Even the great Jack Nicklaus didn’t win the first Masters he played in 1959 at age 19. He eventually went on to win six Green Jackets over the course of his Hall of Fame career, was the first to win back to back titles in 1965 and 1966, and was the oldest, at 46 years old in 1986. Jack Nicklaus proved that you have to learn how to win this tournament, and it usually doesn’t happen during the first trip.
What few people know is, Jack set up his entire spring schedule in order for his game to peak at Augusta in April. He knew that because the greens were so hard at Augusta, that the one thing he needed to do there was be able to hit the ball high into the greens. For that reason, he never played in Texas, a place where he needed to drive the ball low into the wind, because it deviated too much from the high shot he would need at the Masters.
With that being said, I don’t hold too much store in newbies like Jordan Spieth, and Patrick Reed being able to come in here and win a Green Jacket in their first appearance among the Magnolias. I would give them more of a chance at one of the Opens, or maybe the PGA Championship, but not The Masters.
This article points to youngsters like Thorbjorn Olesen who finished T6 last year, and the emerging games of Harris English as being true contenders this year. I agree with the picks, and agree that even though Rickie Fowler made some nice runs this spring, his game is not ready for Augusta National.
The big factors that are already affecting the outcome of the year’s first major are the health of three of the top players on the PGA Tour that includes two of the most prominent names who already have seven wins between them. Tiger Woods, and Phil Mickelson. Even if these two are able to play, the big question is can they compete.
The other big name that I felt had a chance coming into 2014 is Jason Day. After hanging on to win The WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship against a tough Victor Dubuisson, the young Aussie has come up with a problem with his thumb, and it doesn’t seem to be healing. He’s had to continually withdraw from events that would prepare him for a run at a first Green Jacket this year.
As I listen to conversations around golf with people already talking about the Masters, there are two name you just don’t hear. Adam Scott, and Rory McIlroy. Adam Scott has not come out of my mouth either. After watching the 2013 champion squander a couple of late tournament leads this year, I think we might have seen the Aussie’s best last year, and that was it.
Rory McIlroy on the other hand has the game to win it all this year. He’s had a pretty good spring after the disaster in 2013, and has let a couple of good leads get away late as it did at The Honda. But with the Jack Nicklaus theory of hitting the ball high, no one on tour has the high ball flight that Rory has, including Tiger and Phil.
All one has to look at is the shot he hit into the 72nd hole at PGA National on Sunday afternoon. I don’t think anyone in golf could have hit that shot today except for maybe Henrik Stenson. Too bad he didn’t make the eagle putt and put it away and lost in a playoff.
Although I feel like some of the young first-time players will play well at Augusta this year, I think history will hold it’s ground, and give us another winner that has been there a few times and understands the bounce of the ball around Amen Corner.
Hey…the course owes Angel Cabrera one from last year….Don’t you think?