What to Watch For: The Masters
It is finally here – The Masters is back.
After a whole five months, we get another edition of arguably the greatest, certainly most prestigious tournament in all of golf.
As there usually is, there are so many story lines heading into this week’s Masters, from Brooks Koepka playing injured to Jordan Spieth’s resurgence and much more.
Here are 5 Things to Watch For:
1. Augusta National
The last time we saw Augusta National back in November, the course was playing easy, soft and really no challenge to the players.
Dustin Johnson made just four bogeys all week en route to a record-breaking score of 20-under par.
This time around, Augusta is firing back.
“In short, we are ready to go. This is probably the first year in the last – probably going back to 2013, I think, when we actually came into the week with the golf course playing firm and fast as it is right now. Our intention would be to maintain that throughout the week,” said Augusta Chair Fred Ridley during his press conference on Wednesday.
The players are also taking notice.
I mean, Rory said it five times, ‘Have you ever seen the greens like this on Wednesday?’ And five times in a row I said no. He was laughing because he’s been here a bunch, so I think if it stays like this, come even Friday, Saturday, Sunday, it’ll be – I mean, honestly a 70 or 71 will be a heck of a score,” said former Masters Champion Fred Couples.
If what Couples said is true, golf fans could be in for a heck of a week.
2. Jordan Spieth
Jordan Spieth is the hot name coming into The Masters.
Spieth won last week’s Valero Texas Open, giving him his first victory in nearly four years.
Now, he is among the favorites to win The Masters.
“When you’re coming in form, it’s a good feeling when you arrive here, and I’ve had that a few times. I’ve had it where I pulled down after missing a cut or played well not leading up to it and still played well here, too. I love being here. I love being on the grounds. It’s my favorite tournament in the world. I’ve expressed that many times in here,” said Spieth during his Masters press conference on Monday.
Spieth also plays well at Augusta, almost no matter what.
He has one green jacket, a second place finish and a third place finish over the years.
“I think a lot of it, I’ve really fared well on the greens. Whether I’ve come in putting well or even in tough putting years, the ball seems to find the hole here, when I get on the putting surface. I think a lot of that has to do with speed control. I think mid-range and even long-range putting and touch putting is more important here than it is just about anywhere else,” said Spieth.
Here is a nugget for you, when Spieth enters a major off a win, he has finished no worse than third in said major. So there is that.
3. Dustin Johnson
Dustin Johnson enters The Masters as the defending champion and number one player in the world.
“Coming into this week, it’s a new year. It’s a new tournament. So the mindset is still the same. I mean, I come in and I’m just trying to — I’m ready for the event, but just going out and getting ready for the tournament, seeing how the course is playing, working on the shots that I need to work on, and so that’s kind of the mindset. So it’s not going to change,” said Johnson during his press conference on Tuesday.
However, Johnson hasn’t played that well this season and could possibly lose the #1 spot if Justin Thomas wins.
“I think it’s getting there. Sometimes playing in Hawai’i with a lot of wind, L.A. with a lot of wind, Saudi with a lot of wind, sometimes get just a little bit off. I think that was kind of for me, just my setup, and posture was just a little bit off which caused me to hit some funny shots which is kind of the difference of playing really well or playing just okay. I think that was the main thing,” said Johnson.
He continued, “But I’ve worked on it the last couple weeks and feel like I’ve played really good in Austin tee-to-green. I felt like I actually — if we were playing stroke play, I felt like I would have played really well, just it’s match play. Things happen.”
DJ has five consecutive top 10s at The Masters coming into this tournament.
4. Brooks Koepka
Brooks Koepka is in the field this week, however, no one knows what he looks like or what to expect – perhaps not even him.
Just 23 days ago, Koepka had knee surgery, which he confirmed through his Instagram account. He has not played a competitive round since that time.
“I’ve told Doc, I told everybody, the whole rehab process is all mental. Two days after trying to go around on a bike, you know your knee can actually do it, it’s just whether you allow it to do it. All the connectors from your brain to everything, so you’ve just got to push yourself, and it’s painful at times. The rehab was strenuous, but I’ll be all right,” said Koepka during his press conference on Tuesday.
Koepka can’t even bend down or crouch down to read putts, because his knee doesn’t bend.
“I can’t bend down. My knee doesn’t go. I mean, that’s the most stress you’re going to have on your patella. I don’t have that much motion in my knee. Prone I can get it to about 90 degrees and that’s about it. But getting down, I’m not going to be — it’s going to look funny, I know that. But what are you going to do,” added Koepka.
With an injury like this, viewers and media members will likely know pretty early on how Brooks is going to do this week.
If, and it is a big IF, he puts himself in contention on Sunday, maybe even wins, this could go down as one of the great stories in Masters history.
5. Patrons Are Back
There will be roars this year at Augusta National as patrons are back.
Although, Chairman Fred Ridley refused to disclose the exact amount, it is expected to be well into the thousands.
This means that at least the last three or four PGA Tournaments have had some amount of fans on site.
Back in November, there were roughly 500 people there to see the Tournament, most of which were essential personnel and Augusta members.