Defending Champ: Adam Scott
Some people love the Super Bowl. Others, Wrestlemania. Some even enjoy themselves a lethal dose of ugggggghhhhh… the Daytona 500. Everyone has a favorite spectacle sporting event. And, if yours is not The Masters – you lack class. Sorry you had to hear that from me.
Word associating “golf” and “excitement” likely kept you out of an Ivy League school. It did for me, at least. Yet, a simple mention of golf’s annual Augusta excursion still throws me into gleeful frenzy. Not entirely sure why, but I have a hunch it has something to do with magnolia extract – my anxiety and depression levels drop to record lows this time every year! But really, I think it’s Augusta National’s majesty – behold it!
Now, for my annual tradition (not quite a tradition like no other, mind you), here are the terms to know to enhance your enjoyment to its fullest extent.
Amen Corner – First coined by Herbert Warren Wind in 1958, Amen Corner spans from the second shot at the 11ththrough the drive at 13. It’s the most famous stretch of holes on the course (in all of golf, really) and its risk/reward potential can create massive fluctuations atop the leaderboard.
Azaleas – The defining flower of Augusta National, azaleas are only in bloom for three to four weeks in early spring. Not certain how the recent wave of wet conditions will affect their bloom this year, but please pray, just in case.
Butler’s Cabin – The most noteworthy of the 10 cabins scattered across the grounds of Augusta National. Constructed in 1964, Butler’s Cabin is home to the Green Jacket presentation, where the year’s previous champion bestows the new champion with golf’s highest sartorial honor.
Eisenhower Tree – Named for Dwight “let’s get busy” Eisenhower, the towering pine is located on the left center of the 17th fairway and is a magnet for errant tee shots. At least it was, until significant ice damage forced it to be chopped down in February. Presumably by a horde of Braves fans.
Home – Where Tiger Woods will be watching.
First Nine, Second Nine – At most courses, it’s acceptable to refer to the holes going out as the “front nine” and those coming in as the “back nine”, but at Augusta National its a faux pas. Why? Because they’re superior to us mortals.
Friends – Everyone, to Jim Nantz.
Green Jacket – The ultimate prize. Winners are presented the Green Jacket on the 18th green after victory, then again in Butler’s Cabin in a separate presentation. It’s so nice, you get to wear it twice.
Magnolia Lane – After passing through the gates, you’ll find yourself heading toward the course traveling down Magnolia Lane. It’s known for, DUH, a plethora of magnolia trees on both sides of the road that converge to create an exalted vista, producing an ambiance matched only by its wintertime companion: The drive up to the creepy house in Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. However, that drive is only recommended for the achromic enthusiasts among us.
Patrons – Don’t think of using the terms “crowd”, “gallery” or “fans” on the grounds at Augusta. They are patrons, and they shall be on their best behavior.
Paulina Gretzky – I’m guessing she’ll be there. Hopefully wearing this.
Rae’s Creek – Located on southeastern corner of the course, Rae’s Creek is arguably the most recognizable water hazard at Augusta. It flows behind the 11th green, in front of the 12th and in the face of everyone teeing off on 13. Named for John Rae, constructor of a gristmill on the banks of the creek in 1765, it’s most easily spotted on 12, where two parallel bridges – the Hogan and Nelson – connect the fairway to the green.
Record Fountain – Built to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the tournament, the Record Fountain showcases all the course records and rests just off the 17th tee box. It takes the pressure of the tournament, and amplifies it to Nigel Tufnel levels.
Sarazen Bridge – Providing a path to the 15th green, the Sarazen Bridge is named for Gene Sarazen’s “shot heard round the world”, a double-eagle on the very same hole in 1935, in a tournament that he would eventually go on to win.
Tributary – A term usually reserved exclusively for seventh grade geography classes and maps of inland Scandinavia, there is a tributary that runs off Rae’s Creek by the green on 13.
White Bib – Caddies are forced to conform to Masters’ regulations that include a white jumpsuit, a green cap and white tennis shoes. Essentially, they dress like minimum security prisoners.
White Dogwood – Augusta’s 11th hole. After a tight fade off the tee, the golfers officially enter Amen Corner.
Hunter Mahan – There’s nothing really left for Mahan to accomplish outside of winning a major. There’s no regular tournament triumph that would alter our perception of him. He’s won five times over the past seven years, including two WGC events (not including two Notah Begay III Foundation Challenge victories), and has been a fixture on Ryder and President’s Cup teams for almost a decade now. This is it for Hunter. Some will be scared off because of his back injury that forced him out of action at Bay Hill. Don’t worry, though. He appeared pain-free last week in Houston, and his mediocre T31 will only have your competitors off his scent. They’ve all forgotten he reeled off Top 10s in four of five starts before adding some Robaxacet to his breakfast. Plus, if he can manage to make the cut, he’ll most certainly be in contention. The last five years, he’s either booked a last-second flight home late-Friday night or been inside the Top 12. Mahan’s my pick to win, and he’s a must-use in DraftStreet’s $100,000 Big Score Masters Pool. Well, he is if you want to win the $20,000 first prize. Actually, no. Don’t use Mahan, THAT MONEY IS MINE!!!
Brandt Snedeker & Phil Mickelson – The Yahoo! “A-List” is crammed with talent. Adam Scott will be the most common pick. Matt Kuchar will get a bunch of sympathy selections after last week’s Sunday meltdown. Bubba Watson’s been hot all season and they already have his measurements on file. Look, all are excellent picks, but it seems like Phil and Snedeker are being overlooked; providing a tremendous opportunity to create separation in a cluttered field – because they’ll be lurking come Sunday. After suffering a knee injury falling off a segway in China (golfers, such everymen), Sneds’ play felt the downward centripetal force most commonly produced by the Coriolis Effect. But, his four months of putrid play look to have been healed by Mother Nature. Last time out, Snedeker wound up with at T8 in a loaded field at Bay Hill. And, while Phil hasn’t been having the most successful season, he does sport three Green Jackets in his plus-sized collection and has ten Top 5s in his past 15 starts at Augusta.
Angel Cabrera & K.J. Choi – Experience matters this week; Fred Couples proves that every year. Cabrera’s always a factor on Sunday regardless of how poorly he’s been playing coming in. He’s made eight straight cuts, and since his 2009 win, the Argentinean’s produced some safe results: T18, T7, T32 & 2nd after losing in a playoff in 2013. KJ’s been hit or miss in his 11 Augusta starts, but the soggy conditions that appear to be on the horizon should equalize his disadvantage off the tee. Actually, if the weather remains wet, expect to see a lot of savvy vets in contention.
Sergio Garcia – Time’s running out for Mr. Garcia. Still, circumstances have never lined up for Sergio heading into a Major like this before. He’s been playing his best golf, well… ever – surging up to No. 6 in the World Rankings. A win in Qatar and no finish worse than 16th in any of his six Tour events this season will do that. He’s made five straight cuts in Georgia, finding himself on the first page of the weekend leaderboard at some point each of the last two years. He eventually ended up with a T8 and T12. The biggest thing, though? There is no Tiger around to psych him out.
Zach Johnson & Rory McIlroy – After loading up on a few risky picks, it’s time to go safe. ZJ is playing great in 2014, and comes in riding a two consecutive Top 10s-in-Majors HOT STREAK!!! He’s a former champ at Augusta, too. That’s something we’ll be calling Rory someday, possibly as soon as next year.