1. Can Rory win his first Green Jacket?
One of the most vivid memories from recent Masters is that of Rory McIlroy, fresh from his adventures in and among the cabins at the 10th and taking seven, four-putting the 12th green, then hooking his drive into the flowers to the left of Rae’s Creek and the 13th fairway, on the brink of tears, covering his face with his sleeve.
That was in 2011 and last year he was in a strong position at the halfway stage to put it all behind him, only for weekend rounds of 77 and 76 to leave him alongside none other than Tiger Woods in a tie for 40th.
It all means that he has yet to finish inside the top 10 at Augusta, despite being the World No 1, holder of two Majors and a man who seems as if he has been strolling among the pine trees and azaleas for many years.
That will certainly change, but merely chalking up useful top 10s doesn’t really do it for Rory – he will be aiming at nothing less than a win. One thing he will need to improve on is the way he plays the opening hole – he was +5 over the four rounds last year.
2. Can Tiger earn his first Green Jacket for eight years?
It is, remarkably, eight years since Tiger Woods last won the Masters and eight years since that chip – the one from long and left on the 16th that hung on the lip before toppling in.
After that memorable triumph, Woods had four Green Jackets from nine professional attempts and he seemed certain to overtake Jack Nicklaus’ record of six Masters wins. Since then – nothing.
That said, his worst finish between 2006 and 2011 was sixth. Last year he was 40th and never contended. This year he will surely improve on that. Augusta remains, annually, his best chance of a Major given the relative lack of penalty for errant driving and its reward for brilliant chipping and putting, two areas in which Tiger has traditionally excelled.
Yet with every year that passes since his last win, the odds are less in his favour.
It is, remarkably, eight years since Tiger Woods last won the Masters and eight years since that chip 3. The fuss over two new members of Augusta National Golf Club
Not just any two new members, it must be said. The former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore, a financier from South Carolina, have become Augusta National’s first two female members.
It does not exactly represent an equal-opportunity policy but it is a massive change at a club like the venue for the season’s first Major.
“This is a joyous occasion,” said Augusta National chairman Billy Payne, in a statement that convinced nobody. There will be many awkward questions for him to avoid answering directly when he faces the media ahead of this year’s tournament. And undoubtedly even more in the direction of the all-male R&A, whose Open Championship heads to the all-male Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers in July.
James Tompkinson charts past Masters
Five Years Ago
Trevor Immelman’s victory ended South Africa’s 30- year Masters drought.
Holding off challenges from Woods and Snedeker, he held the lead from start to finish in cold winds. Despite three dropped shots in an unremarkable last round a total of -8 was enough to see off Woods, who ended on -5 for the week.
Read Part Two HERE.
Read Part Three HERE.
The 2013 Masters: Preview