Senden could be 2012's Masters surprise

John Senden

John Senden

John Senden is making his third appearance at the Masters with maybe his best chance not only to make the cut, but also record the first win by an Australian in the history of the year's first major.

It seems a bit far-fetched, yet which Australian has played better in 2012 than Senden?

Senden, 40, has been a professional since 1992, but has been slow to turn his ball-striking talents into significant monetary gains on the PGA Tour.

Winning only one time - the 2006 John Deere Classic - the Queenslander has never been a household name and fits more in the mold of journeyman.

“My ball-striking has always been good,” Senden said last month at the Transitions Championship near Tampa. “My short game has, over the years, sort of let me down in ways. I feel like I’m a good putter. I need to be a great putter to win golf tournaments and be a top-10 player in the world.”

Ranked No. 29 in the world after a T-18 at the Shell Houston Open, Senden has been as consistent as his ball-striking in 2012.

In seven events this season, he has yet to miss a cut. His three top-10s include a ninth at the WGC-Accenture Match Play and a sixth at the WGC-Cadillac Championship.

Senden is No. 5 in greens in regulation, total driving and all-around, third in ball-striking and eighth in scoring average. Impressive, indeed. But if you add in the fact that he is No. 132 in strokes gained putting, you could see the potential for the man from Brisbane.

In the last two weeks, Senden has had his coach Ian Triggs with him. Since he was 13, Senden has relied on the guidance of Triggs and is placing his faith in him this week to not only make the cut for the first time at Augusta, but to make a charge at winning a green jacket.

At this level, the little things determine champions, and Senden is no exception. A couple of years ago, Senden worked on putting a line on the ball to get better alignment. Last year, Triggs worked with Senden on hitting down on his putts, trying to stay still and keep the ball rolling down the line.

But in the end, what Triggs is preaching this week - and what Senden believes is his best chance on the greens - is to keep it simple rather than having all sorts of technical or mental thoughts while putting.

“Basically, allowing the information to come off the green to him and reacting to it," Triggs said, in a manner of explanation. “Staying away from the mechanics as much as possible. Just getting involved in feeling the shape of the putts.”

Triggs calls this a holistic process to putting; trust your start line and trust your feel of what your vision is telling you.

According to Triggs, Senden is better aware of his start line and is getting better at feeling the putts each passing day, but the greens at Augusta National can make the best doubt any method.

Senden always has been technically good with the putter, Triggs said, but he has never dealt with putting very well, but it's coming.

“He’s starting to trust himself a lot more on the greens, and he’s doing a good job,” Triggs said. “I think John’s very comfortable in the space he’s in. He’s been here twice before, and his maturity is getting close. His belief system probably never matched what he had technically, but that maturity is coming through now.”

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