Masters: A soft Augusta National means big hitters get the edge

Rory McIlroy Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Masters: A soft Augusta National means big hitters get the edge

Masters

Masters: A soft Augusta National means big hitters get the edge

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AUGUSTA, Ga. – Driving down Magnolia Lane will bring a smile to any golfer’s face, but after more than 1.5 inches of rain soaked Augusta National Golf Club on Monday, and more rain Tuesday morning, Rory McIlroy’s cheeks must be aching.

Two months after imploding on the back nine and blowing a chance to win the 2011 Masters, McIlroy, then 22, obliterated the field and won the U.S. Open by eight shots over Jason Day at a rain-softened Congressional Country Club.

Rory picked up his second major, the 2012 PGA Championship, on a moisture-laden Ocean Course at Kiawah. He hoisted the claret jug two years later by winning the 2014 British Open on a soggy Royal Liverpool, then won the Wanamaker trophy by defeating Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler at the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club when the course was also wet.

Notice a pattern here?

Even with scattered showers in the forecast for Tuesdsay afternoon and later in the week, Augusta National is not going to turn into 2011 Congressional or 2014 Valhalla. The SubAir system and great natural drainage will ensure that. However, there is no denying big hitters like McIlroy are going to have a major edge at this season’s first major.

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Some people are under the misguided impression that a wet, soft golf course can help players who don’t hit nuclear-powered tee shots. The thinking is that while they will be forced to hit longer approach shots with less-lofted clubs, the greens will be more receptive and the ball should stop quicker on the putting surface.

Don’t buy it.

For big hitters like McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson, a soft course effectively plays longer, which favors them, and wider because tee shots that land in the fairway will stop instead of rolling into the rough. Augusta National has a marginally higher second cut instead of rough, so long hitters swing for the fences; if the course is damp, they’ll be even more aggressive.

The stats also show leave distances on approach shots increase when players are forced to hit from farther away.

The soft greens that allow players to stop a mid-iron shot on a par 4 will let Adam Scott and long hitters to take dead aim with 9-irons and wedges, which we can expect will finish closer to the hole.

The Golf Gods have been cruel to some players at Augusta, but it appears that they’ve rolled out the red carpet this year for long-hitting players who are dreaming of slipping into a green jacket.

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