Live From The Masters
The weather this spring has been outstanding and it was no surprise that the National was in tip-top shape. Probably the best I have ever seen it. Here are my impressions and the highlights from the day:
The bunker on number 1 is basically out of play now that the tee has been pushed back, again.
Numbers 4 and 7 will play at least half a stroke over par-- #4 has been pushed back 40 yards (I hit a 4 iron from the old tee last year) and #7 will require most players to hit a middle iron to a green designed to receive only short irons and sand wedges. Tough.
The greens should be bricks by the start of play tomorrow--there is no rain in the immediate forecast and it is dry, warm, sunny, and windy--a perfect recipe for firm greens. Some of the more severe complexes like 5, 9, 10, 14, and 17 could see speed issues reminiscent of the US Opens at Olympic and Pinehurst.
The primary result of the dry conditions, however, will be that the shorter hitters will definitely be in the tournament--not exactly what Tiger wants to hear, but the firm conditions will still favor Phil as the emphasis on the short game will be a premium. Look for a Furyk--Toms--DiMarco style player to be on top after Friday's play. Perhaps a young foreigner like Adam Scott could make a statement.
The best thing I saw yesterday was the group of Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Trevor Immelman, and Gary Player playing the par 3 16th hole. It is Masters tradition that the players, after hitting their approach shots, attempt to skip a second ball across the water. All four players hit their skip-shot simultaneously, with Player's ball making it across and finishing a foot away from the hole. Pretty good scene.
The best group of the day included Tom Lehman (this year's Ryder Cup Captain) playing with Ryder Cup mainstays David Toms, Davis Love III, and Chris DiMarco (who was decked out in Florida Gator garb...sweet). We saw them putt on 11 and hit to 12 (only DL III hit the green).
We also saw Phil hit bunker shots for about 15 minutes on the range and that was spectacular. He was flanked by short game guru Dave Pelz. Also saw Ernie hit balls which was awesome, as well as Vijay--who may have the best tempo I have ever seen. His swing is very much built around timing, which explains why he hits so many balls and has developed such amazing rhythm.
This could certainly be an outstanding Masters. I look for one of the big guns like Phil, Ernie, or Retief to win this one. It should be a great back nine on Sunday. Enjoy.