Australian chances enhanced at Masters
BY Bruce Young | 18 Mar 2014
Australia will field a minimum of five starters at next month’s Masters, John Senden’s victory in Tampa yesterday guaranteeing him his fifth start at Augusta National.
Senden joins Adam Scott, Jason Day, Marc Leishman and amateur Oliver Goss as Australia looks to win the event for the second year in succession after a 77 year drought.
Three years ago Australian golf was looking at The Masters with only hope of a good finish after so many years or frustration. Jim Ferrier, Bruce Crampton, Jack Newton and Greg Norman (3 times) had all finished runner-up.
In 2011 both Adam Scott and Jason Day finished in a share of second before the big breakthrough came in 2013 with not only Scott winning, but Day finishing 3rd and Marc Leishman 4th.
Australian chances therefore have moved from hope to expectation, Scott, Day, Leishman and perhaps even Senden now considered genuine chances of at least contending.
The Masters appeared as if it would be the Major Championship that would best suit Scott when he finished 9th there on debut in 2002 but it would not be until 2011 when he made so many changes to his game, his support team and his preparation that he genuinely contended. Both he and Day were run down late by Charl Schwartzel that year but the drought for Scott and Australia was broken with his playoff victory over Angel Cabrera last year.
Scott appears to be timing his run to Augusta National well although interestingly he is following a slightly different schedule this year.
Day has always shown a capacity to handle the big stage and that he was able to finish runner-up on debut at Augusta National in 2011 suggested he had what it took to win there in the future.
He was forced to withdraw in 2012 but his 3rd place finish last year provided further evidence of the suitability of his game for Augusta National and his recent victories at the World Cup at Royal Melbourne and at the Accenture Match Play in Arizona have added even further weight to his chances for a major breakthrough in 2014.
A thumb injury which forced his withdrawal from the WGC Cadillac is of concern but if fit he stands a very good chance of a major breakthrough.
Leishman, in this year’s field only because of his 4th place finish last year, surprised many with his great week in 2013 and of course he was able to do so while enjoying a front seat to the heroics of Scott’s historic win, having played with his fellow countryman in the final round.
Leishman started his season well in 2014 and although he has cooled a little in recent starts he now has the self belief of knowing that he can handle Augusta National.
Senden will play The Masters for the 5th occasion having made just the one cut in his previous four, that coming when 35th twelve months ago. It is often said that it takes several attempts at Augusta National to excel and although players like Day are exceptions, typically there is a significant learning curve in adjusting to the subtleties of the outstanding layout.
In the history of the event, only three players, including the very first and second winners, Horton Smith and Gene Sarazen, and 1979 champion, Fuzzy Zoeller, have won on debut.
19 year old Oliver Goss finished runner-up at the US Amateur in 2013, a performance that sees him with a start in both the Masters and the US Open. Goss is currently studying at the University of Tennessee where he is a standout performer.
West Australian, Goss, had made the cut at the 2102 Perth International and Talisker Masters that year and won the 2012 West Australian Open. Clearly this is a higher level but the week provides a great opportunity to further showcase his skills to the world.
The only opportunity for any other Australian to earn a start is to either enter the top fifty of the world ranking by the week prior to the Masters or win one of the remaining events on the PGA Tour at Bay Hill, San Antonio or Houston.