Since 1934 golfers, both amateur and professional, have competed at Augusta National for the famous Green Jacket. Out of these 81 tournaments, only 3 have ever been won by a first-timer; Horton Smith, Gene Sarazen & Fuzzy Zoeller.
The most recent player to come close to replicating this feat was that of young 'Texas Longhorn', Jordan Spieth. Spieth was close to victory in 2014 as he trailed the overnight leader by a single stroke before being edged out for a T-2 finish by Bubba Watson.
But why is Augusta National so difficult at the first time of asking?
Players and caddies who’ve been fortunate enough to grace this magical place often comment on the subtle changes that are made to the course year after year. This is where a wealth of existing course knowledge, the ability to recall past memories, caddie insights and previous green books are so important! Long-time caddie of Phil Mickleson, Jim ‘Bones’ Mackay, recently went on record saying that every time they returned to Augusta, they would learn something new about the course. Bones highlighted that Phil’s ability to remember which way certain putts tended to break gave him a huge advantage over his competitors.
With 16 first-timers visiting Augusta this week, we ask why can’t this be the year that a Xander Schauffele, Tony Finau or Shubhankar Sharma (& co) buck a trend that has lasted almost 40 years?
This year there are no more than 87 players in the field, the smallest in 21 years. Therefore, you would suggest that with a fifth of the field being rookies, this year is as good an opportunity as any for one to lift the hoodoo, right? Well, that would be the case, however, this year is unlike any that may have gone before us. What I mean is that this year’s field is absolutely STACKED!
Where do we start? The return of Tiger, a resurgent Phil Mickleson, Jordan’s incredible Masters record, Rory finding his ‘midas touch’ at Bay Hill, Dustin’s recent domination of the OWGR, Justin Thomas’ surge to dethrone his compatriot or Sergio vying to become the first player since Tiger in ‘01 to win back-to-back Green Jackets. The list goes on. This year is gearing up to be the best in recent memory with the competition being wide open and the bookmaker's odds reflecting this.
If 2018 is going to be the ‘Year of the Rookie’ then this individual is certainly going to have to do it the hard way. One thing is for sure, the golfing landscape is going to have all eyes fixed on Augusta National come sunrise on Thursday morning and we can’t wait.
Let us know your Masters predictions in the comments below or via Twitter @vpargolf #TheMasters