The Masters: Scrutinising Augusta's traits for success

Exploding the myths of The Masters to help you find this year's winner...

Andy Roberts's picture
Wed, 4 Nov 2020

masters 2017 exploding the myths of the masters

With Augusta staging The Masters every year, many of us like to think we know a thing or two about what is required to win a Green Jacket. 

From pummeling drives and holing the most putts to drawing the ball and acquiring experience, we take a closer look at some of the "common traits" to play well at Augusta and see just how true they really are. You might be quite surprised. Check this out...

#1 - YOU NEED TO HIT IT LONG...

There is much talk heading into the 2020 Masters that pre-tournament favourite Bryson DeChambeau - who has been carrying his ball 400 yards recently - will blow the field away with his power. While it's not a guarantee for a Green Jacket, the added distance will certainly help. 

Dubbed by critics as "Tiger-proofing" and to combat the latest driver and golf ball technology, Augusta has steadily been lengthened from 6,985 yards to 7,435 since 2001, although some tees have been moved back up after a couple of wet years robbed the tournament of its excitement.

While we have seen shorter hitters buck the trend and win The Masters in the last 15 years such as Mike Weir (2003) and Zach Johnson (2007), the majority of champions are more often than not big hitters. 

Looking at the driving stats back in 2016, winner Danny Willett ranked tied 32nd with an average drive of 278.12 yards. Dustin Johnson, as expected, led the distance stat that week on 299.3 yards en route to finishing tied fourth. 

 

 

In 2017, Sergio Garcia ranked sixth in driving distance en route to his maiden major title, but last year's winner Patrick Reed relied more on accuracy than distance as he ranked just inside the top 50 when it came to driving distance. 

There is little rough at Augusta, while the ice storm of February 2014 thinned out a lot of trees, meaning wayward drives are not overly punished. 

"I think guys like Dustin [Johnson], JB Holmes, Bubba Watson and Rory McIlroy, the usual suspects who really hit the ball long and far, have a distinct advantage coming into these greens," said three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson. 

"I'm going to be swinging as hard as I can. I won't be able to keep up with them, but hopefully I'll be able to keep it in the same zip code and have short irons into greens."

But Sandy Lyle warned it is not all about bombing the ball. "It's a patience game, and it's about getting the ball in the hole."

#2 - YOU NEED TO DRAW THE BALL...

On paper, a draw for a right hander and a fade for a left hander would seem to come in handy.

Eleven of the 18 holes at Augusta require a right-to-left shot shape off the tee, most notably at the par-four 10th and par-five 13th. 

A draw travels further than a fade, but the fade lands more softly so if you're long enough it's a potent weapon.

2017 champion Garcia is a natural drawer of the golf ball, and he said that definitely worked in his favour en route to his maiden major title.

"My preferred shot shape is a draw, which came in very handy elsewhere during the Masters, especially on the par 5s, where I was 7-under for the week," said Garcia.

Patrick Reed, the 2018 winner, is also a confident drawer of the ball, but he worked hard on being able to hit a fade during that season with coach Kevin Kirk, and last year's winner Tiger Woods, who clinched his 15th career major title, also favours a slight draw from the tee. 

Two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson hits his left-handed fade as well as anybody. Add to that a deceptively vicious iron game and a creativity that nobody else can match, and you've got a perfect combination for a Masters champion.

"There are holes that hitting a cut makes it a lot easier," said fellow left-hander Mickelson.

"I think holes like 12, which is a very difficult par three, sits perfectly along a left-handed shot dispersion, short-left, long-right, so you aim at the middle of the green and you have a huge green to hit at.

"There's holes like that that sit better for left-handed players."

Bucking the trend of draw winners, record 18-time major winner Jack Nicklaus preferred a fade and won six Green Jackets, as too 2016 winner Willett.

Even Sir Nick Faldo won three Masters titles with a natural cut.

In short, being able to hit the ball both ways certainly gives you a major chance of victory this week. 

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#3 - YOU NEED TO OWN THE PAR-5s...

The par-5s at Augusta (2, 8, 13 and 15) are the four easiest holes on the course and making the most of their scoring potential is often spoken about as one of the keys to winning The Masters.

Last year, Woods played them in 8-under par en route to victory, while in 2018, Reed demolished them with eight birdies, six pars and two eagles to give him a strokes-gained edge of 7.95 strokes on the par-5s alone.

In 2017, Garcia played them in 7-under par and finished tied with Justin Rose on 9-under par after 72 holes, before going on to win the playoff. 

The par-5s did not do much for 2016 winner Willett though, who played them in just level par during his 5-under winning total. The Englishman parred the second every day, played the eighth in one under with a birdie on Sunday, played the 13th in level par with a bogey on Saturday and birdie on Sunday, and played the 15th in one-over with a bogey on Saturday. 

When Bubba Watson won his second Green Jacket in 2014, he was eight under for the week on the par fives with six birdies and an eagle. 

McIlroy, on the other hand, only played the par fives in level par for the week with five birdies and five bogeys and finished tied eighth, eight shots behind Watson.

"I can be a little over-aggressive," said McIlroy. "I had a 9-iron in my hand on 13, and I think I had a nine-iron in my hand on 15, and I walked away with two sixes. You turn those into two fours and all of a sudden I finish third.

"That's been something I've been thinking about, getting the eagle a little bit too much, and trying to get two shots up on the field instead of settling for one and still realising that's still a good result."

 

#4 - YOU NEED TO BE THE BEST PUTTER...

In 2018, Reed topped the field for putts per hole with an average of 1.44.

However when Garcia won in 2017, the Spaniard was only 26th in putts per hole (1.65). Rickie Fowler (tied 11th for the tournament) and Jimmy Walker (tied 18th for the tournament) led the way 12 months ago in the putting charts (1.51).

Looking back at 2014, winner Bubba Watson (1.61) ranked in the top third for the average number of putts-per-hole statistic and his form on the greens fluctuated from round to round. He made 1.78 putts per hole on Thursday, 1.44 on Friday, 1.83 on Saturday and 1.49 on the Sunday. When Watson won his first Masters in 2012, he fared even worse on the greens with an average of 1.67 putts per hole. 

 

Fowler, who finished in a tie for fifth in 2014, led the putting statistic once again that week with 1.5 putts per hole, and he was consistently solid over all four days with 1.44 his best and 1.56 his worst. 

"There's some times when you get to be aggressive, where you get maybe a 10-footer up the hill, but there's a lot of occasions where you're playing defense and just trying to not three-putt or not make a mistake," said Fowler. "It can happen quickly on these greens."

In 2012, Lee Westwood proved you could still putt poorly and contend as he finished just two shots shy of the play-off between Watson and Louis Oosthuizen, despite taking a below-average 128 putts for the week - equating to 32 putts per round. 

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#5 - YOU NEED EXPERIENCE OF AUGUSTA...

Fuzzy Zoeller (pictured above) may disagree, but it seems you do.

Zoeller, of course, is STILL the only man to have won on his debut (barring the first two tournaments) when he beat Tom Watson in a play-off in 1979.

However, that is not to say the debutants are there to make up the numbers.

And while not a debutant, Willett won at just his second attempt in 2016 having tied for 38th the year before. 

 

 

Woods has won five Masters titles in 22 appearances, while Reed won in just his fifth Masters start, and his best finish prior to his win last year was a tied for 22nd in 2015. Garcia won in his 19th Masters in 2017.

Jordan Spieth and Jason Day both came second on their debuts in 2014 and 2011 respectively, while Luke Donald took third in 2005 and Paul Casey finished sixth in 2004.

The average number of Masters appearances before a first win is seven. 

"When I won, I had been feeling more and more comfortable here," said Adam Scott.

"Then it was a matter of making the putts at the right time throughout the week or on the final hole.  It doesn't surprise me that quite a few guys have gone on to win multiple green jackets." 

Schwartzel was only playing in his second Masters when he won in 2011, but like many before him had consulted various past champions, notably Nicklaus, to help learn the secrets of Augusta.

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