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the masters

A Masterpiece of Design

Time for a Classic Look for Mickelson and Ogilvy to star at Augusta

5th last group: Sergio Garcia (Sp), Bernhard Langer (GER) 4th last group: Robert Karlsson (Swe), Retief Goosen (RSA) 3rd last group: Paul Casey (Eng), Ryuji Imada (Jpn) 2nd last group: Tiger Woods (US) , Geoff Ogilvy (Aus) Last group: Phil Mickelson (US), Camillo Villegas (Col). In the end, I believe Lefty will see them all off. He is a player that has developed into a true course specialist. He loves the greens, thrives on the atmosphere and of course that exquisite southern cooking. Phil told me in November that his whole year will be built around the Masters and that’s a good enough hint for my money. The current best price of 10/1 is value. 34

HK GOLFER・APR/MAY 2009

As long as he doesn’t try to copy Camillo’s “Spiderman” green reading technique, Phil’s experience will win the day. Villegas will certainly make his mark on the Majors this year and I suspect will ‘show’ at Augusta, but he may need a couple of close shaves before he lands one. If you are tempted by the 33/1, take it each way. I also can’t escape the feeling that Tiger will just be too under prepared for this one. It’s just a hunch and at 5/2, I think it’s a fair bet that he’ll fall short. Put him down for tied second or third. At first glance, Geoff Ogilvy might seem to fit the Johnson/Immelman mold but that would belie the truth. Probably the in-form golfer in the world right now, this guy is a stud. A top-5 finish is the least we should expect from this year’s Mercedes and Matchplay champion. The odds are shortening so take anything around the 20/1 mark. Sergio features on the basis that he is clearly a big event performer. He certainly raises his game, but he’s not Masters material, I think. We’ll see one too many putts lip out to put him the frame. So let’s hope for shirtsleeve weather, the sound of birds chirping merrily over the broadcaster’s respectfully hushed tones and a corker of a fight to the finish. We all know the back-nine so well, having played it again and again in our minds. Let’s have no more dull Zealous Zachs or Clever Trevors knocking in pars. I want the winner to have to eagle 13 and 15, scramble a good bogie after splashing in at 16 and to win with a pure 20-footer on 18. I want it the way it used to be. I want a Magical Masters —Archie Albatross

Final Thought Over the winter, I took some ante-post action on Ryuji Imada at 200/1. Outright winning may be a stretch, but a ‘Top Asian’ bet could be profitable. Paul Casey could be good punt in the ‘Top European’ markets and followers of this column will know that Robert Karlsson is consistency personified and represents a sound alternative. Both are at 40/1 outright; a lucrative return would compensate nicely for their lack of glamour.

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Photography by Rob Brown / Martin Miller

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h e f irst a nd f i ne st Major of t he year occ urs ever y spring in the lush, verdant hills of Georgia. Every golf fan welcomes the uncluttered TV coverage showing Augusta National’s pristine fairways with dappled sunshine breaking through the pine trees and the glorious splashes of bright dahlia and rhododendron bushes. It’s always said that the professional golf season doesn’t really start until the Masters. Not really. The appetizers at Pebble Beach and Riviera are tasty enough, t he qu ic k s w i n g t h rou g h Southern Florida helps to take the edge off, but only the green, green grass of Augusta provides adequate nourishment for the true golf fan after the winter break. And what a feast it has always been. The memories are more consistently vivid than any other event; Seve Ballesteros twice short-gaming his way to glory, Old Man Nicklaus winning in ’86, Tiger’s record-setting debut in ’97 and the unsurpassable drama of his last-roll ‘Nike’ moment in 2005. You’d be forgiven for assuming that only the Greats can win at Augusta… But hold on! What, by thunder, has happened in the last couple of years? Green Jackets for Zach Johnson and Trevor Immelman? Is anyone really going to cancel Easter for them? Surely, it’s time for a return to the glory years. So this year’s betting preview comes with a healthy dose of wishful thinking that the glamour will return to the Masters. For those who have already diarized uninterrupted viewing in the Asian early morning of Monday April 13th, here’s my predicted line up of the last few pairings:

Augusta’s playability for golfers of average ability is what makes it truly special

hat do you think you’d shoot around Augusta National if given the chance to play? It’s a question we’ve all asked ourselves or the other members of our regular fourball—typically after a wee tipple in the clubhouse post-round. It’s only natural of course: as golf fans, having watched hundreds of hours of Masters coverage over the years, we recognize the holes as easily as those on our home course. For instance, we know that on 16 we should stay away from the water and target the right centre of the green because the strong contours of the putting surface will feed the ball back down toward that Sunday pin-placement. We know that a raking draw off the tee at the par-5 13th will give us an extra 20 yards of roll, allowing us a better chance of getting home in two. And we all know that it doesn’t matter what club we hit on the par-3 12th, it’s up to the golfing gods to decide whether our ball clears Rae’s Creek or not. It’s just a shame that so few of us will ever get the experience it at first hand. Aug usta National was designed by A lister Mackenzie, with help from Bobby Jones, the amateur legend and bot h men believed that the course should be demanding for the professional player yet not intimidating to the recreational golfer. Jones once said that one of the g re at s t re n g t h s of t he course was that while pros were always in danger of succumbing to disaster, average members and their guests might well shoot some of their best rounds ever — t hat a seasoned 18-handicapper, for example, might have a good day and shoot 85. WWW.HKGA.COM

Like all courses, Augusta has changed since it first opened in 1933. Holes have been reconfigured (most notably at the aforementioned 16th, which used to be an easy 145-yard hole fronted by an inconspicuous ditch), the greens have been re-turfed with ultra-fast and silky bentgrass and, in recent times, significant length has been added. The dogleg right 18th was the recipient of a lot of it—in 2002, the tee was moved back a staggering 60-yards. But despite all this, scoring among Augusta’s members—regular golfers like us—hasn’t varied as wildly as you might imagine. Members and their guests are allowed to play the course until the Sunday before the tournament starts, and their scores at that time, it has been reported, seldom differ very much from their scores during the rest of the season. The reason for the paradox is the kind of trouble that tends to defeat the average player is less severely penalized at Augusa National than it is on other demanding courses. The fairways are generous, the trees are widely spaced, the bunkers are few, out-of-bounds is seldom a danger, and the short rough—or “second cut”, as the club refers to it as—is, for an average player, more of a comfort than a catastrophe, since it can cause a ball to sit up a little higher than it would on a closely mown fairway. The greens are difficult, of course—but all greens are difficult for an average player. For a 20-handicapper, three-putting is a regular occurrence on any course, and the particular perils of Augusta National's putting surfaces are offset by the reduced likelihood of losing a ball off the tee or hitting into an unplayable lie. So what would you shoot around Augusta? A pretty decent number, in all probability.

The par-5 15th: would you lay-up?

HK GOLFER・APR/MAY 2009

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