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The Masters: Greatest Show In Golf

Augusta's par-3 12th hole, known as Golden Bell, is one of the most intriguing holes in world golf.
If you were a cynic, you might find the annual Masters reverence just a little bit over the top.

All the ‘tradition unlike any other’ platitudes that flow during the first full week of April can, even for the die-hard fan, become a little too much.

But the Masters gets away with what might otherwise be seen as sycophancy because, at the end of the day, they tend to put on the best show in golf, if not all of sport, almost every year.

For everything the Masters stands for that is ‘wrong’, they manage to get at least one other thing ‘right’.

Sure the course is way too perfect and manicured to be a realistic ad for the game and sustainable golf. But the layout? Still one of the most intriguing in the world.

The club’s membership policies over the years have been less than open with the first black member only invited to join in 1990 and no women until 2012.

But in the past decade, Augusta National has likely done more to grow and promote the game than any of golf’s governing bodies thanks to initiatives like Drive, Chip and Putt and The Asia-Pacific and Latin America Amateur Championships.

For all the arguments about the club’s place in the game and responsibilities (or otherwise) to it, however, it is the tournament itself that delivers the excitement.

And almost without fail, the Masters does a better job than any other individual 72-hole strokeplay event all year.

Much of this is to do with the course itself; holes like the devilish par-3 12th and the equally brilliant par-5 13th play a major role in providing the intrigue.

But much is also to do with the fact the Masters is the only important tournament played at the same venue every year.

This gives fans the chance to become familiar not only with the course and all its pitfalls but also the golfers themselves, the actors in this theatre which is played out annually on the grandest of stages.

Winners and nearly men alike are synonymous with Augusta, Jack Nicklaus for his historic six victories, Greg Norman for his eight top-fives and three runners-up including a heartbreaking collapse in 1996.

And so in 2017, as the game celebrates the 20th anniversary of Tiger Woods’ stunning maiden victory, the stage is again set for an intriguing four days.

The storylines in this year’s lead up are as interesting as in any year past, the high-profile and lesser-known names all having something to play for.

Rory McIlroy has made no secret of the fact he wants this tournament, and the career Grand Slam it would bring, more than any other.

Since squandering a four-shot lead with nine holes to play in 2011, McIlroy has had some good finishes but never been a genuine contender late Sunday.

Playing with Jordan Spieth in the third round last year, McIlroy signed for a disastrous 77 which all but ended his chances. That, though, was nowhere near as dramatic as his playing partner’s stumble the following day.

How Spieth responds to a humiliating quadruple bogey at the par-3 12th in last year’s final round will be one of the storylines of the tournament, the man himself publicly admitting he is keen to get the moment over with.

Also playing a large part in the 2017 conversation is the new-look World Number One Dustin Johnson. 

He’s been Tiger-like in his recent domination but can he putt Augusta’s treacherous greens well enough to claim major number two?

And what of the man who pushed Johnson to the brink in the WGC-Match Play final, the explosive and exciting Jon Rahm?

The 22-year-old makes his debut this year and many believe he will emulate the success of fellow Spaniards Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal, each the owner of two green jackets.

For Australian fans, there is no shortage of interest; 2013 winner Adam Scott is always a hope at Augusta but former World Number One Jason Day is the focus this year.

With his mother still recovering from lung cancer-related surgery, it is yet to be seen if the Queenslander can maintain the focus required to contend in the pressure cooker of a Masters Sunday.

Arnold Palmer Invitational winner Marc Leishman is also not without a chance. The laid-back Victorian has proved himself a big event player in years past and will no doubt call on the experience of playing that historic final round alongside Scott in 2013.

But perhaps the most intriguing Australian in this year’s field is young Western Australian amateur Curtis Luck.

The 20-year-old US and Asia-Pacific Amateur champion is a golfer who marches to the beat of his own drum, his funky style of play seemingly ideally suited to the questions asked by Augusta National.

Luck has already proven himself immune to the pressures of the big stage, an opening 67 to lead the 2016 Australian Open while in the company of Jordan Spieth and Geoff Ogilvy was an impressive feat indeed.

These are just some of the 94 players taking part in the 81st staging of the Masters this week and predicting the fortunes of any is an all but impossible task.

What is guaranteed, though, is that the Masters will be, as it always is, one of the most entertaining weeks of golf all year.

THE FITNESS GURU GUIDING WORLD NO.1 DUSTIN JOHNSON

About The Author : Rod Morri

Rod is an award-winning golf journalist with more than 20 years experience and has covered everything from major tournaments to junior golf at the local level. Rod began his life in the media as a daily news reporter for News Limited in Sydney.

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