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2022 US Masters preview: The course, the Tiger, the Aussies and the magic

(Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Expert
6th April, 2022
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In the wee hours of Friday morning (AEST), the 86th US Masters will tee off at the most magnificent and magical place in world sport.

Augusta National Golf Course will once again play host to the best golfers in the world, whilst at the same time provide a stunning visual backdrop to the most iconic sporting event outside of the FIFA World Cup and Summer Olympic Games.

Scottish designer Alister MacKenzie laid out the course in the early 1930s, with the inaugural Masters tournament held in 1934; won by American Horton Smith with a score of four under par.

At the time, the venue was more a place for Bobby Jones to enjoy time away golfing and fraternising with influential businessmen and the movers and shakers within the American political scene, yet the event was set to become so much more.

The tournament’s organisers insisted on making the Masters something more magical and beyond any regular PGA tour experience. In essence, the Masters set about being different; an event without advertising hoardings, offensive commercialism or a subservience to the entities bound to accrue much financial benefit from any involvement with the tournament.

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Instead, the Masters Committee chose to run the event how they saw fit and cared little for anyone critical of them doing so.

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Frankly, they were happy for those critics not to attend and after less than 20 years, the PGA Tour realised that the potential jewel in their crown was not to be questioned when it came to golf’s now most esteemed major.

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To this very day, the concession stands at Augusta National offer food and beverages at prices akin to decades past, an absence of overt corporate sponsorship remains obvious and the broadcasting of the event is still beholden to the whim of the Augusta National Committee and the way in which they want their golf course and the event to be perceived by a global audience.

Augusta National has a racist, sexist and discriminatory past, yet has done far better at moving with a changing and more accountable world over the last 40 years than many. Some may seethe at the reality of that history, yet with inclusive membership, employment and participation policies now in place across the numerous events held on the property, the world can now focus its attention on Augusta each April without fear of hypocrisy or offence.

The history of Amen Corner, the spirits of Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Gene Sarazen, Seve Ballesteros and Arnold Palmer, along with the presence of Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Tom Watson and Nick Faldo will once again all combine to make Masters week the most special of golf occasions.

Reigning champion Hideki Matsuyama enters the event at long odds, injury-riddled and after hosting the traditional champions dinner with a menu kissed with an enticing Japanese touch.

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The course has had some modest lengthening take place since the 2021 edition, with 15 yards added to the already demanding 11th hole and 20 paces tacked on to the treacherous 15th, where the decision to launch a second shot over the pond in front of the green will potentially be even more vexatious than in previous years.

Augusta National will play longer than ever and with cool conditions predicted, is likely to test inaccuracy and a lack of distance even more severely.

Nicklaus, Watson and Player will stroll onto the first tee as the 2022 honorary starters on Thursday morning Georgia time and ceremonially launch an event that will accommodate pre-pandemic attendance numbers, yet it will be the pending fairy tale return of Tiger Woods that will grab the majority of the headlines on day one.

Tiger Woods

(Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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After more than a year out of the game recovering from the serious injuries sustained in his February 2021 car crash, golf’s greatest-ever player is on the Augusta grounds and apparently determined to play. Should he win, no greater sporting story will ever be written. More likely, he won’t and a made cut would in fact be a sterling effort from the five-time champion.

Phil Mickelson will be absent after 27 consecutive appearances and his recent embarrassing support for a break-away world tour that now appears dead in the water, whilst Spaniard Jon Rahm will enter the tournament as favourite despite some concerning chipping and putting statistics leading into the event.

Justin Thomas has a mostly poor record in majors yet will be hoping this is his break-out moment, newly-crowned world No.1 Scottie Scheffler is the hottest man in golf right now and Jordan Spieth has the best recent Masters record of anyone in the field this week, with a second green jacket far from unlikely.

Six Australians will grace the sacred fairways, with Players Champion Cameron Smith and his freakish abilities on the greens certain to make him our best hope. Marc Leishman and Adam Scott sit at around 60 to 1 with bookies and Cam Davis, Lee Min Woo and Lucas Herbet will also be outside chances; potentially needing a few more trips to Augusta before understanding the layout fully and being labelled as likely contenders.

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Anyone looking for some value could do worse that Norwegian Victor Hovland, a player destined to be at the forefront of the game for many years to come and Collin Morikawa, a man with two majors already accrued and Augusta seemingly suited to his game.

Whilst a small wager might add a little fun to a Masters Tournament, it is the poetry of the week that transcends sport, golf and athletic competition, with the course’s beauty and the overall metaphor presented combining to create the most compelling of sporting events that even the most mildly interested take notice of come Round 4.

This version of the Masters stands to be no exception to the rule and The Roar will bring daily updates on all the action and the performances of the six Australians, as the cream of the golfing world compete for the 2022 green jacket.

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