Form Guide - 2006 US Masters
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2006 US Masters | Preview | 04 Apr 2006
With further length (155 yards) added to Augusta National for the 2006 Masters there is a common thought that the course might lend itself even further to the power hitters of the game. This increase comes on top of the nearly 300 yards added in 2002 which means that in 2006 the course will measure more than 500 yards longer than in 1997 when Tiger Woods won the first of his four Masters jackets.
The course does though appear as if it will play with firmer and faster fairways and greens this year than in recent years. This will open up the opportunity for the shotmaker, who might not necessarily be a long hitter, to still have a chance.
Perhaps the most intriguing factor in this year’s event is that nearly all those considered as favourites and with a history of good finishes at Augusta are in good enough form to win. This should be one of the great Masters Championships.
Woods is here after an indifferent performance at the Players Championship although to be fair he had already won three times in 2006 and the lengthening shadow of his father’s illness was clearly an issue. He is already a four time winner here and if he can clear his mind of personal issues then he can be expected to be the number one contender again.
Singh had a bad last day at the Players Championship but he was not alone in that regard. He has been playing very solidly in recent weeks, even if it has been nearly nine months since he last won. Like Woods the changes made at Augusta will impact less on Singh than others. After a shaky start to his playing career at Augusta he has played well there in recent years including his win in 2000 and four other top tens since. He should go close again.
Mickelson has a great record at Augusta with numerous top tens and of course his great win in 2004 when he finally won his first Major. His simply stunning week at the Bell South, in what is his traditional lead up event, has him on track for what will be his eighth consecutive top ten at Augusta and perhaps his second win. Backing up one win with another is always hard to do but Mickelson has done so previously in his career to date and there appears to be no reason why he can’t so again
Goosen has played Augusta well in recent years after struggling in his first few starts there. He has been once a runner up and once third in his last four starts in this event and in addition has had two other top twenties. His runner up placing to Stephen Ames at the Players Championship and another very good week last week at the Bell South indicate that the lengthy break he took through December and January is now paying off and he appears to be peaking for this week.
Els has gone so close to winning on more than one occasion at Augusta and has a most consistent record in the event. He has not been at his peak in recent weeks but his 8th place finish at the Players Championship and his 7th placing at the Ford Championship, suggest he is not far away. He is yet another of the leading players who is approaching his best form at exactly the right time.
Garcia missed the cut here last year but has on occasions shown that a win in this event is not completely beyond him including when 4th to Mickelson in 2004. He has had a solid start to the year but will need a significant putting improvement if he is to challenge for his first major title.
Furyk certainly seems more comfortable at Augusta now than earlier in his career and seems to be closing in on some good form following his third place at the Players Championship two weeks ago. He has missed the cut just once in nine visits here and has been 4th on two occasions. The increased length this year at Augusta is not going to help him and if he is to contend he will, like Garcia, need to continue the improvement he displayed on the greens at the The Players.
Toms has had one or two top tens at Augusta in his career including a 6th place on debut but has missed the cut in each of his last two starts here. He worked his way back into the tournament at the Bell South after a slow start. Until his recent missed cut at the Players Championship he had been in contention in nearly every one of his starts this year and so there can be no excuse about his form.
Donald is rapidly approaching a level with his game where a win in a major is not beyond him. On debut here in 2005, he finished in a share of third which was a stunning first up effort at Augusta. His game is not necessarily built around the power that Augusta seems to require in recent years but he is such a golfing craftsman that he might just overcome that. One bad hole, when he took a quadruple bogey at the last on Saturday, will cost him a high finish at the Bell South in his lead up event just three weeks after his win at the Honda Classic. It is fair to assume Donald will win at Augusta one day.
Scott is somewhat of an enigma when it comes to major golf. If there is a major that appears to suit him more than others it is this one but he has disappointed in the main at the absolute elite level. He was 9th here on debut in 2002 but has not really gone on with it. He began swing adjustments earlier this year with Augusta in mind but his recent form has hardly been encouraging.
DiMarco looked on track for another good Masters until about a month ago when he suffered from a rib injury. By all accounts he has recovered from that but his poor form at the Bell South last week, when he missed the cut by nine shots, is a concern. He has quite a record at Augusta but he would need to have played much better at Bell South for him to have been a serious consideration to repeat what was a marvellous runner up placing to Woods last year.
Howell, like his fellow Englishman, Donald, played well on debut in 2005 when 11th. His standing in the game has improved even further in the ensuing twelve months and he now finds himself leading the 2006 European Tour Order of Merit. He is playing well enough at the Bell South to maintain that form and a solid showing here would not surprise.
Stenson is one of the big improvers in world golf over the past twelve months. He has shown himself to be capable of mixing it at the highest level but his chances of doing well here received a blow last week when he had a horror week at the Bell South. His third placing at the recent Players Championship and his third placing at the American Express WGC last year are perhaps better indications of his capabilities. This though will be his first visit to Augusta and that, along with his missed cut at the Bell South, suggest that it will be hard for him to contend.
Montgomerie has only the one top ten in nine starts at the Masters and his recent form does not provide any confidence that things are going to get any better. He has missed the cut in four of his last five cuts. Enough said.
Clarke has played well in his last two starts in the US this season but in six starts at Augusta his best has been his 8th on debut in 1998. His third at the recent Bay Hill Invitational was impressive but he will need improvement on his Augusta record to do well this week.
Davis Love III
Love III is a better player than his recent form suggests and does have a very good record here with six top tens in his last eleven starts including two runner up placings. He is having just an ordinary week at the Bell South which he is playing for the first time in four years indicating that he felt he needed to play there to get his game in shape after missing the cut at the Players Championship. That lead in form is of concern.
Jose Maria Olazabal
Olazabal has a stunning record at Augusta with two wins and four other top tens. He is playing beautifully at present with a very good 7th at the Players Championship and did very well at the Bell South. He is a good prospect amongst those just outside the more favoured players.
Ogilvy has gone to another level over the past twelve months and has shown during that time that top finishes in major golf are not beyond him. He was 5th at the Open last year and 6th at the PGA. He faces his debut at Augusta this year, which is always a big task, but he comes off a brilliant start to the 2006 season prior to missing the cut at the Players Championship. That start of course included the Accenture Match Play victory
Harrington has played well on occasions here including when 5th in 2002. He has been playing well enough of late to be a consideration for a top ten but it is hard to see him challenging for the title. He made the cut at the Bell South but finished well back.
Sabbatini is perhaps the forgotten man in golf at present despite being the leading money winner on the 2006 USPGA Tour. He has missed the cut at the Masters in both attempts however. He missed the cut at the Players Championship after a brilliant start to the year and it is difficult to see him contending here.
Campbell has made his last eighteen cuts on the USPGA Tour but has not been at his absolute peak of late. In three starts at Augusta he finally made the cut last year when 17th. There is therefore a question mark about him around Augusta.
Campbell surprised all when he won at Pinehurst last year as his record in the US prior to that point had been ordinary. His most recent form in 2006 though has not been as impressive as it had been leading into the US Open last year and he has yet to make a cut in five starts at Augusta. That he has played in only five events in 2006 is even further cause for concern. All this suggests that if he was to ’do a Pinehurst’ here it would be an even greater surprise than was the case last year.
Weir has a good record here in addition to his win in 2003. After a generally disappointing season in 2005 he seems to be playing his way into form with several solid tournaments in recent weeks. A second Masters jacket would not be the surprise it was three years ago.
Johnson missed the cut at his only start here last year but debuts here can often be a learning curve in fact he improved ten shots from round one to round two. After a slow start to the season he seems to be on the improve and had a very solid week at the Bell South.
O’Hern did well on debut here in 2005 when making the cut. He was a big improver in world golf in 2005 but he has played just the six events in 2005 and his missed cuts at the Players Championship and the Bell South indicate that he is not yet back to where he was when runner up at the Johnnie Walker Classic in early February.
Appleby made such a great start to 2006 with his win at the Mercedes but, although he has missed only the one cut in six starts since, he has hardly been on top of his game. He also has a less than impressive Augusta record to overcome if he is to be considered a chance to be the leading Australian let alone a contender for the title. He has had just the one round of twenty six at Augusta in the 60’s and is yet to improve on his best finish on debut here in 1997 when 21st.
Allenby is playing quite well at present but has a poor record at Augusta having missed the cut in three of his six starts and with a best of 29th. His fourth place at the Bay Hill Invitational was encouraging but his Augusta record is the concern.
Pampling was simply brilliant on debut here in 2005 when he shared fifth place. He has followed that up with a fine win at the Bay Hill event and although he missed the cut at the Players Championship that was likely a reaction to the win the previous week. He has a very good chance to be the leading Australian.
Lonard has a poor record at Augusta having missed all three cuts with his inability to handle the greens his biggest downfall. His form at present is not sharp either.
Hensby seems to have lost the good vein of form he had for much of 2005 and therefore a similar performance to that he showed last year when he shared fifth here on debut would be perhaps an even bigger surprise.
Photo – Anthony Powter