The Masters: Busting some Augusta myths
MYTH: Length is the key factor at the Masters
REALITY: ON a course that measures 7,435 yards you might be forgiven for thinking that Angel Cabrera captured his 2009 Green Jacket courtesy of some typically colossal hitting. Not so.
Neither he, nor fellow play-off competitors Kenny Perry or Chad Campbell, featured in the top 10 for driving distance and, of those that did, only Phil Mickelson made it into the top 10 on the leaderboard. The other ‘bombers’ did not even threaten.
You’ll also remember Zach Johnson winning here five years ago while another renowned short knocker, Tim Clark, has come close in three years.
MYTH: The par 5s are the most exciting in the Majors
REALITY: MAYBE this was once the case but the chance of a spectacular eagle has slowly lessened as the years have passed.
In 1997 there were 24 on the back nine on Sunday. There were less than half that in 2007 and, four years ago, there were just five – and two of those came courtesy of holed approaches on the par 4s.
Nowadays they are often reduced to a succession of 100-yard pitches and Johnson laid up everywhere en route to his win.
Geoff Ogilvy said of the 13th: “I’m not capable of hitting a drive that goes straight for 270 yards then turns sharply to the left.”
MYTH: The Masters boasts the strongest of fields
REALITY: AROUND 90 players are invited to the Masters each year, compared to around 150 at each of the other three Majors.
And of these 90, five or six are amateurs, while at least 25 are past champions, several of whom are now ceremonial rather than competitive.
So the Masters certainly has the weakest field of the Majors. Factor in the Players Championship and all three individual WGC (World Golf Championship) events and you have six events each year with stronger fields than the Masters.
It is an elite field, certainly, but not a deep one.
THE word has always been that this is the hottest ticket in sport – if you are not on the list then you can forget about sampling the delights of Augusta National. Not true.
MYTH: Conditions are always perfect at Augusta
REALITY: BELIEVE it or not, the Men of the Masters have no control over the weather.
And though they try (and almost always succeed) in presenting a course in perfect condition each April, several Masters in recent times have been inconvenienced.
Starting in 2005, the first morning was a write-off and meant that most of the third round had to be played on Sunday. In 2006, the third round spilled into Sunday, due to storm delays.
When Johnson won five years ago, it was positively cold, with the temperature dipping to as low as 4˚C.
Twelve months later and we had a fog delay on the first morning before play was suspended on Sunday afternoon as a precaution against a possible electrical storm.
MYTH: The Masters begins with Sunday’s back nine
REALITY: THE back nine is famed for heroics and unlikely charges. Jack Nicklaus was home in 30 strokes in 1986 while Mickelson was five under for the last seven holes in 2004.
Yet the truth is that if you are looking for a winner you need only look at who is playing in the last group out – the winner almost always emerges from the final pairing.
Zach Johnson and Charl Schwartzel are two of a select group to have bucked this trend. Trevor Immelman managed his victory in 2008 with just a solitary birdie on the back nine in a final round of 75.
MYTH: Masters tickets are impossible to come by
REALITY: THE word has always been that this is the hottest ticket in sport – if you are not on the list, of which the waiting list is long closed, then you can forget about sampling the delights of Augusta National.
Not true. In short, money talks and if you’ve got, say, around £4,500 to hand, you can help yourself to a package that includes return flights, accommodation, all four days of golf and a chair for ‘prime viewing location’.
Stories of reselling tickets crop up every year. Needless to say the club does not comment on how it handles the matter.
MYTH: Augusta is paradise on earth
REALITY: AUGUSTA NATIONAL is a curious blend of perfection and ugliness. Superficially, it all looks beautiful on television and, for most of us, it is the course we would play before any other in the world given the choice.
But dig a little deeper and you will encounter things like the absence of a single female member.
There are accusations of racism, cronyism and a tension between Augusta’s right as a private club to carry out as they see fit and their status as a Major tournament and therefore responsibility to the game of golf as a whole.
Then there is the location. Just a couple of hundred yards away from the clubhouse is a gridlocked strip of burger bars, shabby motels and tacky souvenir shops.
Not that you will find reference to any of these things on an official guide.