A tradition unlike any other. The magnolias, the theme music, the perfectly manicured fairways, the pimento and cheese sandwiches, the patrons, Amen Corner, Butler Cabin and the green jacket; hearing any of those words instantly makes you think of Augusta National and the Masters.
The tournament is back and anticipation is very high. Ticket demand is at an all time high. According to a report by the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, the Masters is the most expensive ticket in sports, topping out at $4,486 if you want to see all four days of tournament action. Just a one-day pass can run anywhere from $1,215 to $1,786 depending on the day and even a practice round during Masters week can cost you up to $1,118.
Likely one of the reasons demand is high, is the world’s #1 player, Tiger Woods, comes into Augusta playing his best golf in years, winning three times already this year. Woods is a 3/1 favorite, with Rory McIlroy second -- at 8/1, and Phil Mickelson at 10/1.
Last year’s Master’s tournament was an absolute thriller. It came down to Bubba Watson and Louis Oosthuizen in a playoff. Oosthuizen came up just short of the green, but luckily for Oosthuizen, Watson was stuck in the woods strategizing exactly how he would hit his next shot. What happened next was one of the greatest shots in Masters history, as Watson hit from the pine needles and curved a shot around trees and onto the green and went on to win his first major in a very emotional scene.
Things to watch for:
-14-year old: After winning last year's Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, Guan Tianlang, 14, earned a spot in this week's Masters tournament. Ready to feel really, really old? Tiger Woods won his first Masters title in 1997 when Tianlang wasn't even born yet.
-No driver needed: Phil Mickelson will use a modified 3-wood as his driver at Augusta National Golf Club this year. The three-time Masters champion, who last won here in 2010, had his club manufacturer combine characteristics of a driver with a 3-wood for a club that gives him better accuracy off the tee without sacrificing distance. The club conforms to USGA guidelines.
-New cut rule: The Masters is increasing the number of players who make the 36-hole cut from 44 and ties to 50 and ties beginning this year while maintaining that anyone within 10 strokes of the lead will advance to the weekend. Club chairman Billy Payne announced the change Wednesday at his annual news conference preceding the tournament.
Players I like to contend:
-Tiger Woods: Ok I’m really going out on a limb here. He’s putting outstanding and the swagger is back, get the jacket ready if the putter stays hot.
-Justin Rose: No European has won on tour yet this season until last week(Martin Laird), but Rose has had a few chances to win this year on the PGA Tour. The average age of the Masters champions is 32; Rose is 32. He was in contention last year and says he has gained confidence in high pressure moments after last year’s Ryder Cup where he came back to beat Phil Mickelson.
-Matt Kuchar: He’s so due to win a major. He attended college at Georgia Tech and should feel right at home at Augusta. Last year, Kuchar opened with a one-under 71, but got better as the tournament wore on and shot seven under over the final three rounds.
-Freddie Jacobson: Freddie won’t draw as big a gallery as Freddie Couples, but Jacobson is a great putter, definitely not a favorite but I feel will play well.