Masters 2019: The eight most underrated shots at Augusta National
Bob Jones once said of Augusta National, “We want to make bogeys easy if frankly sought, pars readily obtainable by standard good play, and birdies—except on par 5s—dearly bought.” And over the years Masters fans, both in person and via television have come to recognize some of the more obvious places where that holds true. The tee shot at the par-3 12th or anywhere on the No. 11 through No. 13 stretch known as Amen Corner, for that matter. The second shot on the par-5 15th is another visible example. However speaking with more than 15 past champions for the hole-by-hole course tour section of the Masters Journal—including multiple champions Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Gary Player, Nick Faldo—has led to an appreciation for the more subtle but no less demanding shots one needs to pay close attention to if they’re to play well at Augusta National. Here are eight shots players face that might not capture our eye immediately, but surely command players’ attention.
The second shot on the par-5 second hole
Whether going for the green in two or playing for position short of the putting surface, what many think of as simply another fairway wood or long iron play is actually a precision play. The plan for how to approach this shot completely depends on where the pin is located. If the pin is back left, the second shot must be to the middle or right. In fact, well right of the green is never bad because the pitch shot is uphill. Conversely, missing left leaves a downhill shot that is tough to stop. Most Masters competitors will tell you the sand is a better place to be than left or long. As for going for it in two blows, that’s an awfully tough shot as it is off a downhill lie and you’re trying to hit it high and soft. That’s difficult for even the most skilled players. The par 5s at Augusta National are more about where you place the ball on your second shot than anything else and perhaps there is no better example than No. 2.
Second shot on the par-4 third hole
The shortest par 4 on the golf course at 350 yards also presents one of the approach shots Masters participants fear most. Although a mere pitch of only some 50 yards for those hitting driver off the tee, the elevated green (only some 35 feet in depth on the left side) can turn what appears to be a very simple situation to a trying one in short order. The shot, although short, must be exact. Come up the slightest bit short and the ball will embarrassingly roll back almost to where it was struck from. Take too much caution not to do that and the ball might end up over the green, leaving a nervy chip. Rarely has such a short shot provided so much consternation for players.
The putt from the top right of the green on the par-3 fourth hole
Usually hitting the green on the 240-yard, par-3 fourth hole would be a satisfying play. However, if the pin is located on the front left and the tee shot is equal or past the hole on the right, an argument can be made that the player is facing one of the most difficult putts on the entire golf course. From there the slope is falling away from you with a fairly big swing to the left and the odds of a two-putt drop dramatically. Tiger Woods had a chip shot from the right-hand side of the green in the final round of 2002 and said it might have been easier than Retief Goosen’s putt from the top right. Woods made par and Goosen made bogey, so apparently so.
The tee shot on the par-4 fifth hole
Although the tee shot on this hole in prior years wasn’t a gimme, it wasn’t exactly a cause for angst, either, as players had the ability to carry the fairway bunkers on the left or comfortably play out to the right side with a 3-wood. That’s changed in 2019 as the tee has been moved back some 40 yards and to the right, making it play straighter. The bunkers also have been moved (although, in true Augusta National fashion they look the same as ever to the eye), now requiring a 310-yard-plus carry to clear them. With that being a non-starter for most players, the choice is to lay up short of them, leaving an uphill approach of some 200 yards or try to thread it in the fairway to the right of the bunkers with a driver. Regardless, what once was benign has now become beastly.
Tee shot on the par-3 sixth hole
Three-time Masters champion Nick Faldo once called Augusta National, “the most nerve-wracking course in the world.” A microcosm of that is the tee shot on the par-3 sixth, particularly when the pin is located on the back right shelf. In that instance, the generous-sized green shrinks significantly in usable size. “I’ve always regarded the tee shot here to the back right-hand pin as my barometer for the week,” Faldo told the Masters Journal in 2006. “During practice rounds I aim for that spot and if I keep putting it up there, then it means my iron game is accurate. To fly a ball from 180 yards down a hill in a breeze to an area about the size of two dining room tables, well, you know your game is spot on.”
Second shot on the par-4 14th
The 14th has the distinction of being the only hole at Augusta National without a bunker. It doesn’t need one. While it lacks the glamour of the water holes on the second nine, 14 is a good, solid par 4 and one reason is the approach to a green that took some imagination to design. Although there are some pin positions that are accessible, there are others where the margin for error is slight. The green has a large swale in front and shoots off in several directions. That’s why approach shots—even ones struck just a few feet off line—can roll away from the hole some 30 or 40 feet or more.
The lay-up shot on the par-5 15th
We know, we know. We don’t want to be talking about no stinking lay-up on one of the most exciting holes on the golf course. But the saying about a man knowing his limitations comes to mind here. Masters competitors often face two decisions here. Whether to go for it in two is one. When golfers decide the prudent play is to lay up short of the water, then it’s where to lay up. Although most everyday players view a lay-up shot as simply slapping it down the fairway short of the penalty area, the pros know a lay-up shot is like a shot in billiards where the current shot is played to best set up the next. At 15, almost without exception, it’s about 80 to 90 yards from the pin and on the left side of the fairway. That, players say, leaves a flatter lie than on the right-hand side and offers a better opportunity to spin the ball off the flatter lie.
Putt from left side of the green on the par-4 17th
With all the dramatic looks on Augusta National’s second nine, the 17th hole appears to be a bit nondescript, especially since the Eisenhower Tree came down in an ice storm in 2014. The green, however, requires a player’s full attention as it is a deceiving putting surface that rolls off in several directions, with the slopes seemingly never bringing the ball towards the hole, but rather work it away from it. Raymond Floyd fell victim to the hole in 1990, when he appeared to have the Masters won. Holding a one-shot lead playing the 17th, Floyd got a little careless with his approach and it trickled to the left side of the green, with the pin on the opposite side. Now having to putt up and over the ridge, Floyd misjudged the speed and three-putted, eventually losing to Nick Faldo in a playoff.
Gary Player once said of Augusta National that “every shot is within a fraction of disaster. That’s what makes it so great.” The above shots would appear to further solidify Player’s claim.
How to handle a downhill lie and hit the green
Sergio Garcia’s appearance in the Saudi International came to an abrupt end over the weekend when he became the first golfer disqualified for a new rule. Under Rule 1.2, a tournament committee can kick a player out of an event for violating the “spirit of the game” or “breach of etiquette,” and Garcia got the boot after his third round in which he was said to have purposely damaged as many as five greens at Saudi Arabia’s Royal Greens Golf & Country Club.
“I respect the decision of my disqualification,” Garcia said in a statement. “I damaged a couple of greens, for which I apologize for, and I have informed my fellow players it will never happen again.”
While there isn’t video of said violations (At least, not yet), footage of Garcia throwing a temper tantrum in a bunker on the par-5 fourth hole the previous day has surfaced thanks to Sky Sports. And it is something else. Have a look:
There are two important things to remember here:
1.) This is NOT even the (main) reason Garcia got DQ’d.
2.) Sergio Garcia is 39 years old.
In the aftermath of the latest Garciagate—remember, this is a golfer who once spit into the hole after retrieving his ball—the Scotsman reported the Spaniard will not face any further suspension from the European Tour.
Source: Golf Digest
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Tiger Woods makes his 2019 debut at the Farmers Insurance Open this week, his first official PGA Tour appearance since last fall’s triumph at East Lake. Thanks to his successful comeback campaign in 2018, this year’s foray at Torrey Pines doesn’t boast the build-up as Woods’ previous post-surgery starts in La Jolla, the attention shifted to what’s ahead rather than the state of the 43-year-old’s physicality and game.
Not to say this tournament lacks hype. If the bookmakers are to be believed, Tiger fans could be in for a treat. Whereas Woods was viewed as a toss-up to make the cut last year, the sharps have circled the 14-time major winner as one of the event favorites, entering at +1200 (only Jon Rahm and Justin Rose have lower odds). That might seem audacious for Woods, given he hasn’t played competitively since the Hero World Challenge. Conversely, the man is no stranger to Torrey Pines, bagging eight professional victories at the property.
In honor of Tiger’s first 2019 outing, here are nine wagers, odds and bets from BetDSI Sportsbook to monitor this week.
Will Tiger Woods make the cut? (Yes -170, No +140)
Officially, Woods ended his 2018 on a tear with a runner-up at the PGA Championship, a T-6 at the BMW Championship and his win at the Tour Championship. Unfortunately for Woods, his performance at the Ryder Cup, the made-for-TV match with Phil Mickelson and the Hero were on the opposite end of the spectrum, as Tiger was clearly gassed. Still, with almost two months of rest—coupled with the fact that he’s only missed the cut once at Torrey—”Yes” is an easy call.
Will Tiger Woods finish in the top 5? (Yes +400, No -650)
Woods’ most recent win at Torrey was in 2013; it’s also his only top-20 finish at the event since 2008. We’re not deterring your resolve from rolling with the plus-400…we just don’t endorse it, either.
Will Tiger Woods finish in the top 10? (Yes +200, No -265)
Woods did post seven top-10 finishes in just 18 starts last year, but copy and paste the sentiments from above. Of note, the last time Tiger finished inside the top 10 at Torrey but didn’t win the tournament was 2004.
Tiger Woods highest score on any hole: Over 6.5 (-130), Under 6.5 (+100)
Framed in another fashion: Do you think Woods will make a double on a par 5, triple on par 4 or quad on a par 3? We don’t want to meet the sorry soul that dares to vouch “yes” to any of these items.
Tiger Woods lowest score (18 holes) on North Course: Over 70.5 (-120), Under 70.5 (-110)
Last year the North was right in the middle of the pack in course difficulty on tour, coming in at 0.590 strokes under par. Woods shot 71 on the North in 2018; with calm weather in the forecast, expect Woods to break that figure this week.
Tiger Woods lowest score (18 holes) on South Course: Over 71.5 (-110), Under 71.5 (-120)
Only four courses (not counting major venues) were tougher in 2018 than the South. If Woods makes the cut, he’ll get three chances on the course, and it’s likely that one of those go-arounds will go, ahem, south. Over is the safe play.
Tiger Woods cumulative score for The Undertow (Holes 2, 3, 4 on North Course): Over 11 (+100), Under 11 (-130)
It reads 4-3-4 on the card, but this stretch features the fourth, first and second hardest holes on the North. Nevertheless, Woods made it through unscathed last season. The biggest deadlock of the bunch, but we like Woods to replicate last year’s feats.
Tiger Woods full tournament FIR (must make cut): Over 56.5 percent (-110), Under 56.5 percent (-120)
Call your accountant, unload all your stocks, call in whatever monetary favors are outstanding and place all funds on the under. Though Woods’ driving accuracy steadily improved throughout the summer, Torrey Pines flaunts some of the tightest confines on tour. Considering he hit just 21.43 percent of fairways at the Farmers Insurance Open last year, that 56.5 percentage is a pipe dream.
Will Tiger Woods hold an overnight lead? (Thursday-Saturday): Yes +500, No -900
Our educated guess says no. But for those adventurous enough to take this wager, parlay it with a top 5 or top 10 finish to get the most bang for your buck.
5 tips to help you keep your golf resolutions in 2019
The new year has arrived and a lot of you golfers out there might be uttering the words, “new year, new me.”
Most of us make New Year’s resolutions and, unfortunately, most of us fail to see them through for all 365 days.
If your resolution involved improving your golf game in 2019, here’s a list of things you can do every day/week — even if you’re in the bitter cold like a lot of folks right now — to help you achieve those goals.
And, once it warms up in your area, you can take all five of these drills outside.
5. Exercise. Yeah, we know. That’s what we should be doing every day anyway, right? But when it comes to golf, you don’t want to be tight. There are a number of stretches you can do right from your desk while reading emails that will benefit your arms, shoulders, neck, back, hips and legs for golf season.
Even better, place one of those handy, elastic, tension bands in the top drawer of your desk.
4. Take 100 swings per day in your house or garage… without a golf ball. The best players in the world visualize the shot they want to hit before they hit it. With a drill like this one, you’re going to be forced to visualize, because there’s no ball there to hit. If you’re able, place a mirror in front of you and pay attention to the positions of your address, takeaway, the top of your swing and impact position as well as follow through. Do it in slow motion. Become an expert on your swing.
3. Work on your chipping. Can’t do it outside? No worries. You can purchase a chipping net, or even put down a hula-hoop as a target. Get a few foam golf balls and a tiny turf mat to hit the balls off of.
Will it produce the same feel as a real golf ball? Of course not. But what it will do is force you to focus on a target and repeat the same motion over and over. After a long layoff, “touch,” is the first thing that goes for all golfers.
This will help you to work on some semblance of touch all winter long.
2. Practice your putting. Anywhere. All you need is a putter, a golf ball, a flat surface and an object — any object — to putt at. If you’re so inclined, rollout turf can be purchased for around $20 with holes cut out.
Since the greens are where you’re going to take most of your strokes, doesn’t it make sense to dial that in whenever possible? It can be fun too. Does your significant other, roommate, or child play? Have regular putting contests.
The feel you gain during those sessions may not seem like much, but man will they come in handy when your season begins on the real grass.
1. Make a weekly appointment with your PGA Professional. Even in areas of the country that are suffering through the cruelest of winter conditions, you can always find a place to hit golf balls inside. Contact your local PGA Professional to find out where places like this in your area exist. You might be surprised at all the options you have.
SPRINGFIELD, N.J. – At least Phil Mickelson maintained his sense of humor after watching a second claret jug slip through his fingers.
Mickelson fired a bogey-free 65 during the final round of the Open Championship at Royal Troon, carding a 72-hole score that would have been good enough to win all but a handful of Opens. But it wasn’t enough to win the 145th edition of the event, as Henrik Stenson left Mickelson in his dust after carding a closing 63.
So days later, as he preps for another major championship, what does Mickelson feel he could have possibly done to alter the outcome in Scotland?
“I don’t look back on the final round with anything that I would have done different, other than maybe go over to Stenson’s bag and bend his putter a little bit,” Mickelson said. “That’s probably the only thing I could have done and had a chance.”
Mickelson remains optimistic about his game, having now recorded five top-5 finishes in his last 14 starts. He also gets an extra boost in confidence this week by returning to Baltusrol Golf Club, where he won his lone PGA Championship title back in 2005.
But the psychological effects of his latest close call – Mickelson’s 11th runner-up finish in a major – have not yet fully sunk in for the 46-year-old, who remains in search of his first PGA Tour victory in more than three years.
“I think it’s one of those things where I’ll look back over time and my disappointment will probably increase, because it’s the first time in my career that I’ve played to that level of golf and not had it be enough to win a tournament,” he said. “That’s a disappointing thing, because I would have loved to have added another claret jug.”
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