The weekend has officially arrived at the years first major. Augusta National showed its teeth during the opening two days with only 12 players scoring par or better through the first two rounds. For some perspective, that’s a mere 12.9% of the field. All in all 53 players made the cut. Some notables to miss the cut include defending champion Danny Willett (+7), reigning Open Champion Henrik Stenson (+7) and two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson (+8). Despite their respective absences, there is still plenty to look forward to this weekend at The Masters.
Here are three storylines to keep an eye on this weekend at Augusta:
A Wild Moving Day
With the wind expected to dissipate, big names such as Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy in prime position as well as 34 players within eight shots of the lead, Saturday is set to be an incredible day of golf in Georgia. It is expected that the committee will set the golf course up in a manner that will produce some low scores. So much so that it would not be surprising to see a 65 catapult someone like Justin Thomas (+5) from out of it into the thick of things as the leaders are getting started. There will be eagles and birdies, there will be bogeys and doubles and the scoreboard operators are sure to have their hands full on Saturday.
Sunday Back Nine Fireworks
The old cliché which often holds true is that The Masters doesn’t start until the back nine on Sunday. Just like watching a college basketball game for the last two minutes, a hotly contested, compact leader board on Sunday will lead to some quintessential roars through the pines of Augusta. There is no other way an avid golf fan or the casual fan would want it. Costly two shot swings, Amen Corner, going for the par 5s in two, first pumps and heartache, it’s all waiting on the mecca that is the back nine at Augusta National Golf Club.
The First? The Oldest?
Among the leaders at -4, they share a combined 0 major wins. Most notably, if Sergio Garcia or Rickie Fowler manages to hold onto the lead over the course of the weekend and ends up slipping into a Green Jacket, it will be a momentous occasion. Garcia having played in 71 consecutive majors, has finished in the top-10 a whopping 22 times in his career, yet is still lacking the end product. Fowler, once tapped as the next big thing in American golf, has only managed to win only 7 times in his career. Despite success in majors, such as his remarkable showing in 2014, Rickie too has yet to seal the deal.
Similarly, if Phil Mickelson or Fred Couples manage to win this weekend, either man would become the oldest to ever win at Augusta. Jack Nicklaus famously won his 6th at the age of 46 years and 82 days in 1986. Mickelson who is roughly 2 months shy of his 47th birthday and Couples, at the young age of 57, would both be remarkable stories if they were to claim the Green Jacket this weekend.
As mentioned earlier, 53 players made the cut. That is an odd number. For most tournaments, that means a single will go off as the first tee time. However, at Augusta, that means that Jeff Knox has found himself a playing partner for the weekend. Who is Jeff Knox? Knox has become a local legend at Augusta serving as the marker for singles on the weekend at The Masters since 2003. A low-handicapper and Augusta National member, Knox has gained the respect and admiration of many of the tour players thanks to his mastery of Augusta’s notoriously difficult greens. So much so, that a practice round with him leading up to The Masters is in high demand every year. He has appeared 15 times and has allegedly beaten his professional player partner six times. Who might he have the pleasure of playing with this year on Saturday? None other than world number 3: Jason Day. Can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday morning, 18 holes with a world-class golfer, followed by some food in the members dining room and watching The Masters in person, on your home course. Can’t beat it.
All the stars are aligning to create a truly special Masters weekend. Sit back, relax and continue to marvel at the skill of the worlds best and the gem that is Augusta National Golf Club.