Forecast is for roaring finish at Masters

The forecast for this year's Masters Tournament: Sunny and warm with a
roaring finish. It couldn't come any sooner. For the last couple years,
the Masters hasn't been the Masters. No disrespect to Zach Johnson and
Trevor Immelman, two worthy champions and cool guys who conduct
themselves with class, but weather conditions in 2007 when Johnson won
on a January in April Sunday laying up on the par 5s, and last year
when Immelman stumbled in with 75 in nasty winds turned the lengthened
Augusta National into a death march akin to (yikes!) the U.S. Open.
(The U.S. Open then topsy-turveyed the Masters, using graduated, aka
not totally sadistic, rough and a reachable par 4 on Sunday to create
the most exciting tournament of the decade last year at Torrey
Pines.) The
hand-wringing began almost as soon as Immelman put on the green jacket. What happened to the back-nine roars of the crowd? Has the lengthened,
"Tiger-proofed" course bled the life out of the most magical major?
What hath Hootie wrought?
Thankfully, Scott Michaux of The
Augusta Chronicle
decided to look at the numbers
and he's proved that
Sundays of Masters past were not exactly the birdie fests we remember
and that the best players can still post a low number here if the
weather conditions are close to normal.We all start to believe that every Masters was as dramatic as 1986.
We start to think that every champion charged to the green jacket with
a back-nine 30.
We would, of course, be wrong. Jack Nicklaus in 1986 and Gary Player in 1978 were the only Masters champions to surge to victory with closing 30s. The next best finishing performance was Phil Mickelson, whose 31 in 2004 shut up the last chorus of thrill-is-gone naysayers. The truth is, a total of six guys have shot better than 33 coming in
to win. Twenty-two Masters winners failed to break par of 36 on the
back nine Sunday, including 39s and 40s from Nicklaus (1972), Seve Ballesteros (1980), Player (1961) and Craig Stadler (1982).
The last winner to make an eagle on Sunday? Jose Maria Olazabal in 1994.

The only guy since 1990 to win the Masters from outside the last pairing? Zach Johnson in 2007. Our romantic brains simply believe otherwise.In
other words, it's the weather, stupid. Phil Mickelson said Tuesday that
extreme weather affects Augusta National more than other courses
because of the speed of the greens."The wind will
blow putts right off the green they are so fast," Mickelson said. "And
trying to putt in cross winds or into the wind, it's much more extreme
than anywhere else."Even Tiger Woods, who's admitted he
misses those Sunday roars too, concedes the course could give up some
low numbers if the weather cooperates."The golf course has changed quite a bit," Woods said. "You know, your strategy has
changed. You don't go out there looking to shoot super-low rounds
because they are not out there anymore, especially with these
conditions that we have the last two years. If it calms down, and I'm
sure you can probably shoot one of those good numbers, but there's
going to be a different way of doing it."The
forecast for Sunday is partly cloudy, with high of 73 and 5-10 mph
winds, and probably a few compliments for the wise men of Augusta as
well.

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