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Raymond Floyd, Jr. of Old Greenwich, Conn. and Innis Arden Golf Club is the son of Raymond Floyd, winner of 22 PGA Tour events and 4 major championships, including the 1976 Masters. Floyd, Jr., the 2011 Connecticut Mid-Amateur Champion and an accomplished golfer in his own right, will be posting a daily blog of his encounters on the hallowed ground of Augusta National Golf Club during the 2016 Masters Tournament.
|Photo by Scott K. Brown / Augusta National|
Welcome to Day 2 - Which is actually my first day stepping foot on the property this week. What a day it was - The weather was absolutely perfect. Cool and breezy this morning, but warmed up to the upper 70’s and there was not a cloud to be found anywhere in the sky. A couple of clarifications from yesterday’s post as I had several emails telling me that it easy to pick a winner if I like all the favorites. The previews and little mini-bios I put out yesterday were simply touching on the favorites and a few of the hot dark horses. To be clear those were not my picks, as those will be released in tomorrow’s post, only after I can get an eye on all of these guys and have some conversations with caddies, agents, instructors, and gather all the inside information I possibly can. I mean, Belichik does not put in a game plan without watching film, does he? So stay tuned for that.
|Photo by Sam Greenwood / Augusta National|
Interesting items from this morning’s Augusta Chronicle – a couple that stuck out was that The Masters will be granting a 1-year exemption to the Gold medalist at the Olympics. As most of you know golf is an official sport at this year’s 2016 summer games in Rio. The other one is how all the players are saying that the course is already harder than last year.
Spieth was saying that he came for a scouting trip in December, and he was amazed at how much more grass there was on the greens compared to the December before, he also took note of how the greens were rolling in December as he said they were almost tournament speed. Jason Day said the same thing. His quote was I do not think they want say minus 18 winning this year or have a runaway Masters. Day thought that the sweet spot for the Masters was a champion coming in between minus 11 to minus 13.
I know when I used to come here and watch dad compete the magic number was 10 under. If you could get to that you had a real good shot at winning. I like that number this year because of what I typed above about the players already feeling that the course is playing harder, but also because of the projected weather. Out their today the course was damp, but not wet — but it was windy. The significance of wind in a practice round other than the obvious is it acts like a blow dryer for the greens. We all know about the aforementioned sub-air systems that pull water out of the greens, making them retain their firmness, but if the greens are damp the blades on the actual putting surface can retain moisture and will make the greens a touch slower.
The wind eliminates that moisture and makes these greens a 10 out of 10 when referring to firmness and pace, and I think that is exactly what the powers that be desire. The other interesting thing the paper said this morning about the forecast was the direction of the wind. It is supposed to be fairly gusty Friday thru Sunday (still a good chance of rain on Thursday which could change things) but the interesting thing about the wind is the direction. It is calling for a northwest wind and for those of you who are not related to Magellan that means that 3 of the 4 Par 5’s at Augusta National will play INTO the wind, with the lone exception being # 2 which will be down wind. That makes #8 unreachable for 90% of the field, and it gives the famed 13th and 15th holes a little more teeth.
The funny thing is I think it makes #2 a little more difficult as well as that shot is hit off of a downhill lie to a very little skinny green with no way to really stop it on the green - again - advantage long hitters if the wind and wind direction continues as forecast.
A couple of interesting tidbits I stumbled across - Fred Couples has pulled out of The Masters. The ‘92 champ is citing back pain, and while winning only one major in his career nobody peaked for Masters week like Freddy, he always had to be in the conversation. He and dad have a very special bond as well, and to put it simply Fred Couples will be missed this week. Another interesting fact is that no European has slipped on the green jacket since Jose Maria Olazabal did it in 1999 - that stat is mind boggling to me, as dominant as the Europeans have been in the Ryder Cup and the history of European champions - Seve, Langer, Woosnam, Lyle, Olazabal, Faldo. Will that change this year?
OK, onto some hot topics in and around Augusta National today. One of my best friends from Wake Forest is a sports agent who represents Justin Thomas. As many of you know Justin is a hot young player who had a great rookie campaign last year. He won an HSBC event in China last year that got him into this year’s Masters as a first time participant. I was lucky enough to spend a little time with Justin, who looks like he is about 14 years old. I asked him who he was playing a practice round with and he said Ricky Fowler, Brooks Koepka, and Jimmy Walker. Now this immediately got me thinking - what happened to Phil as that used to be his group, or at least a variation of it?
Justin made an interesting point. Jimmy Walker and Ricky Fowler are Butch Harmon pupils, Phil used to be but recently dropped. I would not take this more than face value but an interesting fact when wondering how certain practice round groupings are formed. I watched this group for about 4 holes this morning and I will tell you the guy that impressed me the most was Koepka. The way he is built, the striking of the ball, his length, the way he is able to work the ball in both directions was very impressive. I also like the way he was putting the ball.
Dad always used to tell me that at Augusta speed was line on the greens, and it never really made sense to me because I am a moron, but what that means is on greens this fast if you can have your speed right you are going to make a lot of putts. It is the old adage maximum break, minimum speed and Brooks seemed to really be working on that from what I could tell. The other cool money game that was going on out there today was that of Phil, Keegan, Dustin, and Bryson Dechambeau. If any of you are wondering who that last name is more on him in a minute.
Anyway they were definitely grinding for some cash as Keegan made a bomb on #6 and pumped his fist looking right at Phil. I could not tell if they were partners or not, but from the body language and their Ryder Cup history I would say they were.
Outside of some of the play the thing that stuck in my head the most were the pairings in the practice rounds. Guys can choose who they play with and at what time. The synergy between countrymen was like nothing I have ever seen. For example guys I saw playing together from the same countries - Thongchai Jaidee and Kiradech Aphibarnrat (man spell check had fun with that one) from Thailand, Kaymer and Langer from Germany, Grace and Els from South Africa, McDowell and Lowery from Ireland, Grillo and Cabrera from Argentina, Day and Scott from Australia, Lingmerth and Stenson from Sweden. I know you want to be as comfortable as possible in these practice rounds to keep it loose, but I found the pairings by country very interesting.
|Photo by Hunter Martin / Augusta National
On to Bryson Dechambeau. As you know, The Masters was founded by Bobby Jones, the most famous amateur golfer of all time. So the history of The Masters is one that lets many amateurs play in the event. When I was a kid every single Walker Cup player from both the US and GBI was exempt into the event. They have scaled that back a little bit but still in this week’s event there are 6 amateurs competing from 4 different countries - US, France, Costa Rica, and China. There have been many amateurs who have played well in The Masters as we are all familiar with Ken Venturi’s crazy run in 1956 only to come up 1 shot short of Jackie Burke (if you are a true golf fan you need to stop what you are doing right now and go read the book “Men In Green” by Michael Bamberger - it is one of the best golf books I have ever read and goes into some more depth about Venturi’s run in the ‘56 Masters).
Matt Kuchar with a top 10 in the late 90’s and so on and so forth. I have not seen an amateur as impressive as Bryson DeChambeau in quite some time. His plan is to turn pro right after The Masters and I think this kid is going to be in the conversation with all of this young talent that we are currently talking about. If you remember a few weeks back at Bay Hill he made the cut and was paired with Rory the final round. They went toe to toe the entire round and Rory only beat him on the last hole by making a 60 foot birdie putt to shoot a 65 to Bryson’s 66. I think this kid is going to be sitting in Butler Cabin on the weekend, no not as The Masters champion, but as the low amateur, and I am going to go out on a limb and say this kid will probably be invited to next year’s Masters as I feel like he will finish in the top-16 this year to get an automatic invite back.
Watching this young man carry himself out there today among grizzled vets like Phil, Keegan, and Dustin he just looked like he belonged - period. He bombs the ball, as he matched Dustin in length on several drives and looked to be loose and enjoying himself.
To some things that wowed me on the golf course today - Bubba Watson on the 3rd hole - Number 3 is the shortest par 4 at Augusta at just 350 yards. A lot of guys hang back with an iron to leave a controllable approach into a diabolical green, but when the pin is back right in the neck, and they always have it there one day in the tournament, guys will hit driver. So in the practice round you see guys hit an iron and then rip a driver just to get a feel for the hole. Well, I was standing behind the tee with a buddy saying that the hole does not set up great for Bubba to hit a driver as he likes to fade the ball and there is a giant tree right in his way. Well, right on cue Bubba hit a 40-yard slice right around a 100-foot tall pine tree right into the middle of the fairway. I know these are just words you are reading, but if anyone has been to The Masters or has had the good fortune to play the course I want you to think about even trying that shot…exactly.
A lot of you guys are looking for a real dark horse this week - I am not saying he is going to win, but if you want a long money play look no further than Kevin Kisner. I watched him play 3 holes today and he was never outside of 4 feet on any. His pitches around the greens also caught my eye. He is worth looking at.
Justin Rose looked to be using a wedge around the 9th green with almost no bounce. The buddy I was with mentioned it and I brushed it off a little, but then I started to watch a little more and it looked like the wedge had no bounce which is very good for Augusta’s very tight lies around the greens, but with that being said he did not look real comfortable hitting it.
Pairings have been released and can be found here:
The ones that caught my eye:
9:26 a.m. - Zach Johnson, Ricky Fowler and Cheng Jin. A past champion and sitting British Open champ Zach Johnson who I like a lot this week - Ricky Fowler who is in everyone’s top 5 this week - also teammates on the Ryder Cup and good buddies - I expect both of these guys to play well in a comfortable pairing
9:37 a.m. - Louis Oosthuizen, Jason Dufner, Patrick Reed - really the only group I see out there where all 3 guys have a legitimate chance to win
9:48 a.m. - Jordan Spieth, Paul Casey, and Bryson Dechambeau - Over the last 2 Masters I think Paul Casey is 4th overall in combined score yet no one is talking about him. Enough superlatives in this blog already covering the other two guys
9:59 a.m. - Justin Thomas, Emiliano Grillo, and Dustin Johnson - I think you have to keep an eye on Dustin, but Justin Thomas is a guy that grew up beating Spieth on a regular basis and always has something to prove, can he become the first winner in his first appearance since Fuzzy in ‘79?
10:43 a.m. - Phil Mickelson, Marc Leishman, Henrik Stenson - I really do not have a hard time imagining this whole group in the top-10 come Sunday with one of these guys being the winner
11:05 a.m. - Adam Scott, Kevin Kisner, Brooks Koepka - I have touched on all 3 of these guys in this blog and I like all their chances
12:22 p.m. - Charl Schwartzel, Davis Love III, Rafael Cabrera-Bello - Charl has been playing good golf, and even though I saw him hit some wayward drives today I think he is rounding into form. We have not talked a lot about how well RCB (I am calling him that now as it is just too long to type) has been playing coming into this tournament. Yes it is his first Masters, but he was playing with former champ Mike Weir today and was picking his brain about everything. I love when first timers do this - I think it is foolish if you don’t. At the end of the day a guy has won The Masters because he knows what he is doing, why not tap into that information when it is at your finger tips in a practice round
12:44 p.m. - Bubba Watson, Branden Grace, Ian Poulter - Weird pairing here as you have Bubba and Ian who are polar opposites and then the quiet South African who was so impressive at Chambers Bay
1:06 p.m. - Jason Day, Matt Kuchar, and Ernie Els - Very relaxed pairing for all 3 of these guys. I would love to see Ernie make a run this year but it is not in the cards. Day is going to be there on Sunday - period, and then Kuchar who really has struggled since the anchor ban has been put into place
1:39 p.m. - Danny Willett, Sergio Garcia, Ryan Moore - This pairing catches my eye. You all know my affinity for Danny Willett’s game and he is in very good form. There was speculation he would not play if his wife went into labor, but congratulations to the Willetts as they had a baby boy 5 days ago. I love this kid again this year. Ryan Moore seems to always pop his face up in a major and has a good track record at Augusta. And then you have Sergio. While riding to the club tonight with my dad to the champions dinner, out of nowhere he said you know who I like this week as a dark horse…Sergio Garcia - I asked him why and he said, “I do not know but that is my pick.” Ummmm OK, that is good enough for me.
2:01 p.m. - Martin Kaymer, Bill Haas, Rory McIlroy - I think these guys got shafted on being last off as they are going to have the business end of the conditions on both days, but worry about things you can control. I like Rory to grind through it and be there at the end and I also like my fellow Wake Forest alum to have a good showing this week.
|Champions Dinner Menu
I briefly mentioned the champions dinner and dad said it was back to the old form this year with the guys telling jokes and having it be really loose and fun. It was also nice to hear that Tiger attended this year even though he is not playing in the tournament. I thought that was a very classy thing to do on his part. In fact, only 2 living past champions were not at dinner - the aforementioned 93-year-old Jackie Burke Jr. and Fred Couples.
Tomorrow is the Par 3 Tournament and yes I will be in the white tuxedo caddying for dad. He tees off at 11:54 which is the first group out and he is playing with JB Holmes who he has a nice relationship with through their time on the 2008 Ryder Cup team at Valhalla where dad was a vice captain. I will be able to take a lot more pictures inside the ropes and on the range tomorrow, but I did get some good ones out there today. I have to be a little bit sneaky with the cell phone camera, but in the white tuxedo tomorrow I will have a little more leeway.
Tomorrow I will give you my picks and give some more updates from the big course and the par 3. I hope everyone is enjoying Masters week as much as I am. Until tomorrow, Good Night from Augusta.