Unless you’ve been under a pollen-covered rock, you know it’s Masters Week. That silly game with a round ball is over and done and the world’s eyes turn to Augusta. Even though we were just here less than 6 months ago.
Even with no Bulldog presence, Dawg Sports would still cover the Masters. It just makes it that much more fun when we can cheer for former Athenians as they matriculate their way around those lush green hills, amongst the cathedral of pines, and through Amen Corner. But first, I’ll give you the usual Dawgs on Tour stats.
Tournament: The Masters, April 8-11, 2021
Course: Augusta National Golf Club. 7,475 yards, par 72
Purse: They don’t announce beforehand, but it is expected to be the same as last year. $11,500,000 total, and $2.07 million to the winner.
Defending Champ: Dustin Johnson. DJ took advantage of his butter cut and length at the softer November Augusta National and hit fairways and greens aplenty on his way to dominating the tournament. His 2nd major was sealed up early Sunday as he set the 72 hole scoring record at the Masters of 20 under par.
Fun Fact: Only one player has shot all four rounds in the 60s in Masters History. Cameron Smith, in the admittedly softer November 2020 version, recorded rounds of 67-68-69-69. And he didn’t even win.
TV Times: 3:00-7:30 pm ET Thursday and Friday (ESPN), 3:00-7:00 pm Saturday (CBS), and 2:00-7:00 pm ET Sunday (CBS). But, the Masters app will have almost as many ways to watch as there are pimento salad sandwiches consumed by ignorant Yankees. The app allows you to follow any player you want, track multiple players, follow featured groups, just check out Amen Corner, you name it you can watch it. Every shot of every player will be available. It’s free, and is really the crown jewel of sports apps.
‘Dawgs in the Field: 6.
Harris English - This is the 3rd Masters for English and the first in 5 years. He missed the cut in his first appearance in 2014, and tied for 42nd in 2016. In fact, in 6 rounds here, he’s never finished at par or under par. His first round starts Thursday at 9:48 am.
Brian Harman snuck into the Masters thanks to world rankings. And he did that with a tie for 3rd at the Players, then making it into the quarterfinals at the Match Play. That gave Harman just enough points to qualify for top 50 in the world at the cutoff for such. He missed the cut in his first Masters in 2015, and T44 in 2018. His Thursday Tee time is 9:00 am with Brendon Todd.
Kevin Kisner made the cut in his first four tries but missed the cut last November. He’s never finished higher than 21st, but he’s an Aiken native and resident so he has this on his radar. He begins his quest Thursday at 9:24 am.
Hudson Swafford captured his 2nd Tour win last September and thus qualified for his 2nd Masters this year. He missed the cut in 2017, and hopefully isn’t too overwhelmed this time. His Thursday tee time is 8:00 am
Brendon Todd missed the cut in his first Masters in 2015 (this happens a lot), and missed the cut last November in his 2nd try. His first round tee time is 9:00 am with Brian Harman.
Bubba Watson has made the cut in 11 of his 13 appearances and of course emerged as the winner in 2012 and 2014. His earnings at the Masters alone is a good career with almost $4 million in the bank. His Thursday tee time is 10:06 am.
So six of the 85 professionals are former golfers from the University of Georgia, and that’s a Bulldog point of pride. The field is 88 players total as 3 amateurs qualified (normally there are a couple more but the pandemic canceled some of those amateur championships).
The course is playing tougher than it did in November and you will hear the terms “firm and fast” if you watch any of the coverage. Balls are running out on the fairways even early in the week and the greens have already gotten bouncy. Spinning wedges are still bounding forward several yards before gripping, and that is dangerous with the false fronts, sides, and run offs. The grounds crew usually has the course a little softer early in the week and work the course through the week to get tougher as you get closer to Sunday. I think the reason for this change is two-fold. 1) There is a decent chance for thunderstorms Friday and Saturday, so they are trying to work around Mother Nature. And 2) they didn’t like that Dustin Johnson set the tournament record last fall and want to show everyone they dictate more than just beer cutoff times and cell phone policies.
A few other difference will be that there is no Par 3 tournament (a Wednesday pre-tournament tradition). They did have the Champions Dinner though, and while patrons are on the grounds, it will be limited attendance. So the pines, the azaleas, the concessions, the roars, and all the familiar views will be back in all their normal glory.
And things will be different from the very first shot. Dr. Lee Elder will tee it up Thursday morning just after 7:00 am. The first African American to compete in the Masters (1975) is joining Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player as an Honorary Starter.
Dustin Johnson is the betting favorite as both the defending champion and the #1 player in the world. Jon Rahm’s wife gave birth to their first child last week so one might think he’s a bit knackered and isn’t as sharp. With several top tens in 2021 and coming off a win last week, a lot of money has moved over to Jordan Spieth.
Rory McIlroy is looking for the career grand slam but has been out of form his last few outings (plus a very recent change in his swing coach). Many are saying he’s “under the radar” - so much so that he is all over the freaking radar. Justin Thomas had an impressive win at the Players last month so he’s also a smart bet. Patrick Reed is a former champ and he seems to rise to the occasion, at least when his wife isn’t tweeting from a burner account. Then there is Bryson DeChambeau - he of the “secret club” he’s breaking out this week. Word is that it’s a super-low lofted driver but I’ll just sit back and see if he can actually do anything before I get excited.
As for the ‘Dawgs, your guess is as good as mine. Bubba has the long game but I don’t know how good his swing is at the moment (though a T12 and T5 finish in the last two April Masters does make one wonder). Kiz has the iron game, but he’s quick to point out he doesn’t fare well alongside the bombers. Todd can hit fairways blindfolded, but will his short game be a handicap? Brian Harman might be playing the best of all, but he’s certainly not long so we’ll have to see how he starts. But because of that recent good form, I’ll put my money on Harman, the other lefty from UGA.
Masters storylines happen fast, faster than a Tom Crean recruit can sign up for the transfer portal. So feel free to add yours in the comments below. Or tell us how you’re going to watch the Masters when you should be working. Or spring cleaning. Or researching conspiracy theories. Or whatever. Just thanks for stopping by, reading the post, and cheering ‘Dawgs chasing little white balls on the world’s best landscaping. And as always...