2011 Masters Preview: Prestige on the line
Golf may have four major championships, but there is no debate over which one is the most prestigious.
The Masters, which starts Thursday at famed Augusta National in Augusta, Ga., is the one tournament every golfer wants to win. With so many players in top form, this year’s first major tournament could be one of the most tightly contested in recent memory.
4 players to watch
The Englishman was runner-up to Mickelson in Augusta last year, and he’s been oh-so-close to winning his first major championship several times in the past few years. The world’s No. 2-ranked golfer, Westwood has five top-three finishes at majors since 2008.
The defending champion is the tournament favorite after winning last week in Houston. Mickelson has won or finished inside the top 10 in 11 of his past 12 Masters appearances, making him a near-lock to contend at Augusta National. A victory would also make him only the fourth four-time winner in tournament history.
No longer the game’s most dominant golfer, Woods is still trying to find his swing with instructor Sean Foley. It’s hard not to look at his Masters resume — with wins in 1997, 2001, ’02 and ’05 — and think he has a chance. But the way he’s been playing recently, a victory seems unlikely.
Three top-20 finishes in as many starts at the Masters means Watney has been doing something right. The 29-year-old Californian is the most consistent golfer on the PGA Tour this season and should be in contention during Sunday’s final round.
Keep an eye on ...
It may be the toughest stretch on the course: The second shot at the par-4 11th hole, the entire par-3 12th and the tee shot at the par-5 13th can make or break your round at Augusta National. Whoever gets through Amen Corner unscathed usually takes home the coveted green jacket given to the champion.
With good weather expected in Augusta over the next four days — highs in the mid-80s, sunny skies and light winds — there’s a high likelihood that the greens will be running hard and fast. It’ll be imperative that golfers hit to the correct side of the putting surface if the course is extra-dry.
Par 3 Contest winner Luke Donald
The Masters hosts a family-friendly Par 3 competition on its short course each year, which No. 4-ranked Luke Donald of Britain won on Wednesday. It seems, however, that if you have aspirations of winning the tournament, it's best to make sure you don't play exceptionally in the Par 3. No player in tournament history has ever won the event and gone on to win the Masters.
First Round, Thurs., 3 p.m. ESPN
Second Round, Fri., 3 p.m. ESPN
Third Round, Sat., 3:30 p.m. CBS
Final round, Sun., 2 p.m. CBS