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‘Dawgs on Tour: Masters Preview

Bubba Watson of the US hits out of the w Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images

Tournament: Augusta National Invitation Tournament, aka Masters Tournament. April 7-10, 2022

Course: Augusta National Golf Club, 7,510 yards, par 72. You know where it is.

Purse: $11.5 million, $2,070,000 to the winner. Though the Masters is notoriously secretive about things like this, so the true number may be a little higher. We’ll know by the end of the week for sure.

Defending Champ: Hideki Matsuyama. After a blustery start to the third round, a passing storm created a rain delay to the round and golfers retreated to the locker rooms. Matsuyama was hanging around the lead before the delay, but came out of it firing on all cylinders. He finished with a 65 and a 4 stroke lead. He then used that to play good, but safe, golf Sunday and won by a stroke. He is the first Asian-born player to win a Masters title.

Fun Fact: For 51 weeks of the year, employees of Augusta National use Magnolia Lane off of Washington Avenue as the main entrance. That has got to be one hell of a way to arrive to work. During Masters Week, they use some discreet entrances off of Berkmans (side street that runs along the property). Unless they’ve changed, there was another entrance or two off of Washington just south of Magnolia Lane, on the other side of the Members Practice Range.

TV Times: Par 3 Contest Wednesday, 3-5 pm EDT (ESPN); Thursday-Friday 3:00-7:30 pm EDT (ESPN); Saturday 3:00-7:00 pm EDT (CBS); Sunday 2:00-7:00 pm EDT (CBS). But there is waaaayyyy more coverage on Masters.com or the Masters app. Pretty much every shot by every golfer is available, and in a variety of formats (on the range, Amen Corner, featured groups, etc.). Download the app – you can thank me later.

‘Dawgs in the Field: 7. Harris English (withdrawn), Brian Harman, Russell Henley, Kevin Kisner, Sepp Straka, Hudson Swafford, Bubba Watson.

Harris English should be making his 4th Masters appearance, having made the cut twice before. But his highest finish was last year at T21. He had hip surgery early this year for a nagging injury, and just announced last week that he won’t be physically able to compete.

Similar to English’s resume, Harman qualified for the 4th time, also with two cuts made. He did have a T12 finish last year, and the top 12 get an invite back the following year.

Russell Henley has been here 5 times before, making 4 cuts. In 2017, Henley tied for 11th. He qualified this year due to his top 50 world ranking.

Kevin Kisner is making his 7th straight start at the Masters, but he has missed the cut the last two seasons. It might be because his game slipped a little in 2020 and 2021, or it might be because he’s a native and resident of Aiken, SC, and facing a little more pressure for a “home game”. He has found his form of late and I expect a high finish this week.

Sepp Straka will be in his Masters debut, thanks to winning the Honda Classic in February. He’s the first Austrian to be invited to play. But as a former UGA golfer, he has played the course a couple of times (all Bulldogs get to play Augusta National once a year – a nice perk if you can get it).

Hudson Swafford is hoping the third time is the charm. Swafford won the American Express in January and gets his 3rd chance at the Masters. Having missed the cut both times previously, maybe he can make some noise this year.

You know Bubba Watson is a two time Masters Champion (2012, 2014), but that’s not the only success he’s had. Bubba has 3 top 20 finishes, and has made the cut 12 of 13 times overall.

So what’s new at Augusta National? They’ve changed the course! According to the Masters official media guide released last month, “significant hole changes” have taken place since last April. Initially these were thought of as tweaks, but it appears there is at least one noticeable change. No. 11 tee was moved back and to the left, and trees were removed on the right side. All of which should, in my mind provide a little more dramatic dogleg to the hole. Instead it seems to be straighter, so what do I know. Having heard a few interviews, there are fewer trees on the right, but they’ve cambered the far right side to kick balls left and to the flat landing area. Which still has a few pines, and which should cause trouble for your second shot. In years past, the farther right you hit it, the easier the approach actually was.

Many players stay away from the greenside pond by hitting right of the green which left a fairly straightforward pitch to the hole. (Hogan famously said “if you see my ball on the green in two, I missed my 2nd shot”). And now ANGC has reshaped the mounds and created a lower spot right of the green so the pitch will be more difficult. They essentially are forcing the players hand on how to play the hole.

No. 15 tee was also moved back 20 yards, and the fairway “recontoured”. Back in the day, there was a speed slot off the right mounds, where a well struck drive would chase down the hill. The Tiger-proofing of the late 90’s/early 00’s removed that option with length, but it appears they are trying to make hitting this par 5 green in 2 a more difficult proposition.

Three greens appear to be “new”. The short par four 3rd hole, the short but tricky par five 13th, and the uphill par four 17th. I’m guessing that the contours of the green have been slightly altered, and possibly some of the mounding and runoff areas were changed. Hopefully there will be some player interviews detailed those changes and what we might see on television.

Whatever the changes, I know it will be breathtaking, dramatic, traditional, inspiring, and unique. And hopefully another Bulldog major championship. As always…

GO ‘DAWGS!!!