BOB WEST — Everything you need to know before The Masters begins
Published 12:10 am Wednesday, April 5, 2023
Based on tradition and history alone, the Masters golf tournament is one of the few events in the wide world of sports that doesn’t require anything unusual to pump up the anticipation level.
What is about to unfold this week in Augusta, Georgia; however, is over the top with juicy story lines.
There are so many of those, in fact, it’s difficult to rank them.
- The presence of LIV golf and all that goes with its 18 participating players.
- Tiger Woods trying to turn back the clock maybe for the last time.
- Rory McIlory’s quest to finally win the Masters.
- The “new” 13th hole.
Honestly, there are many more intriguing angles but space doesn’t allow dealing with all of them. Throw in the nasty weather headed our way, and there is more reason than ever for the avid and even not-so-avid golfer to be glued to Masters coverage.
To make your planning easier, here’s a map to all things Masters. ESPN will have coverage from 2 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday. CBS steps up from 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
For those who can’t get enough, ESPN has a noon to 2 p.m. “Welcome to the Masters” pre-game show Thursday and Friday. On Saturday, CBS opens from 1 to 2 p.m. with “13 Green Jackets, a conversation with Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Scottie Scheffler.”
CBS’ appetizer from noon to 1 p.m. Sunday is “Jim Nantz remembers Augusta: The Masterful Tom Weiskopf.” And, finally, for those who just can’t get enough, the Golf Channel jumps in at the completion of play each day with insightful analysis on “Live From The Masters.”
Most intriguing story line for me is the LIV players, how they fare and how they are received by the normally mild-mannered Masters’ gallery. There have been mixed reviews on that, but take it to the bank: the worst nightmare of the Masters and PGA Tour is a LIV player winning.
LIV mastermind Greg Norman has already promised all 18 of his crew will be surrounding the 18th green on Sunday if it happens.
Early insight into the vibe was expected at Tuesday night’s Champions Dinner. Fred Couples, hardly a rabble rouser, may have set the stage by calling Phil Mickelson a “nutbag” and Sergio Garcia a “clown.” Bryson DeChambeau has publicly lamented that Tiger won’t return his texts.
Make no mistake about it, there are seriously harsh feelings.
Speaking of Tiger, hope springs eternal that he can pull off another miracle akin to 2019. Just making the cut and being able to walk 72, though, would be a minor miracle.
Tiger will be trying to tie Couples and Gary Player for the most consecutive made cuts (23) at the Masters and also looking to add to the 36 records he holds there. He’ll be seeking to add to his all-time high of $9,588,236 in Masters winnings.
McIlory, meanwhile, is hoping to shake what has been a Masters jinx and win the only major that has eluded what many experts view as the world’s best player. To do so, he’ll have to bury the haunting memory of an horrendous back nine meltdown a few years ago when he was seemingly headed to victory.
Leading threats to McIlory are expected to be defending champ Scottie Scheffler and Jon Rahm. But there are probably well more than a dozen guys who could win, including LIVers Cam Smith, Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson. Much will be read into how they perform.
Augusta’s weather, which has rain and gusty winds in the forecast all four days, as well as dropping temperatures, could open the door to players who benefit from softened greens. Most impacted by a falling thermometer is likely to be Woods and his battered body.
Where the ever-changing golf course is concerned, massive attention will paid to the par 5, 13th hole. With the ball traveling farther and farther, and players getting home with short irons, club officials bought land behind the 13th and lengthened it 35 yards to 545.
Normally that distance is no big deal to even the game’s medium-range drivers, but a demanding fairway sloping hard right to left should changes strategy and reduces the ridiculous number of two-putt birdies.
So, pull up a seat and get ready for a fun week of golf viewing. You will be one of many around the world. A recent Golf magazine survey of 5,400 respondents revealed 86.2 percent consider the Masters as their favorite major to watch.
One other thing. Keep in mind that your favorite golf writer birdied 7 and 16 when he got to play Augusta National in 1977.
CHIP SHOTS: Lamar ex MJ Daffue continued to show he belongs on the PGA Tour with his play at the Valero Texas Open. Daffue posted his highest finish – a T15 with a 7-under-281 while making his sixth consecutive cut and 11th in 16 starts. He won a season high $135,725.
The news was not so good for Andrew Landry. One shot above the cut line with three holes to play, the 2018 Valero champ finished bogey, bogey, bogey for a 74 and a 146. Landry still hasn’t made it to the weekend since 2018. He’s missed four of the last six cuts . . .
Braden Bailey had a successful week as a caddie, after good buddy Chandler Phillips managed to make the cut on rounds of 71-72. Phillips finished T64 at 6-over 294 and pocketed a check for $18,868 . . .
In the Monday Senior 50 Plus 2 ball at Babe Zaharias, the team of Ed Holley, Ted Freeman, Larry Johnson and Dan Flood won the front with minus 2. On the back, minus 2 made a winner of the foursome of Danny Robbins, Raymond Darbonne, Darrell Latolias and Dwayne Benoit.
Taking closest to the pin were Jeff Rinehart (No. 2, 5-1), Rick Pritchett (No. 7, 6-3), Kenny Robbins (No. 12, 3-2) and Benoit (No. 15, 5-1) . . .
The Friday 2 ball saw the team of Jim Cady, Gene Jones, Harry Green and Stuart Ellis take the front with minus 1. On the back, James Vercher, Bob Byerly, Mike Tibbets and Art Turner prevailed with minus 2.
Closest to the pin winners were Cady (No. 2, 9-5, No. 12, 10-3) Vercher (No. 7, 8-1) and Ron LaSalle (No.15, 10-9) . . .
The Wednesday Zaharias DogFight was played in an all-points-count format. Taking first place with 27 points was the team of Pritchett, Rufus Reyes, Jerry May and James Johnson. Second with 26 points was the foursome of Cady, Rusty Hicks, David English and Turner.
Picking up closest to the pin cash were Kenny Robbins (No. 2, 8-7), Ron Mistrot (No. 7, 4-8), Reyes (No. 12, 13-4 and No. 15, 1-1)
Golf news should be e-mailed to Bob West at email@example.com.