Themes of the 2013 Masters: Part Two

As the opening major of the year approaches, Dan Murphy outlines eight key storylines - including the suggestion that this could be Ian Poulter's year

4. There is a 14-year-old golfer in the field

Guan Tian-Lang had just turned 14 when he won last November’s Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship and with it a place

in the Masters.

When he tees it up at Augusta he will be fully two years younger than Matteo Manassero was when he made his debut in 2010 as the reigning Amateur champion.

The Chinese teenager, startlingly, used a belly putter to win the event in Thailand and it remains to be seen whether it will still be in the bag come next month. Guan says Tiger Woods is his favourite player and hopes to arrange a practice round with the 14-time Major champion as he prepares to tee off at Augusta.

Frighteningly (for Tiger as much as anyone), Tian-Lang was not even born when Woods won his first Green Jacket back in 1997.

5. Will the left-handed domination continue?

When Bubba Watson defeated Louis Oosthuizen in a play-off last April, it was the fifth time in the last 10 years that the Green Jacket had been won by a left-hander. Considering that Mike Weir became only the second southpaw in history to win a Major (Bob Charles, the 1963 Open champion, being the first) by claiming the 2003 Masters, this is quite a statistical anomaly.

Since then Phil Mickelson has won three titles, in 2004, 06 and 10. Why should it be? Certainly Weir’s style of play could hardly be further removed from that of Mickelson, let alone Watson. Then again, the left-hander’s fade is ideally suited to Augusta’s many right-to-left doglegs with the added advantage that this softlanding shot is easier to control when approaching the greens.
Frighteningly (for Tiger as much as anyone), Tian-Lang was not even born when Woods won his first Green Jacket back in 1997. 6. The end of the wilderness years for Europe?

Not only has a European failed to win the Masters since the last Millennium (Jose Maria Olazabal, in 1999, to be exact) but only once have we managed a second place in that time (Lee Westwood in 2010). There really is no excuse for that these days – the continent is now heavily represented at Augusta.

It’s far removed from the situation as recently as 20 years ago, when the likes of Nick Faldo, Sandy Lyle, Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer and Ian Woosnam used to arrive at Augusta almost unsupported by other Europeans. With eight of the top 20 in the world rankings belonging to this continent, and given our recent dominance in the Ryder Cup, there is no reason we shouldn’t expect success in the first Major of the season.

Maybe it will be different this year. Apart from McIlroy, Luke Donald, and Lee Westwood (see below), Ian Poulter will be many people’s best-fancied British Isles player.

The latter is on the brink of the top 10 in the world rankings andwill be determined to channel the sprit of his Ryder Cup heroics in what is the first Major to be played since then. Could this be his year?

Remember when…?

James Tompkinson charts past Masters

Ten years ago

All the pre-tournament talk was on Tiger’s hat trick bid but it was the altogether less exciting Len Mattiace who looked set to triumph.

He made seven final-round birdies to take the lead before being caught by Mike Weir. He won the playoff, becoming Canada’s first Major winner and Augusta’s first left-handed champion.

Read Part One HERE.
Read Part Three HERE.
The 2013 Masters: Preview

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