The Round Table leaning towards a Rory victory at Augusta

Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.

In a Masters poll last week, we asked readers which hole was the most pivotal at Augusta – the 12th, 13th, 15thor 16th. Same question for the panel, although you can pick another hole if you don’t like any of the above. And you can explain your decision too.

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Great question!  But my vote would go to 17 at Augusta. It’s not an easy birdie hole, which 13, 15 and 16 can be (allowing you to redeem yourself and right the ship if you made a bogey in 11 or 12.) It seems to me that if you birdie 17 and you’re a shot or two behind the leader, you can carry momentum into 18 while possibly rattling the leader and making him grip the club too tightly on the way in.  If you’re a shot or two behind, parring 17 isn’t going to do anything for you.  If you’re the leader, and you par 17, you can probably breathe a little more easily as you stand on 18.

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): I think it’s 12. It seems to mess up more rounds and momentum than any other hole out there. I won’t argue 13 and 15 have their character, but for such a short hole, 12 causes so much havoc. Every player would no doubt gladly accept pars there for the week.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: The first sequence of holes that require escape is #3,4, and 5. Three looks like a simple enough hole but danger lurks everywhere, #4 is flat-out difficult and #5 green is one of the toughest. Everyone says the tournament starts on the back nine on Sunday but not if you are already too far out of position.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): Given the increased length of the hole and the difficulty in hitting the green on their second shot, the 15th seems to create the biggest discrepancy in scores, which was on display again last weekend in the last round of the ANWA.  So, although I would normally say 13, I think that 15 may be more pivotal to the outcome of the tournament.  Of course, if you ask Jordan Spieth, he may have a different opinion!

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Have never been a fan of the 12th. The tee box is in an awkward, unnatural spot, and can’t stand the endless discussions on that tee and in the booth about the freakin’ wind. Enough already! The 16th is wonderful, in all four pin positions (sorry, hole locations) and Sunday’s is inspired. I’ll even watch Keegan Bradley’s tee shots!  When they coined the phrase “the Masters starts on the back nine on Sunday” they were talking about a birdie on 16.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Our readers picked #12 by a narrow margin over #15 but I tend to side with those who picked the par 5. The fifteenth offers the final good chance to make a birdie or possibly even an eagle and that could pad a lead or make up some ground. It’s a hole where bogey or worse comes into play if players try to be too aggressive. Remember Seve (splash) trying to catch Nicklaus in the 86 Masters. But it’s also a hole where aggressive play is often required. Remember Chip Beck laid up in 1993 when trying to catch Bernhard Langer. Look up wimp in the dictionary and you’ll see a picture of Beck. We didn’t come here to lay up son!

What’s the best storyline surrounding this year’s Masters?

Deeks: Hopefully, the disappointing play of the LIV players, pounding a further nail in their coffin.

Loughry: The best storyline is probably just having Tiger in the field. It’s not the most interesting, that has to be LIV vs PGA Tour player debate. A close third is the controversy over the yardage change on hole 13.

Schurman: Will a LIV Player win the trophy? What a blowback to all the hypocrites and the PGA TOUR who plagiarized the LIV model.

Rule: Well, I supposed the biggest storyline is how the LIV guys fare this week – both on and off the golf course.  But that doesn’t make it the best storyline.  The best would be if Tiger could find his way into contention of course, but aside from that, I think it’s Rory chasing the career Grand Slam.  He’s in as good a form as ever coming into the tourney, and I personally hope he gets it done.  That is of course if it isn’t Corey Conners winning!

Quinn: Like to think that it’s the change to Azalea and not golf’s landscape its own self — hello-goodbye LIV. Used to love watching the risks and incredible rewards for heroic shots on 13. But when Bubba nailed one down the left and didn’t put it in the “tributary” then hit a wedge in; and then when guys who nutted it just left of centre were hitting 7 and 8 irons instead of the traditional 4 irons (or more), the thrill was gone. Technology and fitness had changed a wonderful par 5 into a par 4. With it playing 545 yards instead of 510 yards from the tips (which won’t be used every round) Azalea may bloom once again only giving out great birdies and astounding eagles.

Mumford: LIV vs the PGA Tour will be getting the most play, but I’m equally intrigued to see how the changes to #13 play out. By all accounts, the hole will be much more difficult as the tee shot comes out of a long chute and players will be hitting longer irons into the green from a hanging lie. Hopefully they haven’t removed all of the excitement.

The betting lines favour the top three players in the world – defending champion Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm – perhaps the new Big 3. There are also 18 LIV Golfers in the field, including six past champions and major hunter Brooks Koepka who is finally healthy and won the LIV Golf event last week in Orlando. LIV Golfers have won 7 of the past 13 Masters. And then there’s the rest of the field that includes five-time champion Tiger Woods, perennial contender Jordan Spieth, red hot Max Homa plus last week’s winner Corey Conners and a boatload of past major winners and top ranked players. Which group do you think the winner comes from (Big 3, LIV Golfers, rest of the field) and who will it be?

Deeks: I sincerely hope Rory is the winner, gets the Masters “schneid” off his back, completes the career Slam, and cements his position as one of the All-Time Greats of the Game.  I also wouldn’t count out Corey Conners, who seems to have the quiet demeanour and level head required to withstand the pressure of Augusta, or Collin Morikawa.  And then there’s Bernhard Langer…

Loughry: I think the winner comes from the Big 3, they’re just too regularly dominant right now. They all have multiple wins over the last few months, I believe that continues this week and months to come. My next favourites are Homa and Koepka (momentum, playing very good golf right now), I hope they both contend which would make for an interesting finish.

Schurman: Nothing would please me more than a Rory victory or a Canadian. I only hope there are no rules issues involving a LIV player and a TOUR Player.

Rule: I do think that the winner will be one of the Big 3.  They are all in great form and their games suit the course, so I see one of them slipping on the green jacket on Sunday.  Here’s hoping it’s Rory completing the career Grand Slam. I see Conners being near the top come Sunday, and perhaps has as good a chance as any to win given his recent form and his past success at Augusta.  A Rory-Corey final pairing would be a dream scenario for me.

Quinn: The talent at the very top is undeniable and it’s hard to find an era in the game when the supporting cast was even close to the skill of today’s household names. It truly is amazing. But the top still be the top. And, given that only three guys have ever been able to repeat, the jacket should go to one of the top three not named Scottie. Rahm hasn’t been petulant of late, but his game has been. Maybe this is the go round that Rory gets past the first round and finishes off his Majors quartet. But he better watch out for Cam Young. Not sayin’, just sayin’.

Mumford: I have Jordan Spieth in my pool but only because it doesn’t include any LIV players. But when all are considered, I’m leaning towards the LIV group. They have tons of Masters experience and perhaps something to prove. Koepka, DJ and Reed are real possibilities, but I think Cam Smith will find his Open Championship form and nab another major. The Masters usually goes to the best putter, and nobody is better than the Aussie.

The Round Table
The Round Table is a panel of golf writers, PGA members and industry experts.

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