The Australians at the Masters
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2014 US Masters | Preview | 07 Apr 2014
No longer is it a case of Australia waking up on the morning of Masters Monday, hoping for the best but anticipating the worst.
For 77 years that was their lot until Adam Scott’s victory twelve months ago would mean that almost painful question as to when an Australian would win at Augusta National would no longer be asked.
To be fair that result had been building for a couple of years. In 2011 when Scott and Jason Day shared second position behind Charl Schwartzel, Day playing the event for the first occasion and Scott recording by far his best finish since a debut 9th in 2002.
Scott would go on to finish 8th in 2012 and then last year produced arguably Australia’s greatest golfing moment when defeating Angel Cabrera in a playoff to create Australian sporting folklore.
Scott had also become a regular contender in major championships in the preceding two years and so when he got himself into a position to win last year we were not waiting for the accident to happen but rather for the job to be completed.
Day finished alone in 3rd place behind him and to cap off a stunning week for the Australians Marc Leishman was 4th.
In 2014 seven Australians will face the starter (if this week’s Houston Open winner is not an Australian that is) ensuring plenty of interest for those of us who will set the alarm clock for the early hours of Friday through Monday in this part of the world to watch has become not only Australia’s favourite golfing event but, for many, their favourite sporting event full stop.
Let’s take a look at those who are already qualified and assess their chances
Scott will play his 13th Masters in 2014, an event many felt would be the one for him to excel in earlier given that on debut there in 2002 he finished 9th. Very few do that well on debut at Augusta National and it was thought Scott would go on to contend on a regular basis there and perhaps one day win. It took him nine more years to better that debut effort but that, along with other measures he put in place to improve his major championship consistency, turned into success last year.
Scott arrives at Augusta National off the back of a final round hiccup at the Arnold Palmer Championship but he still managed to finish 3rd against a relatively strong field in only his 5th start of 2014. He plays sparingly these days in fact his win last year was in just his 5th start of 2013. His form is not dissimilar to that he produced prior to his historic victory last year, although he has played a slightly different schedule this season.
Scott deserves to be the favourite for a number of reasons and can potentially claim his second major championship and the world number one mantle with victory on April 13th.
Day’s record at Augusta National is outstanding. On debut he finished runner-up and then after being forced to withdraw in 2012 he came back to finish 3rd last year. Only three players in the history of the event, Horton Smith, Gene Sarazen and Fuzzy Zoeller have won on debut in the event and when Smith won in 1934 all were on debut so Day’s effort in his first year was amongst the best of all time.
Day comes into the event under an injury concern not having played since his magnificent win at the Accenture Match Play Championship in late February. He has been protecting a thumb injury so there is a lot of concern about Day’s preparedness for the task at hand.
Last year The Masters was Day’s eighth start of the year and this year it will be just his 5th of 2014 and so it may be that he will be a little underdone. Having said that if he has been able to work hard away from the tournament scene and his thumb does not cause any concern then he must be a factor given his obvious liking for the layout and the manner in which it suits his eye. He managed to win the Accenture under duress of sorts from the thumb injury.
Leishman’s 4th place finish last year came in just his second start at Augusta National, an achievement in itself. Leishman began 2014 well with two very good finishes at the Sony Open and the Humana Challenge before his form has slipped away a little. Interestingly however his form could be considered better than was the case when he performed so well last year and his chances of another good week can’t be discounted.
Senden will play the Masters for the fifth time having missed the cut in three of his previous four attempts before starting well then finishing 35th last year. His recent win along with an ever growing understanding of the subtleties of Augusta National will see him with perhaps a chance of his greatest finish at the event.
Senden’s form in 2014, other than his win, has not been great but he has made ten of 12 cuts to date and with a week off this week for a much needed recharge of the batteries then he will arrive at Augusta National in a fresh state of mind and ready to go. Hard to see him contending but his best ever finish is not beyond him.
The spoils of his victory last week provide Steve Bowditch with a debut appearance at the Masters. He will be like a kid in a candy store no doubt and who would blame him given that a week ago he could have only dreamed of playing the event.
2014 will be a huge learning curve for the Queenslander but with that experience behind him and the knowledge that he can win on the PGA Tour then he will be able to capitalise on that experience in the years ahead as it seems now this will not be the last time he will play the Masters.
West Australian Goss earned his right to play The Masters courtesy of his runner-up finish at the US Amateur last year. Goss has a game that will take him a long way in professional golf when he gets there following his stint at the University of Tennessee and already he has left his mark during his time there.
Goss showed he is good form with a win at the recent Bobby Nicholls collegiate tournament and was recently named on the watch list for the coveted Ben Hogan award for amateur golfers.
Goss has played well in the professional events in which he has competed, winning the WA Open in 2012 and then making the cut at both the Perth International and the Talisker Masters. It will all be a great learning process for the man who will turn 20 on the Thursday of tournament week and like Bowditch it may be that in years ahead he can take advantage of the experience he acquires this week by returning to contend at a much higher level than will be the case this year.
Goss does, though, stand a very good chance of challenging for the leading amateur title.
Jones joined the Australian challenge with his dramatic victory at the Shell Houston Open on Sunday and will play the Masters for the very first occasion. Jones won his very first PGA Tour or Web.Com Tour in Houston but has been playing with a great level of consistency on the PGA Tour over the past eighteen months or so. Like others who will be playing the event for the first occasion, however, Jones will benefit from his first experience at Augusta National and coming so soon after such a milestone in his golfing life it is hard to imagine him contending. He has done remarkably well to make the field.