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Culp's Corner

2019 Masters Tournament Preview

by Josh Culp
Updated On: April 8, 2019, 11:15 am ET

I ran into a case of the Man Flu on Sunday evening but the perfect cure may be just around the corner. That cure is the 83rd running of the Masters Tournament. 

I figure if Jason Day can gut it out, then I can too. 

Matt Cooper has already provided a great rundown of the Euro talent in the field. Check out his Euro-Based Preview. Now for the rest of the field, which sits at just 87 golfers after Corey Conners played his way in through the Valero Texas Open.

The limited field of 87 golfers will get cut down to Top 50 and ties after round two. The "Within 10 Shots of the Leader" rule is also in play this week. That means if the leader sits at 6-under through 36 holes then anyone at +4 or better would make the cut, even if they sat outside the top 50. 

 

The Course

Augusta National Golf Club is an Alister MacKenzie design that opened in 1933. It's been hosting the Masters since 1934. It was originally played around 6,700 yards but it now sits at 7,475 yards. 

For astute readers, you may notice that's 40 yards longer than last year's edition. They've added a new tee box at the par-4 fifth hole where it now plays as a 495-yard par 4 (uphill). A pair of bunkers line the left side of the fairway which will now require a 315-yard carry to get over. 

The par-4 fifth should play tougher this year but the beautiful thing about Augusta National is that it's not a diabolical test for all 18 holes. Just 14 of them. The par 5s provide plenty of highlights and the event actually ranks inside the top 20 of all tournaments when it comes to the percentage of eagles recorded per 72 holes. 

Other than the par 5s, I say good luck. Despite those easy par 5s, the tournament ranks 2nd toughest since 2014 in terms of Bogeys or Worse recorded (around 23 percent). It's second to only the U.S. Open. If you don't capitalize on the par 5s, you are going to have a tough time. 

What kind of skillset is required at ANGC? It varies from year to year thanks to weather and course setup but the overarching theme is generally distance and aggressive play. From a stat perspective, it does test the whole bag. You need an all-around game to don the green jacket. 

Course history will be a primary talking point this week. Should it be? Absolutely because we've seen experience matter here. However, last year's winner, Patrick Reed, had lost strokes to the field in 6-of-12 rounds before winning last year. Garcia had lost 17.5 strokes over the weekend in his previous seven starts before winning. Willett and Spieth both had just one previous start at Augusta. Good course history should receive a nice bump this week but don't let it overtake your entire process. 

For grasses, we have bermuda that is overseeded with ryegrass on the fairways and rough (second cut). Then when players reach the greens they will have bentgrass putting surfaces that are lightning fast. 

 

Course Quotes

Sifting through some past quotes over at the Fantasy Golfanac, let's try to break down the course to see how it will play.

Bubba Watson: "You go to Augusta, everybody hits a lot of drivers. I like Augusta because it’s Augusta. You can hit drivers and it’s a bigger golf course. At the same time there’s not a lot of rough. There’s thick trees but not a lot of branches. So with Phil’s imagination or Tiger’s imagination, Jack’s imagination, the greats of the game can all use their imagination to figure out how to get around this pine tree and onto the green."

Matt Kuchar: "These greens, as fast as they are, and some of the pin placements, every three footer is a real challenge. It can get away from you and you could end up with ten feet coming back."

Justin Rose: "It’s a second-shot golf course, and he’s a good iron player. He’s very sharp with that. He’s got a great golfing brain. This is a very strategic golf course and you have to make good, smart decisions out there. It tempts you at times. It can dangle the carrot. You need to be on top of your thinking and he’s very good at that and his putting speaks for itself."

Jon Rahm"That’s one of the things Phil [Mickelson] was trying to tell me last year. It’s like you don’t need to play perfect to win at Augusta National just because there’s so many ways to do it, there’s not only one way. You just need to find the way that’s maybe best for you at the moment."

Tony Finau: "chipping and putting is extremely important here because you’re not always going to be on the right levels where they put these pins, so you’re going to have to have touch and hole some of those par putts that are just crucial in a round."

Overview: Bubba talks about how you can hit loads of drivers around ANGC. Finau and Kuchar talk about the difficulties on and around the greens. Rahm and Rose talk about the mental aspect which is oh-so important at Augusta National. 

 

Correlated Courses

Looking at grass types, geography, course attributes, and past performance, here are a few courses/events that I think could prove to be a good pointer this week: 

Firestone CC
TPC Boston
Riviera CC
Sheshan International
East Lake
TPC River Highlands
Colonial CC

It's a mixed bag here with some of them finding the list because of the difficulty. Some likely show up due to location. Others share similar design principles, perhaps. 

Whatever the case, these are the seven courses that showed the best link in terms of golfers that overperform and/or underperform at Augusta National. 

 

The Weather

Thursday: Sunny with a high near 82 degrees. SE Winds at 9-to-14 MPH. 

Friday: Cloudy with a high of 84 degrees. SSW Winds at 9-to-13 MPH. Potential for gusts up to 20 MPH. 

Weekend: Temps remain in the low-80s over the weekend. Moving Day looks dead calm on a wind front but Sunday brings potential storms and a chance of gusty winds. That is still pretty far out to be relying on, so keep an eye out over the next few days.  

The course is getting some pre-tourney rains tonight and Tuesday but don't expect that softness to last. Every year it seems the golfers talk about the course being softer than expected in practice rounds then the Green Jackets work their magic on Wednesday night and the course gets firm and fast on Thursday. 

 

Josh Culp

Josh Culp joined NBC Sports Edge in 2014. The DFS enthusiast from Iowa State can be found on Twitter @futureoffantasy.