And you can’t see him stop­ping a lon­g­iron sec­ond to the 15th green.”

DUSTIN JOHN­SON BEST AT AU­GUSTA: T-4 (2016)

“It looks like some­one told him he doesn’t have all the shots to win at Au­gusta, and he hasn’t ac­tu­ally re­alised that he does. The only nit­pick I see is, his right hand rides a lit­tle high when he’s putting. Un­der pres­sure, that can lead to tak­ing the club back closed and hav­ing to make a com­pen­sa­tion com­ing through.” . . . “The low-cut shot doesn’t work at Au­gusta, but the high-cut can. So some­one like Dustin John­son can com­pete there. He hits it way high and can hold balls into the slopes if it hap­pens to get hard and fast.” . . .“His big­gest prob­lem is his cad­die (brother Austin). At Au­gusta, you have to re­ally be on your toes.And he’s not that ex­pe­ri­enced there. So I do won­der if they have any idea strate­gi­cally on the ul­ti­mate strate­gic course. He has al­ready gone for way too many flags.” . . .“I’ve seen Rory be re­ally good at putting. I’ve never seen Dustin be re­ally good at putting. Even when he won at Oak­mont.” . . . “He misses so many of those 10-foot­ers that in­evitably you’re go­ing to have there, but maybe he over­comes that for one week. Some­times, a 10-footer for par is the best you’re go­ing to get.Tiger lived on mak­ing 10-foot­ers when he had to.” . . . “Peo­ple don’t give Dustin enough credit for his putting. I think he putts it pretty de­cently. He misses some, but his speed is usu­ally not too far off.” . . .“It’s ob­vi­ous what holds back Dustin John­son: noth­ing. It’s just hard to win ma­jors.”

“IT’S OB­VI­OUS WHAT HOLDS BACK DUSTIN JOHN­SON: NOTH­ING. IT’S JUST HARD TO WIN MA­JORS.”

zach john­son best at au­gusta: 1 (2007)

“It would take a per­fect storm of cir­cum­stances for a Zach John­son to win again.A three-to-four-club dif­fer­ence into those greens is too much to over­come.”

smylie kauf­man best at au­gusta: t-29 (2016)

“He played in the fi­nal group last year when the course was a lot harder than when Jor­dan killed it in 2015. I like his game, but his devel­op­ment is a lit­tle be­hind the curve of the oth­ers in his age group. Noth­ing wrong with that. Just give him more time.”

martin kaymer best at au­gusta: t-31 (2014)

“Ba­si­cally he won with putting at Pine­hurst (2014 US Open), and he’d have to do the same thing in the Masters be­cause his driv­ing isn’t as good as some of the other top play­ers.” . . .“Maybe the worst chip­per out there.”

rus­sell knox best at au­gusta: cut as rookie (2016)

“He hits it only 285 yards off the tee. That isn’t an ad­van­tage at Au­gusta, but it isn’t the end of the world, ei­ther, if only be­cause he hits it so straight. I’m not sure he putts nearly well enough to even con­tend at Au­gusta, never mind win. Be­cause the greens there are so fast, the hole is, in ef­fect, smaller. Look at how many times we see crazy lip-outs there. Not good for guys who putt like Rus­sell.”

matt kuchar best at au­gusta: t-3 (2012)

“There’s always some­one play­ing bet­ter than him.There’s noth­ing bad about his game, but noth­ing that makes him par­tic­u­larly well-suited to Au­gusta, ei­ther. It’s hard to imagine him beat­ing ev­ery­one on that course.”

hideki mat­suyama best at au­gusta: 5 (2015)

“He car­ries the weight of a na­tion, a bit like Adam Scott used to do for Aus­tralia. Can he man­age the ex­pec­ta­tions? That’s a hard way to play.” . . .“Mat­suyama’s putting stroke is too slow. It lacks pace. He takes it back too far and too slowly. So there’s a built-in de­cel­er­a­tion.You can’t hit it well enough at Au­gusta to make up for bad putting.”

rory mcil­roy best at au­gusta: 4 (2015)

“I look at this year as sort of a free pass when ev­ery­one is go­ing to be talk­ing about Spi­eth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Dustin and Jason Day.That said, I would always put Rory in the top 10 even com­ing off an injury.” . . .“Any injury is se­ri­ous when you swing a stick and hit a ball. Some­times those rib in­juries tend to linger.” . . .“Rory goes at the ball so hard. I’m not sure the body is meant to be go­ing at shots with that sort of vi­o­lence.” . . .“When he’s not in­jured, he always seems to be on the edge of be­ing in­jured. Part of the prob­lem is this ma­nia for power in the mod­ern game.” . . .“There’s a link be­tween Rory and Tiger. I’m con­vinced Tiger’s body broke down be­cause he over­did it in the gym. He short­ened his ca­reer by 10 years – at least. I’ve never seen any of the heav­ier guys in­jured. I’m not sure any of the gym rats will have great longevity.” . . . “If he’s fully healed in time, this will be a good thing for him. He won’t have to over­think his prepa­ra­tion or how he’s play­ing. It takes a lit­tle pres­sure off him with all the talk about the ca­reer Grand Slam, etc. Down deep, he knows what he’s play­ing for, and he’s prob­a­bly been think­ing about it the last few years. But now I think he’ll be more re­laxed and could come in with a dif­fer­ent mind­set en­tirely.” . . .“Rory can’t win there be­cause he’s a be­low-av­er­age put­ter. He has been his whole ca­reer, and not too many of them win at Au­gusta Na­tional. He’s been streaky-good at times, but he’s had one good putting week in the past two years.You can talk all you like about Rory win­ning the Masters, but that de­pends on him hav­ing his best putting week ever.And it has to hap­pen at Au­gusta Na­tional. Re­ally?” . . .“You have to putt well ev­ery day to win there, and Rory hasn’t done that yet. But he is get­ting bet­ter through his work with Phil Kenyon, who is a bril­liant putting coach.” . . .“Rory’s speed con­trol is some­times dodgy. It isn’t some­thing you can eas­ily learn, ei­ther.You can work on me­chan­ics and pro­duce an ef­fi­cient stroke, but speed con­trol is in­nate, and Au­gusta is the ul­ti­mate test of that.” . . .“Rory just got away from what he was do­ing as a kid with his putting tech­nique. He came out as this amaz­ing young player, and he was suc­cess­ful and then he said,‘You know what? I’m go­ing to start drag­ging the han­dle to­wards the cup with my putting stroke.’That’s the Stock­ton thing with the for­ward press and drag the han­dle, in­stead of the re­lease method he was us­ing. Ei­ther one works, but not when you’ve been do­ing one your whole life and then you go to the other.Why did he do that?” . . .“When he gets into trou­ble he’s tempted to try to get out of it with one swing.You can’t do that in the Masters.The course can make you feel like you can be a hero, but all too of­ten you end up with a big old black eye.” . . .“What­ever hap­pened to him in 2012 (a 77-76 fin­ish), maybe that’s just stuck in his head.” . . .“Rory is an in-and-out chip­per, and his club­bing is sus­pect at times. How of­ten do you see him and (cad­die) J P Fitzger­ald look­ing

“lee westwood plays to his strength, which is hit­ting lots of greens.”

at each other in shock af­ter his ball has fin­ished 20 yards over the back?” . . .“If you lis­ten to them on the course, you of­ten hear Rory ask­ing,‘What hap­pened there?’ More than once I’ve heard J P say­ing some­thing like,‘Okay, hit a soft draw with a 6-iron off that tree.’And I’ve im­me­di­ately thought, This ball is go­ing over the green. And sure enough, it does. So you have to won­der. I see Rory up close only oc­ca­sion­ally, and I know he’s go­ing to hit the ball over the green when his cad­die clearly doesn’t. It makes no sense.” . . .“Rory needs some­one to tell him what he needs to hear, not what he wants to hear.” . . .“Why he doesn’t em­ploy Billy Foster is a mys­tery. Rory would have 10 ma­jors by now if he did. Of course, we know what Rory is like. He’s as stub­born as any­one on tour.The more peo­ple tell him that J P is not the right cad­die for him, the more he’ll keep him on.”

phil mick­el­son best at au­gusta: 1 (2004, 2006, 2010)

“Phil’s notes for Au­gusta are 100 pages thick. He con­tends be­cause he knows ev­ery inch of the golf course. But he also has imag­i­na­tion for the chip­ping and the putting re­quired around there, and all the notes in the world aren’t go­ing to help you if you can’t han­dle the tough shots around the greens that ev­ery­one has to face even­tu­ally.” . . .“Billy Foster cad­died for Seve, but he reck­ons Phil is the bet­ter chip­per.That’s good enough for me.And Phil is phe­nom­e­nal out of bunkers.” . . .“Phil is the ul­ti­mate for chip­ping at Au­gusta. He’s far and away the most ac­com­plished.” . . .“Phil has some is­sues with his body that I’m not sure we fully ap­pre­ci­ate – the arthri­tis thing is still there. On the course, the ‘hero’ po­ten­tial is too of­ten too much for him to deal with. He lives for shots like the one he hit from the pine straw at the 13th (in his 2010 Masters win). But they don’t come off too of­ten.There’s always the po­ten­tial for dis­as­ter with Phil.And at Au­gusta, that’s a thin line.” . . .“There isn’t a shot he won’t try.There also isn’t a shot he hasn’t seen at Au­gusta. He hasn’t lost his nerve, ei­ther.”

louis oosthuizen best at au­gusta: 2 (2012)

“Louis should win ev­ery time he tees it up. He has the best swing out there. But it comes down to how in­ter­ested he is. He knows what he wants to do when he fin­ishes play­ing, and he is, in a very quiet way, try­ing to get there. Golf for him is not ev­ery­thing.And, yet again, putting is his weak­ness.That, and a mind that tends

to wan­der. Nei­ther of which works too well at Au­gusta.”

jon rahm best at au­gusta: rookie

“Per­fect for Au­gusta. High hooks – the op­po­site of Bubba’s high slices.” . . . “I haven’t seen him play away from too many pins, and that sort of ag­gres­sion can get you into trou­ble, es­pe­cially on the wa­ter holes.”

pa­trick reed best at au­gusta: t-22 (2015)

“His big­gest hand­i­cap is ac­tu­ally his fa­mil­iar­ity with the place (Reed played at Au­gusta State Univer­sity) and his ex­pec­ta­tion level. He knows he should play well be­cause he’s been around there so of­ten. But I think he turns his shots too hard from right to left. He doesn’t have a con­trolled draw. So he’s never com­pletely sure where the ball is go­ing to fin­ish.”

justin rose best at au­gusta: t-2 (2015)

“Putting is his Achilles’ heel. He hits the ball like a world-beater.With putting, you have to feel it and see it and vi­su­alise it.And none of those things come out of a com­puter. But that’s the (in­struc­tor) Sean Fo­ley way.” . . .“Justin is yet an­other guy who gets bet­ter the fur­ther he is from the hole. He was the other way around as a kid. He’s men­tally strong. But ma­jors are such a big deal now, and he’s one who tries too hard. He puts too much im­por­tance on them, es­pe­cially the Masters be­cause of the long buildup, which is why we see some of the top guys have com­plete night­mares at ma­jors now and then.” . . .“When you first get into ma­jors you treat them pretty much like any event.You pitch up on Mon­day, play a cou­ple of prac­tice rounds and go for it. But when you start con­tend­ing in them and even win­ning, the ten­dency is to put too much im­por­tance on them. And nowhere is that more true than at Au­gusta. Guys just make it too big a deal. Justin and Rickie have cer­tainly fallen into that trap.Their ex­pec­ta­tions are off the charts.” adam scott best at au­gusta: 1 (2013) “Adam hits the ball as well as any­one, but he doesn’t spin the ball an amaz­ing amount. Rory, Dustin, Jason and Bubba all spin the ball a lot. So Adam’s not a guy who can stop a 5-iron re­ally quickly. That can be im­por­tant at Au­gusta, where you can some­times have shots over 200 yards to in­cred­i­bly small tar­gets.As for Adam’s putting, he was a good put­ter for a long time. But now he just seems worn out by hav­ing birdie putts roll over the edge so much of the time.And that hap­pens a lot at Au­gusta. Plus, his short game isn’t as good as Jason’s or Jor­dan’s. There isn’t a hole at Au­gusta that he can’t play well tee to green, but his putting does get ex­posed.When some­one’s weak­ness is putting, it’s hard to pick out a hole at Au­gusta where they’re always go­ing to strug­gle. It could be any­where.”

jor­dan spi­eth best at au­gusta: 1 (2015)

“Jor­dan’s only weak­ness is what hap­pened last year (the fi­nal-round quadru­ple­bo­gey 7 af­ter hit­ting two balls into the wa­ter at the 12th hole). It has to be in his head. Ev­ery eye is go­ing to be on him, and he’ll be aware of that.” . . .“That is such a hard shot. I’ve hit the ball in the wa­ter there once in 30 to 40 tour­na­ment rounds, and it was tough the time af­ter I did it. It’s es­pe­cially hard if your miss is to the right un­der pres­sure, which is the case for many mod­ern right-han­ders. There are a lot more blocks than hooks these days.” . . .“Olaz­a­bal was the clas­sic ex­am­ple of some­one made for Au­gusta. Rub­bish off the tee. Great iron player. Won­der­ful put­ter.That’s Spi­eth.” . . .“All he has to do is put the ball in play off the tee. From there, he can play that course as well as any­one. Per­haps his only

“tiger might sur­prise us all, but it would be that: a sur­prise.”

weak­ness is that his bad shots are re­ally, re­ally bad. His misses are off the planet. But so were Tiger’s early in his ca­reer, and he did okay in the Masters. Be­sides, Au­gusta is not a ‘chip-out’ course.” . . . “Jor­dan gets ex­posed a lit­tle be­cause of his rel­a­tive lack of length. He’s prone to stretches where he doesn’t hit many good shots. In ev­ery four-day event, he’s likely to have one off-day.” . . .“Jor­dan isn’t afraid to take on dif­fer­ent shots. He isn’t afraid to hit a bump-and-run if he has to hit that shot. Ev­ery­one else just takes out their 60 or 62 and hits a flop shot of some kind and throws it up in the air.” . . .“Spi­eth is such a great chip­per. First time there you can see guys chip­ping off the first green 20 times. But he never did that.” . . .“Some­one like Jor­dan can walk more freely at Au­gusta be­cause he doesn’t worry so much about the short putts. He never thinks about the next putt be­cause he as­sumes this one is go­ing in.The oth­ers – even if they’re hol­ing out well – are just more anx­ious.” . . .“Pure strik­ing doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily get re­warded at Au­gusta. Hit­ting the ball less than per­fectly puts less spin on shots, and that works bet­ter more of­ten than not. Guys who hit solid shots can see their balls spin back off the greens.And when that hap­pens a few times, their con­fi­dence is shot. Spi­eth doesn’t hit the ball nearly as well as, say, Day or Rory or Hen­rik.” . . .“If Jor­dan’s putting is any­thing other than hot, he has no chance.And he can’t hoist irons high in the air like Rory can.” . . .“I’ve never seen a bet­ter put­ter than Jor­dan.As a whole pack­age, he’s amaz­ing. How do you ex­plain how he holes from 25 feet so of­ten? No one else is close. His speed con­trol is in­cred­i­ble.Vir­tu­ally ev­ery putt is trav­el­ling at ex­actly the right speed, which is huge at Au­gusta.That’s a mas­sive weapon.”

hen­rik sten­son best at au­gusta: t-14 (2014)

“Hen­rik is an­other guy who will never putt well enough to win the Masters. He’s putted well enough to win one ma­jor. So has Adam Scott.And when they win, ev­ery­one thinks they’re go­ing to win ev­ery ma­jor. But they’ve done it only once.” . . .“Hen­rik is a great ball­striker, but he needs to hit more driv­ers to take full ad­van­tage of that. He’s a 3-wood guy. He av­er­ages about 290 yards off the tee.That is such a waste.You can’t look at him and say,‘He’s my pick for Au­gusta.’ I’d put him in the same cat­e­gory with Adam and Justin Rose.They have all putted well enough to win one ma­jor.” . . .“The best ball-striker in golf, maybe, but def­i­nitely not the best short game.And you’re go­ing to have to chip it and make a bunch of four-, six-, eight­foot­ers. Just not a guy I would pick to win.” . . .“He might ball-strike the place to death and win, but since they changed it, I have yet to see any­one ball-strike Au­gusta into sub­mis­sion.They just don’t al­low it.” . . .“He tends to do bet­ter on cour­ses where the greens are not like con­crete or su­per burnt out, so he feels free to stroke the ball rather than ‘hope’ the ball. But he can do it any­where. When he won the Play­ers (in 2009), the greens were al­most dead and re­ally fast. So if the greens get so tough that no one is mak­ing any­thing, his chances of suc­cess in­crease. Hold­ing him back, too, is that he clearly doesn’t en­joy the golf course. Like Ser­gio, his in­her­ent dis­like of the place is a prob­lem.”

justin thomas best at au­gusta: t-39 (2016)

“Well, he’s only 23, but there’s a big dif­fer­ence be­tween win­ning the odd PGA Tour event and win­ning the Masters. Don’t get me wrong, four wins, and three here pretty re­cently, a 59 on the board, he’s ob­vi­ously play­ing very well.” . . .“Justin seems to have a scor­ing gear he just sort of dis­cov­ered. Or grew into.” . . .“He ap­pears made for the Masters, but we’ve seen a lot of great play­ers who were made for the Masters who didn’t win it. He cer­tainly looks like he has all the tools – length, ex­plo­sion at the ball (which is in­cred­i­ble), he’s proven he can go low, and he ob­vi­ously has a good head on his shoul­ders.Au­gusta is just a dif­fer­ent an­i­mal, though. Does he have the touch to man­age the short shots? That will be im­por­tant. But with his length he can make up for that with great ap­proaches.You can set your­self up to score with ball-strik­ing.”

jimmy walker best at au­gusta: t-8 (2014)

“Jimmy Walker’s ob­vi­ous weak­ness is that when he gets a lit­tle loose, the ball goes left. But now that he’s won a ma­jor, there’s no reason why he can’t con­tend at Au­gusta. He hits it plenty high.” ... “When I think of some ugly short games, Jimmy Walker comes to mind. He doesn’t ap­pear com­fort­able chip­ping any­where he plays.”

bubba wat­son best at au­gusta: 1 (2012, 2014)

“Bubba is such an un­con­ven­tional player that he turns out be­ing the per­fect guy for Au­gusta Na­tional. First, of course, is that he pounds it, and he can be as long as he chooses to be. But then the way he moves it around and curves the ball, does all those lit­tle shots, it’s just the best play­ground for his imag­i­na­tion.” . . .“He doesn’t get bored there. He loves the course – and we all know how much that means to Bubba.” . . .“His pre­ferred shot is per­fect for Au­gusta, apart from the tee shots at the first and 18; 7, too – the holes where he has to hit a straight one off the tee.” . . .“He has the most mag­i­cal short game in golf. He has the most touch, the most imag­i­na­tion.And he likes the challenge of that. Be­ing cre­ative is his game.” . . .“There’s no shot Bubba can’t hit, but he has to hit the ap­pro­pri­ate shot at the time. He can af­ford to be pa­tient, be­cause if it’s not this shot, then it’s the next, when he can use his abil­ity to the fullest and do some­thing to set him­self up to score.” . . .“Bubba’s short game is re­ally good, but some­times he can get a lie that he can’t ma­noeu­vre be­cause he tends to be steep on chip shots, and if it’s too tight he might stick it.” . . .“Which player has the most/least pa­tience at Au­gusta? The an­swer to both is Bubba Wat­son. Se­ri­ously.” . . .“Bubba’s prob­lem is not know­ing which Bubba will show up. If he gets go­ing early, he’s fine. But if he has to grind to find some­thing, he throws in the towel, which is odd.”

lee westwood best at au­gusta: 2 (2010), t-2 (2016)

“Lee does okay at Au­gusta be­cause he ac­cepts the chip he has to play. He never gets too fancy. He plays to his strength, which is hit­ting lots of greens.And if he does that, he doesn’t have to chip very of­ten, maybe three times a day. Be­sides, he’s bet­ter than he used to be. I’d say he’s just be­low av­er­age now.”

danny wil­lett best at au­gusta: 1 (2016)

“He has noth­ing to prove now that he’s won the Masters, but he needs to hit the ball higher if he wants to con­tend in all con­di­tions. Noth­ing seems to bother him, though. So you never know. He played great (win­ning in 2016).And then when his whole world changed as he stood on the 16th tee, he never bat­ted an eye.That was im­pres­sive.” . . .“He seems to have been on a cel­e­bra­tion tour since he won at Au­gusta.”

tiger woods best at au­gusta: 1 (1997, 2001, 2002, 2005)

“We all watched him when he played in Dubai. It was sad to see. He didn’t hit one shot like he used to.And the man could hardly walk.Then he comes in and says he wasn’t in any pain. It re­ally is get­ting harder and harder to be­lieve any­thing Tiger says about any­thing.You even won­der if he ever had back spasms on the sec­ond day.There was a lot of sus­pi­cion that he took one look at the strong wind, thought, I can’t break 85 in that, and opted out. Long be­fore we even teed off for the sec­ond round, my cad­die was tak­ing bets that Tiger would pull out – be­cause of the weather.” . . . “If you’re shoot­ing 77 in al­most per­fect con­di­tions (in Dubai), I find it hard to be­lieve he wasn’t scared to play on the sec­ond day.” . . .“You can’t play golf wor­ried about your back. He’s also fight­ing the em­bar­rass­ment of be­ing so bad right in front of his fel­low play­ers.” . . .“As for

“danny wil­lett has noth­ing to prove now that he’s won the masters, but he needs to hit the ball higher if he wants to con­tend in all con­di­tions.”

the Masters, he has no chance to play well – if he plays at all. That course is too hard and too long for him in his present state.” . . .“I can’t say that I like any­thing about Tiger’s golf swing. He needs to be looser in his left foot, more old-style, let­ting the heel come up – that would give him more hip ro­ta­tion and help him get his left knee be­hind the ball. He’d also have more power. With his left foot on the ground, there’s too much strain on the spine. He isn’t go­ing to com­pete any­where, es­pe­cially not at Au­gusta, if he’s short and crooked. It’s okay if he’s not as long as he used to be. A power thrower has to be­come a pitcher, to use a base­ball anal­ogy. But Tiger looks like he’s not ready to be a pitcher. He still wants to be a thrower, and he can’t be at 41 with back is­sues.” . . .“Tiger might sur­prise us all, but it would be that: a sur­prise.We all have that ex­pi­ra­tion date, and it’s dif­fer­ent for ev­ery­one.” . . .“He’s been so suc­cess­ful for so long. He’s got a fam­ily now. Does he want to put the time in to be ready? And will his body hold up as he tries to get him­self ready? When you’ve won a bil­lion dol­lars, there has to be some ques­tions. Like, I’ve just gone dou­ble bo­gey/bo­gey; do I re­ally need to grind this thing out? But if he de­cides that he wants to do that, then I think he can be good.” . . .“If he wins an­other ma­jor, it would be the Masters. He’s played there so many times, it’s not as de­mand­ing as, say, the US Open. He knows those greens and could maybe get his put­ter go­ing.And if he gets into a good form and good rhythm, he’ll be able to get in the mix, and from there, who knows?” . . .“If he knows where it’s go­ing, then he could win.” . . .“At one point, it looked like he had seven dif­fer­ent golf swings go­ing. He has to tighten up and get back to play­ing golf like he knows he can. Then, if he putts well, he wins.” . . .“A healthy Tiger is still a player to be reck­oned with.” . . .“Throw out all the great young com­pe­ti­tion and just con­cen­trate on Tiger. What can he bring to the ta­ble now? Does he putt well? Does he have the chip­ping fig­ured out? He can’t dom­i­nate with length any­more, so he has to do all the other things re­ally well, and I’m not sure he can do that to the de­gree it takes to win the Masters.” . . .“You never say never with him.”

“the only thing that hurts jason is that he doesn’t seem to have a half-shot. ev­ery­thing is full tilt.”

“jor­dan’s only weak­ness is what hap­pened last year,” a quadru­ple­bo­gey 7 at the 12th hole.

“lee does okay at au­gusta be­cause he ac­cepts the chip he has to play.he never gets too fancy.”

smylie kauf­man was just a stroke be­hind leader jor­dan spi­eth af­ter 54 holes last year be­fore shoot­ing a fi­nal-round 81.

“noth­ing seems to bother him,” one ob­server says of 2016 masters win­ner danny wil­lett.

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