The Masters at Augusta National represents all that is the coming of spring for middle and northern golfers. Snow on the ground has no impact on them; if they are playing in Georgia, at Bobby Jones’ place, it must be time for golf. And here we are, halfway through the 81st playing of what used to be called the Augusta Spring Invitational, and things are both clear and unclear at a time. I’ve written two summary pieces for Golfwrx.com on what we learned over the course of two days, at the course for two day, on a course that I’ve not seen in person. For the sake of interest and originality, I’ll reserve this space to other items of note, heretofore unmentioned by this writer in print.
Only six Masters champions made the cut
I don’t know if it is a record low number, but despite the somewhat-recent suggestion by the powers-that-be that aged champions bow out gracefully (and stop shooting 95 in public), the all-two-common announcement of a WD from Tiger, and a simple changing of the guard, six is a low number. Here is an annotated list of who made the cut, followed by a similar one of those who missed the halfway target.
Made The Cut
Fred Couples (won’t win)
Adam Scott (could win)
Jordan Spieth (could win)
Phil Mickelson (might win)
Charl Schwartzel (might win)
Larry Mize (won’t win)
The list of those who missed the cut is led by defending champion Danny Willett. Willett suffered the most inglorious beginning to his second round. He marked down 8 blows at the first, a difficult hole where even the least-attentive find a way to salvage double bogey. Even a 7 would have earned him two more rounds at Augusta, but perhaps its better this way. Willett won the award for “Champion least likely to defend his title.” For the moment he donned the jacket last April, his game and his emotional stability seemed destined for the rubbish bin. He never returned to that exalted form, lowlighted by a poor performance at the Ryder Cup last fall.
Missed The Cut
Danny Willett (might have won)
Zach Johnson (might have won)
Bubba Watson (might have won)
Jose Maria Olazabal (no way)
Vijay Singh (no way)
Berhnard Langer (no way)
Ian Woosnam (no way)
Angel Cabrera (no way)
Trevor Immelman (no way)
Mike Weir (no way)
Mark O’Meara (no way)
Sandy Lyle (no way)
Twice as many champions missed the cut as made it. Of that dozen, six play on (or are of age to play on) the senior tours. The other half still compete (or attempt comebacks toward) the regular tours. Looking at this list of champions, I wonder about the value of victory at Augusta National. Who among this group of 18 wins regularly? By regularly, I mean 2-3 times each year? Sure, you get to return to the event each year, for the Tuesday evening champions dinner. Odds are, you know what lurks around the Amen Corner. You anticipate some alteration to the course that will make it more challenging than the year before. Most daunting, you know that your slightest miscue, your tiniest indecision, will be exposed and amplified for the world. Like hyperbole, it will grow and grow, beyond you and the moment. Winning the Masters is tough business.
An Excellent Opportunity To End A Drought
It seems that today is a day for lists. We like lists. They are organized, they usually lack verbs and they get to the point. A narrative is fine in the wee hours of the dawn, or the extended gloaming of a misty eve, but lists make the world a simple place.
We have a bifurcation of the list. The first five golfers are second-tier professionals, one rung below the level housing major champions. None of the five has hoisted or worn the emblem of a major champion. They’ve been close, but no cigar just yet. Matsuyama is the youngest, Kuchar the oldest. Garcia has suffered in front of us forever, Fowler finds a way to water like a dowser, and Moore might have been the most-decorated amateur this side of Tiger Woods to join the professional ranks in the past 15 years. Look all of it up. Each has a weakness that is exposed at Augusta. Garcia lacks confidence; Fowler lacks strategy; Moore lacks the necessary horsepower, Kuchar lacks length, and Matsuyama lacks a reliable putting stroke.
The second list, all two golfers of it, houses golfers with major championships. Justin Rose has 1.5 of them. He won the US Open in 2013, and the Olympic Gold in 2016. That gold medal is so special, it has to be worth a half. Plus, he outdueled Open champion Henrik Stenson, when Stenson was playing great (Stenson missed the cut this week.) Rose sits at a level with the Zach Johnsons, the Davis Love 3s, the Trevor Immelmans of the golfing world. A 2nd major, at a different event, would elevate him to a new tier of golfing heaven. As for McIlroy, the golden child, the Masters is the solitary major title yet to evade him. He has been close-ish before, but never had a putt to win, or a lead at the last to lose. Both will need that marvelous 3rd round 67 or 66 to make a statement, to tell their competition that they are the cream of this crop (milk comes in crops?) and that no one else but he will receive a green jacket from Danny Willett on Sunday .
— Masters Tournament (@TheMasters) April 7, 2017
The Masters Website Raises The Bar
Unlike the USGA, the R&A, the PGA Tour, Augusta National hosts one event per year on the world stage. Certain things come easier that way. Some might call it perverse, as the great majority of us won’t buy tickets, have them bequeathed to us, or win them in the annual lottery, but the organizers of the tournament seem bent on presenting every corner of the course and the event to the viewing public. And they do it not as pay-per-view, but for free. Just visit Masters.Com and climb aboard the greatest ride, for one week only. What awaits? Here’s a list.
A leaderboard, in over/under or traditional format;
A living map for tracking, offering the opportunity to find and follow any on-course golfer, at any time;
Live video feeds from the practice range, Amen Corner, Holes 15 and 16 (I dub these two holes “The Locker.” They are compact, and they often lead golfing dreams to Davy Jones’ locker), featured pairings, or the straight broadcast feed (pretty certain that the club owns all the rights to the feed and rents them to CBS Sports);
Stored video of play and interviews from previous days/years/generations;
Miscellania that includes the patron guide, still images and news items.
If you need something that isn’t there, let them know. Chances are fine that they will have it up by 2018. CC us on the email or add it to the comments on this piece. We’ll remember you when.