In Masters Fourball, NCG writers Dan Murphy, Alex Perry, Mark Townsend and Steve Carroll take it in turns to ask each other a Masters related question.
Dan: Can somebody provide me with an explanation for Phil Mickelson shooting 79?
Mark: He might be the strangest golfer who has ever lived; expect the unexpected. When he’s the 10-1 favourite he’ll blow up, when you’ve written him off he’ll win.
But then this is Augusta when he seemingly contends every year? That hasn’t quite been the case in the past five years – other than his second behind Spieth in 2015 he’s missed two cuts and had nothing better than 22nd. So maybe his skills are finally on the slide here.
Steve: Mickelson’s always prone to a few holes of madness – particularly at Augusta. It’s what makes him so entertaining to watch. You never quite know what he’s going to come up with.
I vividly remember him sticking one into the bushes at the back of the 4th in 2012 on his way to a treble that killed his chances that year. That cost me a few quid.
79 is just Phil being Phil. If he makes the cut, he’ll probably shoot 66 on Saturday.
Alex: Like they say on Twitter: Phil gonna Phil.
Steve: Rory McIlroy’s posted his best halfway Masters total since 2012 and seems to be playing without the fear that has characterised his previous visits to Augusta. This could really be his year, right?
Alex: It’s great to see him in this position, but his Augusta mental block still concerns me too much for me to get excited.
I’m afraid I won’t be celebrating until he’s in that Green Jacket – or at least 10 shots clear going down 18 on Sunday. With Tiger seemingly out of contention, I’ve dusted off my ‘I heart Rory’ merch. Goodbye fingernails.
Mark: In the words of Butch: “I like this young man.” He looks very settled and unflustered which seems to be half the battle for him. His pace putting particularly looks great so fingers crossed.
He does well pretty much every year so we shouldn’t be surprised, it would be magical if he could pull this off.
Dan: I remain to be entirely convinced – even though he is in great shape at the halfway stage and is driving the ball majestically well.
The closer the prize gets, the harder it’s going to be for Rory. He’s not only chasing a Green Jacket, there’s a career Grand Slam at stake too. We all know he doesn’t putt quite as well as many of his rivals and pretty much plays at full tilt. That means he is always susceptible to run up a number at Augusta.
Alex: Would Patrick Reed be the most unpopular Masters champion of all time?
Dan: I can assure you that he would be an awful lot more popular in the eyes of the patrons than, for example, Danny Willett.
Mark: Willett’s pretty far removed from what the Men of the Masters would be after from their champion.
Due to his Ryder Cup heroics, I can’t imagine Reed’s that unpopular in the States and I think, secretly, most of us quite like him. He brightened up a pretty dull competition at Gleneagles and he’s about as natural as anyone in terms of his skills. I think he’s magic.
Steve: Bob Goalby got hate mail after he won 50 years ago. I’m not sure Twitter rage could quite top one correspondent, who told him: “They ought to put you and Sonny Liston in a sack of concrete and dump you in the ocean.”
Mark: You are allowed to play one hole at Augusta National. I will give you £50 if you can make a par – which hole would you tee it up at?
Alex: I’m going for a par-3. Let’s get it over and done with quickly. I’ll have a pop at 12. 155 yards is more often than not a solid 8 for me, which is the most consistent iron in my bag. If I don’t take your £50, I’ve played one of the most famous holes in the world.
Steve: I’m going to avoid the par 5s – I don’t need to see water right in front of a green – and I’m going to take the 3rd: Flowering Peach. It’s only 350 yards so I can hit a 19 degree hybrid off the tee and leave myself about 140 in.
That’s a nice 7-iron for me. It’s my favourite club and irons are usually the best part of my game. I’d hit it to the right side of the green and let it feed down towards the hole. Then I’ve got two putts…
Dan: I think I would go for the 8th in the hope that two vaguely decent lumps would get me some kind of view of the green. Surely I would have a chance of hitting the green from 100 yards and two-putting from there? There’s no water and it isn’t the kind of green that your ball can trickle 40 yards off. By contrast, I have a fear that I might never finish the 3rd.