2004 US Masters Form Analysis
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2004 US Masters | Preview | 06 Apr 2004
On April 8th the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, will play host to the US Masters for the 68th time when 95 or so players line up in round one.
There have been no significant changes to the course over the last twelve months, the only change worthy of mention is the addition of 36 pine trees to the right hand side of the 11th fairway.
The course will again measure 7290 yards or 6625 metres.
Bruce Young is the form guide analyst for the Majors for Centrebet in Australia and here he looks here at the form of the leading favourites and a few others he sees as possible contenders.
The Leading Chances
His current form leaves a little to be desired especially given that he will carry the mantle of being hot favourite. Three times a champion here and two other top tens in nine starts. Four top tens in the US and one in Dubai this year, including his win at the Accenture, prior to his 46th place at Bay Hill and his reasonable tournament at The Players Championship when 16th. Can never be underestimated which is perhaps what is beginning to happen now, but he is just as likely to prove us all wrong.
Three times a major winner but not, as yet, at Augusta. Has regularly placed well including his 2nd and 6th the last two years. A big event player as the three majors suggests. He backed off badly at the Players Championship with a last round 78 after contending early in the week. That, following a missed cut at the Bay Hill Invitational. His capacity to play well when it matters most should help but there is a question mark about his form at present.
Champion here in 2000 and that form has continued on with 18th, 7th and 6th placings since. Singh comes into this event with solid if unspectacular form over the last few weeks after a brilliant start to the year. His 13th at the Players Championship last week was better than the 33rd place at the same event prior to his 2000 win at Augusta however. Sure to be thereabouts.
Davis Love III
Has been twice second here and posted several other good performances at Augusta in recent years. After a brilliant start to the year, Love’s form, by his standards, has fallen away a little over the past two weeks but not enough to really disturb. He is a real chance to win at Augusta for the first time and bear in mind that he has won a major already and has plenty of top finishes at the highest level.
Don’t be too surprised if this is Phil’s year at Augusta, dare I say it. He so often plays well here including consecutive third placed finishes in each of his last three starts. Six top tens in eleven starts at The Masters indicate his game is suited by Augusta and, what appears to be a new found patience and strategy on the golf course, will give him an even better chance. He was third at the recent Players Championship and 10th at the Bell South. Seven top tens in eight starts this year reflect the benefits of new found discipline and resultant consistency.
Defending champion following his playoff win last year. Three reasonable twenty something finishes in his only other appearances at Augusta, never missing a cut. Missed cut at the recent Players Championship but his form prior was very good, including his win at Riviera. Weir made the cut at the Bell South but finished well back although it should be remembered that he missed the cut there the week before his win at Augusta last year.
Must now be considered amongst the elite of the game following his win at the Players Championship. He was ninth here on debut in 2002 and, given that he is now twice the player than he was then, he must stand a good chance of his best performance in a major to date (9th is his best). He was third at the Bay Hill event prior to his win at Sawgrass so is in the best form of his career to date. His missed cut at Bell South was to some extent understandable, perhaps a let down after last week.
Two good finishes at Augusta of late including 13th last year and 2nd in 2002. He has missed his last two cuts at both the Bay Hill and the Players Championships but prior to that was 3rd at the Ford Championship. Interestingly he is not following his normal pattern and will miss the Bell South (where he won in 2002 and was 3rd last year) in the lead up, so we have to rely on his disappointing recent starts as our only guide. On that basis he is hard to have.
Great second place behind Scott at the Players Championship suggests he is coming right at the right time. Has played well at Augusta in the past including his fifth place in 2002 and 19th in 2000. Form prior to the Players Championship was good although Harrington has only played in five or six events this year. New ’blonde’ look seems to be working wonders for the now 8th ranked player in the world. Another solid finish for fourth at Bell South.
Despite an arguably disappointing week at the Players Championship there is enough about Clarke’s current game to suggest he has his chances at Augusta. He has had one top ten in six starts but several solid finishes. He has played well in the US this year with two third place finishes and a sixth at Bay Hill. His last round of 69 at Sawgrass for 26th suggests that he is not far from it and he may well challenge.
His six starts at Augusta have yielded two top tens including his 6th on debut in 1998, which is still his best. Has pedigree, in that he has won a major (2001 PGA) but his form of late is ordinary, although there was a 5th place in there at the Ford Championship. Some of that form can be put down to recovery from injury. That ordinary run of form was very much the case also before last year’s 8th place finish here. He missed the cut at the Players Championship and has also done the same, this time badly, at Bell South this past week, hardly inspiring confidence.
After making considerable alterations to his swing over the last year or so, Garcia seems to be very much on track to return to the level that he was at two years ago when he was inside the top five in the world ranking. Two poor last rounds at both the Bay Hill and the Players Championships undid a lot of good hard work he had done early in those events, but there is much to like about the way things are developing for him. He was 28th last year at Augusta and 8th in 2002, his best in five starts, but he is on the way back.
Rapidly becoming one of the best players in the game with wins at Bay Hill and The Tour Championship in recent months. Not so good last week at the Players Championship but his runner up placing at the PGA last year and his Tour Championship win, indicate he has the game for the big time. After a slow start to the year he is playing very solidly now and although he missed the cut at Augusta on debut last year, much more can be expected of him this week.
Despite some good form (3rd at the Players and 15th at the Bay Hill events) this season and that he is in the top ten in the world, Perry does not have a good record at Augusta. In six starts his best is 12th in 1995 and for someone as good as him and who hits the ball with a draw (an asset at Augusta) his efforts have been disappointing. Great week last week at Sawgrass however and this may be a chance for his best finish here.
Missed cut at the Players Championship but his form prior was solid including his second place at Phoenix. DiMarco has played well at Augusta previously including his 10th and 12th placings in 2001 and 2002. He actually led for 36 holes in 2001 and remained in contention for much of the tournament. He withdrew last year after a first round 82 and did not complete his second round but that effort is probably worth forgetting. A solid week at the Bell South for 20th place.
Perhaps a chance for Allenby to improve on his rather ordinary major record. Has not had a good record at the Masters, with 29th his best in four starts. Has had a good start to 2004 although not quite as sharp over the last two weeks as earlier in the year. Has to overcome his ’major bogey’ if he is to reproduce his year round form at the highest level. In 31 starts in majors Allenby, one of the world’s leading players, has yet to finish better then 10th so things will need to change rather dramatically if that record is to improve.
Inside the top ten in the world now and, as such, should be an automatic consideration. Five missed cuts in seven starts at Augusta however suggest there is a block of some sort there. His best ever finish in this event was on debut in 1997 but since it has been an ordinary run. Australia’s best performer in majors in recent years with a fourth place at the USPGA in 2000 and his runner up placing at the Open in 2002. His lead up form, prior to his missed cut last week at Sawgrass, has been brilliant including his win at the Mercedes and top threes at Riviera and Bay Hill. Augusta form the big concern.
Finally seemed to find a way to play Augusta last year when 8th after missing the cut at six of his first seven starts there. Is in great form at present with a 2nd at Doral and a 3rd at Bay Hill followed up by 26th last week. Good place chance.
Having a great year with three 5th place finishes already and with two appearances at Augusta, making the cut on both occasions, he is likely to do well. He was 6th last week at the Players Championship suggesting he is in close to his best ever form leading into Augusta.
Seems to have slipped from most calculations but his form this year, while not great, has not been bad. In nine visits to Augusta he has played well without threatening, his best in 1997 when 7th and in 1998 when 8th. Might be a better chance than many are suggesting and at reasonable odds.
At his only appearance at Augusta last year was a very respectable 15th and, with two top fives this year, he is in good form. He was 49th last week at The Players but that was perhaps better than the result suggests. Can’t see him winning but now, with the experience of last year behind him, a top ten is not unrealistic.
18th last year is by far his best in four starts at Augusta. Has shown that he is not far short of winning a major with runner up finishes at the British Open in 2000 and 2003 and 3rd at the US Open in 2000. Has played well this year finishing second at the Johnnie Walker and his 22nd last week at Sawgrass was solid. A bad missed cut at the Bell South won’t help however.
Best Long Shot Chances
In good form at present with 4th at the Buick, 2nd at the Nissan and 6th at the Bay Hill this season. He missed cut badly last year at Augusta but a very good 14th in 2002. 53rd last week at the Players Championships.
In nineteen starts at Augusta he has not once missed the cut and while not a serious contender in recent years here, he has shown with several solid finishes this year that he is playing well. He won last year in Houston so he is still very much capable of winning on the USPGA Tour. Eight times in the top ten in those nineteen starts at Augusta.
Not a great record at Augusta but has only missed one cut here in nine starts and is playing as well now as he has since his heydays. He was third here way back in 1993. Only just scrapped into the field but may well take advantage of that break. Three top tens this year including his win at the Buick.
Has played well in patches this year especially when second at Pebble Beach. Two top tens in eight appearances at Augusta including his amazing fifth last year when he incurred several penalty shots in his last round after leading into round four. Has not played a lot this year, but will be keen to shed the ghosts of 2003.
Has played five times at Augusta and missed the cut just once. Parry is playing just great now with his win at the Ford Championship and 13th last week. While his left to right game is not necessarily the best for Augusta, he is such a gritty competitor there may be a good finish in there somewhere.
Continues to surprise at age 50. Has only missed one cut in 17 starts at Augusta and in very good form his 6th last week indicating just how good that form is. He was third at the Bob Hope and 10th at the Buick earlier in the year so his good form and experience at Augusta will stand him in good stead.
Has become a big event player in the last twelve months with a 5th at the US Open and 6th at the British Open last year. Has not played Augusta before but seems unfazed by anything, does Jacobson. He is playing well again this season in the US with three top tens already in eight starts. Might just produce a good debut at very good odds.
Adam Scott, Stuart Appleby, Robert Allenby and Craig Parry (see above)
Has had a tough time since his rib injury at New Year. Had a two month enforced layoff and since his return his form has been disappointing. Tough debut last year so he will come into Augusta this year more prepared, but his current form is of concern. A very good week at the Bell South (fifth) certainly helps his cause.
On debut here but it is hard to see a performance such as that we saw at the US Open last year when he finished runner up to Jim Furyk. Has had one or two good finishes this year including a fourth place at the Accenture and 21st at the Buick but hard to get excited about his chances.
As US Amateur Champion Flanagan gets a start at Augusta. He is destined to be a fine player but this will be all part of the learning curve. His third place at the recent ANZ Championship in Australia, an event co sanctioned with the European Tour, tells what lies a head for Flanagan but that is in the future. This will be but another great experience for the nineteen year old on the road to future glory.
He gets a start via his top fifty world ranking at the end of 2003, but although he has played reasonably well this year in European Tour events, he is not playing well enough to be a chance here. Has missed all four cuts at Augusta and it is hard to see a much better result this year.
His win at the Players Championship in 2002 has given him the chance to play Augusta in 2002 and 2003 and again this year. He missed the cut in his first two visits. Unless something out of the ordinary happens this year, this will be his last Masters for some time. Not playing well enough to make it a memorable one however. Six missed cuts in eight starts this year is hardly the form he needs coming into this week.