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5 reasons why The Masters is the most difficult tournament to win

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Everyone’s favorite time of year is here: The Masters! Truth be told, it’s the only tournament I watch every single shot possible. It’s such great theater and it’s the mecca for golfers all over the world. Having been there and played the course, I can tell you it’s a different set of conditions than most have ever seen. Therefore, I would like to give you my five reasons why Augusta is the most difficult tournament to win in the world… and putting is not one of them!

1) History

The Masters is the one tournament where everyone knows the history and the course. Even casual sports fans who have never touched a club know what Amen Corner is, and what the Green jacket means.

It’s also the tournament you grow up pretending to win. “Ok, this one is for The Masters,” you’ll say to yourself while night putting as a junior. The Masters just means a little something more to the fans and participants because of it’s history.

Playing Amen Corner on Thursday is one thing, but playing Amen Corner on Sunday with the Green Jacket hanging in the balance is quite another. And it takes a special golfer to get the job done on Sunday with a place in that history on the line.

2) The Pressure of Forever

The Masters invite is highly coveted, even among players who have already played in the event. You see the guys on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram showing off their Masters invite like it’s a trophy.

As we all know, winning the tournament gives you the Masters invite for life. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of this special even for perpetuity? You can’t tell me that having that special perk on your resume wouldn’t make your entire career, not to mention being the highlight of your year, every year until even after your career is over. If you don’t think I’m right, look at how many of the old timers come back just for the Par-3 Contest and/or just to enjoy the week as Augusta’s special guests?

This too may weigh heavily on the minds of the leaders the night before Masters Sunday.

3) Shot Shaping

Everyone knows Augusta is a right-to-left biased course off the tee, and all the players know that this is a requirement. So everyone works on their right-to-left game with their driver; I don’t think many players hit a soft fade off the tee on 13 towards the trees on the right… they try and hammer it around the corner to give them a shorter shot into the green.

Additionally, you will find that the different pin placements and green slopes will also force you to move the ball both directions with your irons if you truly want to have an easier shot at birdies. I don’t know about you, but if I had to go at that Sunday pin on hole No. 12, a soft fade off the center of the green would be a much easier shot to hit than starting it over the water with a draw if I had to go at that pin… it gives you a bit of leeway if you get a touch froggy.

Anyone can move it both directions on Tour, but can you rely on your non-typical shot shape with the tile on the line if the shot calls for it?

4) Trajectory Control combined with Distance Control

The biggest issue for players at Augusta is that you cannot hit the ball into the greens with your normal trajectory for 72 holes… you must alter your trajectory to control your landing angles so the ball stops quicker, or you can get the ball on the proper shelf. Think hole No. 15; you simply cannot hit a low draw into that green with a long iron, or you will quickly cascade over the back of the green leaving yourself with an impossible pitch to an elevated green running downhill toward the water. No thanks.

But here is the issue… do you know your distances when hitting the ball with different trajectories? And can you trust those numbers down the stretch, or when the adrenaline gets pumping on the back nine on Sunday?

Getting to know the shots you need to hit into the different pins at Augusta National takes time to learn, and is possibly a more complicated process than at any other golf course in the world. My advice for new Masters participants would be to work on TrackMan to understand how your different swing feels effect launch angle, and then figure out exactly how far those different feels hit the golf ball. Sometimes, you’ll need to hit a flighted draw into a certain pin location, and a yard-or-two off your distance could lead to a double bogey and cost you a made cut or a Green Jacket. Dial in those distances on shots with different trajectories!

 

5) Pitching Control

First timers who have never played on the perfectly-manicured, yet extremely firm conditions at Augusta National are at a distinct disadvantage compared to the veterans. There’s simply no course in the world that can perfectly mimic the conditions around the green.

I know the Houston event tries to accommodate some of these Augusta-like conditions, but it’s not really the same because you are hitting off of Bermuda grass. And players know the golf ball won’t react like it does off Rye. So you come into Augusta on Monday-Wednesday trying to practice as much as you can to get used to the different grass and different ball reactions. For some, this will mean changing lofts and grinds of their wedges. For others, a shift in technique or mindset may be necessary.

Your short game must be a strength at Augusta, but have you really simulated it enough for it to work when you get there?

By now, you should have a better understand of what players face when trying to win The Masters. And, in my opinion, it’s the most difficult tournament to win in golf. Who do you think will jump the 5 hurdles above and win come Sunday?

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (www.puntamita.com) He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 15 people in the world. Punta Mita is a 1500 acre Golf and Beach Resort located just 45 minuted from Puerto Vallarta on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Bay of Banderas on three sides. Amenities include two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses- with 14 holes directly on the water, a Golf Academy, four private Beach Clubs, a Four Seasons Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, as well as, multiple private Villas and Homesites available. For more information regarding Punta Mita, golf outings, golf schools and private lessons, please email: tom.stickney@puntamita.com

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Steve Wozeniak

    Apr 4, 2018 at 9:24 pm

    Typical for this site……it’s actually the exact opposite of what the “pro” thinks……

    Steve Wozeniak PGA

  2. Tom54

    Apr 4, 2018 at 5:54 pm

    I agree the field is smaller but I would hardly call it weaker. I think the history and how it has remained true to its origins is why it is so special. Multiple winners I believe is because of course familiarity. More you play more you become comfortable with it. That’s why very few first time winners. I believe it’s the most prestigious of the majors because of all the attention given to past champions. Other majors are important and hard to win too. There is something a little different about being a Masters Champion

  3. Tony Lee

    Apr 4, 2018 at 11:33 am

    Putting?

  4. Markallister

    Apr 4, 2018 at 1:55 am

    it is the easiest major, because the field is weakest. everybody knows that. in fact, it should not be a major, but rather a silly-season invitational which would better fit with the strength of the field.

    • ND Hickman

      Apr 4, 2018 at 5:09 am

      Won many green jackets then, have you?

    • Zach Bartness

      Apr 4, 2018 at 7:23 am

      On flip side, hardest to win because the field is so limited. If you aren’t in you can’t win it. Goes both ways….

  5. Man

    Apr 3, 2018 at 9:14 pm

    It’s the easiest to win. That’s why so many Spaniards win it, and why there are so many multiple winners

    • aman

      Apr 3, 2018 at 10:45 pm

      Tiger is a mix of African and European on his father’s side and Thai, Chinese and Dutch on his mother’s side. He was raised as a Buddhist. He has no Spanish ancestry.

    • Javier

      Apr 4, 2018 at 8:17 am

      Quite the contrary.
      Multiple winners: Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros, Tom Watson, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods…
      Spaniards: (i) Seve, one of the best players of the golf History, (ii) Ollie, included in the golf Hall of Fame, and (iii) Sergio, one of the best players of the last 20 years.
      Therefore, just the best ones (some exceptions as in the other majors) are able to win the Masters.
      Man, just think a little before say/write anything.

  6. fuzz

    Apr 3, 2018 at 6:42 pm

    How about the bikini-waxed greens… 😮

  7. juststeve

    Apr 3, 2018 at 3:47 pm

    On the other hand it has the weakest field of any major, weaker than most regular tournaments.

    • Sean Foster-Nolan

      Apr 3, 2018 at 6:12 pm

      I agree with this. While the field is strong, it is limited. I would think of all the majors it would be the “easiest” to win.

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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Zurich Classic of New Orleans

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Just as in 2017, the Zurich Classic of New Orleans will once again provide a change in format for the players this week. Players will team up once more at TPC Louisiana for a combination of Best Ball (Rounds 1 and 3) and Alternate Shot (Rounds 2 and 4). Unfortunately, the change in format means that there is no DraftKings this week.

The course is long at over 7,400 yards, but it’s also very generous off the tee. TPC Louisiana offers the opportunity to go low, and players took advantage last year despite the inclement weather conditions. It took a Monday playoff to separate them, but eventually Cameron Smith and Jonas Blixt pipped Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown by making birdie on the fourth playoff hole to take the title after both teams had posted 27-under par in regulation.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Justin Rose/Henrik Stenson 7/1
  • Patrick Reed/Patrick Cantlay 12/1
  • Justin Thomas/Bud Cauley 14/1
  • Bubba Watson/Matt Kuchar 14/1
  • Jordan Spieth/Ryan Palmer 14/1
  • Jon Rahm/Wesley Bryan 16/1
  • Rafa Cabrera Bello/Sergio Garcia 22/1

For the first time, Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar (14/1) will team up for this event. Last year, Watson played alongside J.B Holmes. The two performed well, finishing in a tie for fifth place. TPC Louisiana has been a course that has suited Watson’s game over the years, his prodigious length being a significant factor. Along with his T-5 in 2017, Watson has a victory and three other top-20 finishes at the course when the event was an individual stroke-play tournament.

While Watson can be feast or famine at times, Kuchar is Mr. Consistent. He hasn’t missed a cut in over a year, and he has been a top-10 machine over the past few years on the PGA Tour. Despite this, Kuchar hasn’t been able to convert many of his top-10 finishes into wins, but playing alongside Watson this week — who has already notched two victories in 2018 — may help his cause. Over their last 24 rounds, Watson ranks third for Strokes Gained-Off the Tee and eighth in Strokes Gained Total. Over the same period, Kuchar has been predictably consistent, ranking in the top third in the field in every major Strokes Gained category. It’s an intriguing partnership, with Watson’s explosiveness combined with Kuchar’s consistency, and it’s a cocktail that should prove to be a formidable force at TPC Louisiana.

Two men with the hot hand coming into this event are fellow Americans, Jimmy Walker and Sean O’Hair (25/1). Last week at the Valero Texas Open both men excelled, posting the highest finishes of their year thus far. Walker finished solo 4th, while O’Hair grabbed a T-2. It’s the pairs first time playing TPC Louisiana together, but Walker has some good course form to lean on. Back in 2012 and 2013, he posted back-to-back top-20 finishes, which shows that TPC Louisiana is a course that fits his game. Accuracy off the tee has never been Walker’s strength, but the generous fairways may be one of the reasons that he has performed well at this course.

O’Hair has been in good form as of late. The Texan has three top-15 finishes in his last six events, and last week he recorded his highest Strokes Gained Total at an event in years. Walker also seems to have turned a corner with his game. Along with his excellent performance last week, he managed a top-20 finish at the Masters, and his Strokes Gained-Total at the Valero was his highest since his 2016 PGA Championship victory. With both men coming off their best performances in a long time, they should be confident. The duo looks to be a decent value to mount a challenge this week.

Last year’s runners-up Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown (40/1) are hard to ignore at their price this week. Brown has struggled mightily for form in 2018, missing six cuts out of 11 events played so far this year, but the prospect of playing alongside Kisner may be the boost that Brown’s 2018 is needing.

Kisner’s form has been strong as of late. He backed up his runner-up finish at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play with a T-28 at Augusta before grabbing a T-7 at the RBC Heritage. At Harbour Town, Kisner’s iron play was especially sharp, with his Strokes Gained-Approaching the Greens total being the highest since the Memorial last year. Despite Brown’s slump, in a highly tricky format to predict, the pair showed enough chemistry last year and an ability to excel in the format, which is enough for me to consider their price a little undervalued this week.

Recommended Plays

  • Bubba Watson/Matt Kuchar 14/1
  • Jimmy Walker/Sean O’Hair 25/1
  • Kevin Kisner/Scott Brown 40/1
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Podcasts

Gear Dive: Legendary club builder Larry Bobka speaks on Tiger’s old Titleist irons

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Legendary club builder Larry Bobka joins us in the first episode of our new podcast called “Gear Dive,” hosted by Johnny Wunder, GolfWRX’s Director of Original Content. Gear Dive is a deep look into the world of golf equipment, and Wunder will be interviewing the craftsman, the reps and the players behind the tools that make up the bags of the best golfers in the world.

Bobka, our first guest, is a former Tour rep and club builder involved in some of the most important clubs of the past 25 years. From his days at Wilson Golf working with legends such as Payne Stewart, Hale Irwin and Bernhard Langer, he transitioned into the Golden Age of Titleist/Acushnet building clubs for Tiger Woods, Davis Love, David Duval and Brad Faxon. He currently runs Argolf where he builds and fits handmade putters for Tour players and amateurs alike. He’s one of the Godfather’s of modern golf equipment.

Skip to 45:30 for the discussion about Tiger’s Titleist irons.

Check out our podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

What do you think of the new podcast? Leave your feedback in the comments below!

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Podcasts

Gary Player joins our 19th Hole podcast, talks past and future of golf

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Hall-of-Famer and career Grand Slam winner Gary Player joins host Michael Williams for an exclusive one-on-one interview at the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf tournament and Big Cedar Lodge in Branson, Missouri. Player talks about the past and future of the game, including his take on everything from reigning in the golf ball and golf courses, to advocating for more testing for performance enhancing drugs on the Tour. Steve Friedlander of Big Cedar Lodge also appears.

Listen to the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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