Picking ‘the best of’ Augusta National is like picking ‘the prettiest’ at the Miss Universe pageant, or ‘the dumbest’ on any VH1 reality show. Nonetheless, on the eve of the 75th version of The Masters tournament, I’m going to split hairs and give you my opinions and predictions on the next four days.
The Best Holes to Watch from the Course
3. No. 6 (Juniper) — This is a personal favorite of mine. Carved into the Earth between 5, 7, and 16, Juniper is a Par 3 that allows patrons to sit on the hillside between the tee and the green. Walking down the path from the elevated tee gives me chills each and every day I’m in Augusta.
2. No. 13 (Azalea) — For good reason, this is Phil Mickelson’s favorite hole. He virtually won the 2010 Masters here, coaxing a Sunday six-iron between two pines and onto the green, setting up an eagle chance on this Par 5. With Rae’s Creek protecting the green, this is a ‘make or break’ hole for almost every round, and the players know it. Did I mention it’s the most beautiful hole in the world? That too.
1. No. 16 (Redbud) — If you want excitement, this is your place. Roars are plentiful on this Par 3 with a magnificently undulating green. I’ve seen one hole-in-one live from Augusta, and it was here (Ian Poulter in 2008). That memory, and this hole’s ability to create more of the same, makes this hole my favorite on this breathtaking course.
The Best Day of the Week to Visit The Masters
3. Wednesday — One of the great things about Monday through Wednesday is that patrons can bring cameras onto the course, capturing personal mementos from the historic experience. Thursday and beyond, it’s all left to memories and retinal scans. Wednesday also provides a full slate of practice rounds, the ‘skipping on the pond’ tradition at 16, and the family-incredibly-friendly Par 3 contest. If you’re a marginal golf fan but want to see the entire property and experience a fun-filled day, Wednesday is for you.
2. Thursday — On the first day of the tournament, every player believes they can slip on the green jacket on Sunday. This dynamic, along with the leaderboard changing virtually every minute, makes Thursday a fast-paced, exciting day. What stories will emerge? I have no idea, but I’m pumped about Thursday.
1. Sunday — If you’ve been to a Sunday round, you know this is an easy one. The trees roar, the ground shakes, and as corny as it sounds, magic feels the air. On the back nine, a normally sophisticated, jovial crowd starts buzzing with anticipation. Images that will last for decades, even centuries, are captured. It’s the day you’ll get your ‘I was there’ moment, and that’s quite a feeling.
The Best Chance to Win the 2011 Masters
3. Dustin Johnson — As most players admitted in the interview room Tuesday, it’s a distinct advantage to be long at Augusta National, and few are longer off of the tee than Johnson. He was in late contention at both the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship in 2010, and if not for grounding his club in an ‘are-you-sure-that’s-a’ bunker, he might already have one major title to his credit. In Augusta, if it’s a bunker, he’ll know it.
2. Phil Mickelson — He won The Masters in 2010, and he won on the PGA Tour last week. If he wins this week, he’ll tie Tiger Woods and Arnold Palmer with four green jackets, second behind Jack Nicklaus’ six. But with all of the momentum, it will be a challenge for the 40-year-old Mickelson to maintain the mental and physical form it takes to win at Augusta. Lefty may win it, and Vegas is making him the favorite, but I’m picking another lefty.
1. Bubba Watson — If Johnson and Mickelson were a hybrid club, it might look something like Bubba. He’s long, creative in his shot selection, and left-handed, which many of the players believe can work as an advantage at Augusta National. Critics might say he’s too quirky or emotional to win, but I believe this University of Georgia graduate will slip on his first green jacket this Sunday.
Even if I’m wrong, I can’t wait to see it.
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