Firstly, a lesson in the bleedin’ obvious: the Masters is hard.
But maybe we don’t appreciate, from the comfort of our living rooms, just how hard as we luxuriate in the sight of perfectly manicured greens and resplendent azaleas. Truth is, Augusta National is statistically the toughest par-72 course on tour.
Last year its average score of 73.95 was the highest of any par-72 track, and it was the toughest in three-putt avoidance (maybe no surprise) and par-4 scoring. Other key stats are greens in regulation (last year the average was 58%) and scrambling (a meagre 50%).
Obviously, par-5 scoring is hugely important, but as Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson have both stressed this week, nobody is going to run away from the field on the par-5s. The key, increasingly, is to rule out the card-wrecking mistakes.
So we looked at those four categories – GIR, three-putt avoidance, par-4 performance and scrambling – on tour for the whole year and dug out the top 20 players in each (who is in the field this week). Only TWO players’ names appeared in all four lists.
JASON DAY is perhaps no surprise. At a best price of 15-1, he is one of the favourites to win the green jacket and was second here in 2011 and third in 2013. Not only does he feature in all four lists, he features highly: second in GIR, fifth in scrambling, fifth in three-putt avoidance and second on the par-4s. Throw in the fact that of those in the field this week he is fourth for birdies or better on par-5s and he looks a very sound proposition.
Maybe more surprising is the name of RYAN PALMER, available with the bookies at a hugely tempting 80-1. Thirteenth in GIR and scrambling, 16th in three-putt avoidance and fourth in par-4 performance, he is sixth in driving distance on tour and will attack the par-5s. He has played the Masters just four times, and was 10th in 2011, but is a vastly improved player now.
Several players appeared in three of the four lists: Henrik Stenson, Hideki Matsuyama, Jordan Spieth, Webb Simpson, Paul Casey, Ian Poulter, Hunter Mahan, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed and Matt Kuchar.