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Why I can’t stop thinking about Augusta and the Masters

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As the PGA Tour continues on from the Florida Swing to the match play in Texas, it’s just a few short weeks until it rumbles into Georgia for the 80th Masters at Augusta National. And I already have goose bumps just thinking about it.

It got me thinking. Why is this tournament so special? Why is it so emotionally impactful on golfers, like myself? I can hardly concentrate on the current golf events with Augusta looming less than a month away. Why is this?

It’s probably because I have so many moments, highlights and memories from the Masters over the years; ones I share with many golf fans, and ones I’d like to share with you, the readers. I have to confess I’ve seen my fair share of this golf tournament, over 35 I can remember. But then again it’s my favorite major championship by far — I’m a Masters-holic!

The Annual Augusta National Invitational Tournament is all about tradition: the simple invite posted out to the players, the Par-3 Contest, Magnolia Lane and the Champion’s Dinner (what’s on the menu this year Jordan?). From the opening tee shot hit by a former Master to the Amateurs staying in the Crow’s Nest and the “Augusta” theme music welcoming the millions of golf fans tuning in from all over the world. Yes, I’m already humming it!

The drama when the leaders go through Amen Corner on the back nine on Sunday with Rae’s Creek meandering quietly, while simultaneously causing havoc. I’ll be sitting on the edge of my seat at around 9 p.m. in Ireland (+5 hours) screaming at my TV!

And that famous walk up the last hole, named Holly, on Sunday to the 18th green. We sit and watch the presentation of the Green Jacket to the winner by the previous year’s winner in the Butler Cabin. It’s all wonderful history stemming from Jones’ vision in creating the tournament, the one that all the Pros want to play in. I can’t imagine anyone turning down an invite unless injured. It’s always got the best field of the year.

I can’t truly recall my earliest Master’s memory, but I do remember Seve winning his first Green Jacket in 1980. I was only 13 then, but that was an amazing moment for me. He really shook up the golfing world the same way Palmer did in the 60s and Tiger did in the 90s. I remember Faldo winning back-to-back, and Crenshaw’s amazingly emotional week, the week after he carried Penick’s coffin in 1995. I remember Jack’s amazing back-nine surge with that massive, bloody MacGregor putter; I think everyone went out and bought one the following day. How about Freddie winning in 1992, where his tee shot at No. 12 came up short and started rolling down into Rae’s Creek, only for the golfing Gods to stop it miraculously on a few extra blades of grass. Freddie has been a favorite at Augusta ever since then.

Sandy Lyle’s outrageous 7-iron picked off clean as a whistle from the bunker on No. 18 to set up a winning birdie in 1988. And it was the Welshman Ian Woosnam’s in 1991 blasting it over the very same bunker with his driver, taking it out of play and going on to hole that putt iconically captured on film wearing those red plaid trousers!

My favorite year was 1985 when my golfing idol Bernhard Langer won. It was a great night, with my two brothers and I huddled round the TV late in Ireland. Seve, Ray Floyd and Langer were all in the hunt, and while my brothers were rooting for their men I was cheering on the German. So there was extra satisfaction when Bernhard pulled it off. His 8-iron on No. 17 to 10 feet and the subsequent birdie effectively sealed the deal.

And what about Woods’ total domination at his inaugural Masters after a shaky front nine? He changed the way course designers had to think from that week on to cater for the modern day “bomb and gouge” game. He owned this tournament for over a decade.

How about one of the most famous shots in golf, Nike’s marketing dream of him holing that crucial chip on the 16th with the Nike Swoosh logo hovering on the edge of the hole before it toppled in? Amazing stuff. It’s a pity he probably won’t be around this year.

But there have been plenty of other standout moments. O’Meara sliding in a putt on No. 18 to win. Lefty getting his reward for knocking on the door so many times. He should have won more — no one has hit as many spectacular shots as him. Remember that 6-iron he thundered out of the pine straw from the trees on No. 13? He stuck it to 3 feet and then missed the damn putt!

Who can forget the Jason Day/Charl Schwartzel duel, with the South African making birdies the last four holes to win. And what about Bubba’s ridiculous slingshot wedge from the trees? No one will ever know how good that shot was, probably not even Bubba himself.

Let’s not forget the disasters? Norman’s back-nine collapse to hand it to Faldo. Or how about local boy Larry Mize’s impossible chip in on No. 11 to snatch it from Norman yet again. The White Shark probably holds the title of Closest, but no cigar to getting a Green Jacket. And what about McIlroy’s implosion in 2011, starting with that snap hook off No. 10? At least he appears to have learned from that “harshest of lessons” when it would have destroyed many others careers.

I’ll always remember Curtis Strange standing over his second shot on No. 13 on Sunday in 1985. He spent ages deciding what to do and eventually decided to take the second shot on with a fairway wood. The commentators were screaming at him to put it away and lay up. And of course the ball got wet, along with his chances of victory. I clearly remember his shocked look as the ball came back into the water, hands on hips hips shaking his head. It must have looked good to him, but as we know even the slightest degree offline on the National is punished mercilessly. I guess that was a lesson in risk taking at Augusta that many more have graduated in.

Other disasters? Remember Seve’s duck hook into the pond on No. 15 in 1986 on what sadly turned out to be his last realistic attempt at winning. And how about all those who had one arm already into a Green Jacket only for it to be removed. Arnie taking a six at the last to lose it. “Ahhgghhh!” Kenny Perry bogeying the last two holes and then losing a playoff to Angel in 2009. Scott Hoch missing a tiddler? Car Crash TV!

AugustaNational

But let’s not forget the perennial winner each year, the course itself. It always looks spectacular in bloom and blemish-free, made to look even better on our HD televisions. Regular watchers know the course pretty well, so everyone wants to know what changes have been made for this year. A new tee, a relaid green, how’s the rough, what the greens will be running on the stimp… And I wonder how hard they are going to set it up this year? It always draws criticism with impossible pin placements, shaved greens and slopes down to the creeks to catch an over-hit or under-hit shot, punishing the 95-percent-or-less shot. Yes, we’ll hear from a bunch of pros who will complain that the course is tricked up. But the members don’t want to see the course being ripped apart. They want to see some pain and tears. It’s kinda like the masses baying for blood at the Colosseum to see a top pro running up a snowman.

So for me it doesn’t really matter who wins this year. As long as it’s an exciting tournament. And this year it is promising to be a great one. So many top players are hitting form at the right time, and everyone is out to stop Rory from winning his own personal Grand Slam of Majors. Yes, I am unashamedly biased to see the wee Irishman win; he’s one of our finest and will have all of Ireland cheering him on. But it’s going to be tough with Spieth, Day, Dustin, Scott, Bubba and a host of others featuring. Will Stenson become the first Swede to don a Green Jacket. Or how about the inform and former jacket-winner, Schwartzel?

One things for sure, there will be celebrations and tears. Fist pumps and curses under one’s breath. Skill and nerve under an intense cauldron of pressure. So who will prevail?

So let’s be having you, 2016 Masters. Let’s see what spectacle you will unfold for us. Let the sun shine, the flowers bloom and the birdies commence. My beers are already chilling in the fridge!

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Mark Donaghy is a writer and author from Northern Ireland, living in the picturesque seaside town of Portstewart. He is married to Christine and they have three boys. Mark is a "golf nut," and is lucky to be a member of a classic links, Portstewart Golf Club. At college he played for the Irish Universities golf team, and today he still deludes himself that he can play to that standard. He recently released Caddy Attitudes: 'Looping' for the Rich and Famous in New York. It recounts the life experiences of two young Irish lads working as caddies at the prestigious Shinnecock Hills course in the Hamptons. Mark has a unique writing style, with humorous observations of golfers and their caddies, navigating both the golf course and their respective attitudes. Toss in the personal experiences of a virtually broke couple of young men trying to make a few bucks and their adventures in a culture and society somewhat unknown to them... and you have Caddy Attitudes. From scintillating sex in a sand trap to the comparison of societal status with caddy shack status, the book will grab the attention of anyone who plays the game. Caddy Attitudes is available on Amazon/Kindle and to date it has had excellent reviews.

16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Cyd

    Mar 25, 2016 at 9:31 am

    After researching facts about Augusta, Smizzle is right

  2. Mason Storm

    Mar 23, 2016 at 10:37 am

    For the people who talk about how much harder the US Open is. The US Open is typically played as a par 70 they are taking 2 par 5s and turning them into par 4s. If they turned 13 and 15 into par 4s at Augusta the scores would be similar to the US Open on most years. Just look at the guys who have won the masters and guys who have won us opens and you will see what course produces better champions. You don’t see names like Michael Campbell’s, Webb Simpsons or Lucus Glovers winning the Masters in the courses long history.

  3. Cyd

    Mar 23, 2016 at 7:23 am

    m fizzle

    It is better to be thought a fool by keeping your trap shut then to open said trap, insert both feet and remove all doubt you are a fool of epic proportions.

    Of course you do that on a regular basis around here.

    • Double Mocha Man

      Mar 23, 2016 at 11:47 am

      Nice paraphrasing.

    • MarkB A

      Mar 23, 2016 at 11:28 pm

      LOL! M. Smizzle sounds like a hater and religious bigot. Nice job.

    • Charlie

      Mar 24, 2016 at 8:09 am

      Christian? I must’ve missed a post somewhere.

  4. prime21

    Mar 23, 2016 at 6:29 am

    Golf League Tracker, did you not read about Jack’s back 9 surge with his MacGregor putter? Exclusionary? Certainly. But the same could be said of any private club, by definition. Boring? Never! Even when someone is running away with it, there are records to be broken and next years invitation to be earned. Who cares who’s field is stronger? What place has a stronger influence on the field? Not one. Like Fenway, Daytona, The Kentucky Derby, Wimbledon, there is only one Augusta. It is the most iconic venue in golf & has produced more memorable moments than any other event.

  5. Weekend Duffer

    Mar 22, 2016 at 11:01 pm

    US Open is still the best. Love seeing these guys get eaten up by real difficult courses.

    • Ricky Hoffman

      Mar 23, 2016 at 9:02 am

      The Masters poos all over the US Open

  6. Double Mocha Man

    Mar 22, 2016 at 7:45 pm

    Sheesh! I had no idea the Masters had a theme song. Just called my local public track to see if they have a theme song. Ah, the humiliation of laughter over the phone. I won’t be playing there again until they do.

  7. Charlie

    Mar 22, 2016 at 3:28 pm

    Every tournament is limited field.

    50 of the 86 players are top 50 in the world. Yep, amateurs and 60 year olds…

    • Double Mocha Man

      Mar 22, 2016 at 7:47 pm

      But their greens are bikini waxed.

    • MarkB A

      Mar 22, 2016 at 10:15 pm

      Haters gonna hate. Just muzzle Jim Nantz fawning and obsequiousness.
      Roll on Bubba, Phil, Adam, Stenson or even Zack Johnson. It should be a good show.

  8. Henrik

    Mar 22, 2016 at 2:46 pm

    I love The Masters but PGA Champ has the best field every year of the Majors.

    • MarkB A

      Mar 22, 2016 at 10:16 pm

      No The Open is better.

    • Jam

      Mar 22, 2016 at 11:12 pm

      I don’t understand how the PGA claims that. There are club professionals in the field that wouldn’t beat mini tour players.

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Be the Number: 2021 Ryder Cup fantasy, betting picks, and preview

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Spencer takes the wheel solo this week for a quick preview of the action from Whistling Straits. He offers his approach to DFS lineup construction in light of the uniqueness of the competition this week and shares who he thinks will play well.

 

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Club Junkie: Reviewing TaylorMade’s P770 Irons and SuperStroke’s Wrist Lock Putter Grip!

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Finally, I have had a full set of TaylorMade P770 irons out on the course for the last few weeks. The P770 takes a bunch of DNA from the larger P790 and packs it into a smaller size. Don’t be fooled, the smaller size still gives you a bunch of distance and forgiveness! SuperStroke’s Wrist Lock putter grip is designed to help add stability and consistency to your putting stroke. It really does give you the feeling that the putter is locked into your stroke and won’t go anywhere.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: My thoughts on single-length irons

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One of the bigger stories in golf equipment the past few years – thanks to Mr. De Chambeau – is the development of single-length irons. So, are they right for you or not? That’s a question only a fair trial can answer, but let me offer some thoughts on how your set make-up might look if you do take that direction.

First of all, the concept is not about single-length clubs — the conversation is about single-length irons. No one is playing a driver or fairway woods at the same length as their irons. Probably not even the hybrids. The putter is typically not either. So, the question is where in the set does the “single-length” begin and end?

I’ve long espoused the concept that your set of clubs (excluding the very specialized putter) should be divided into three sub-sets: Distance Clubs, Positioning Clubs, and Scoring Clubs. And generally speaking, these subsets each cover a specific range of lofts.

The Distance Clubs are those up to 20-25 degrees or so. This subset begins with your driver and encompasses your fairway woods and maybe your lowest loft hybrid or two. Your goal with these clubs is to move the ball “on out there” and put you in a place for your “positioning shot.”

The Positioning Clubs then begin after that highest loft Distance Club and take you up to 38 to 40 degrees of loft. Generally speaking, this subset would begin with your 3 or 4-iron or hybrid and go up to through your 7- or 8-iron. The goal with these clubs is to set up a reasonable putt or chip so you can get down in no more than 2-3 shots. My opinion is that it is only within this subset that “single-length” might serve you.

The Scoring Clubs – those over 38-40 degrees of loft — are the ones with which your scores will likely be determined. Long ago, I wrote several posts about the “round club mindset” when 8-irons had a more curved topline than the seven – a distinctly different look, and those 8-irons were 38 to 40 degrees. These are the clubs designed for putting the ball close enough for a makeable putt, hopefully, more often than not.

So, most conversations about single-length irons should be limited to that subset of “Positioning Clubs,” from your longest iron through that iron of 38-40 degrees. While many golfers may not see the distance separation between clubs that you would ideally like to have in that subset, others might. I’ve long observed that the distance a club can be hit is a combination of loft AND club shaft length. I just don’t see how you can get the range of distances from the longest to shortest in the set by changing loft only. I have tried several of these sets and just do not experience the distance differentials I want from that subset in my bag.

But I can certainly assure you that you simply cannot be as accurate with wedges that are 37 or 38 inches in length as you can with those clubs being 35 to 36 inches. It’s simple golf club physics. With very few exceptions, the shorter the club, the narrower your distance dispersion is going to be.

Consider that a “wide” shot with a 45-inch driver might be 30-40 yards off-line, while even the worst “wide” shot with your 35-and-three-quarter-inch pitching wedge is not likely to be more than 15 yards offline. In between, your lateral dispersion is progressively narrower as the shaft length is reduced.

So, I just cannot see why anyone would want to make their wedges the same length as their 5- or 6-iron, 37.5 to 38 inches, and give up the naturally more accurate dispersion that the shorter shaft delivers.

I am looking forward to hearing from those of you who have tried single-length irons and longer wedges to share your experiences.

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