AUGUSTA, Ga. — Two-time U.S. Open winner Andy North is in his 21st year as a golf analyst for ESPN. He and the rest of the ESPN golf team will be at Augusta National Golf Club this week for the Masters and Front Row asked North for the top 5 things to watch for:
If you look over the last dozen or so years, they’ve only played the Masters a couple of times when it’s been dry and fast and it really, really changes how the golf course plays. It plays much shorter when it’s dry, but it becomes so much more difficult in a lot of ways because keeping your ball where you want it on those greens becomes very difficult. And when the wind blows at Augusta National, it swirls in those pine trees. It makes approach shots to the greens very, very treacherous.
Greens in Regulation for the Top Players
If you go back and look at Tiger Woods, for example, the years he’s won there he’s been No. 1 in greens hit in regulation. It’s a golf course that if you’re hitting the ball exceptionally well, you can put it in the right places on the greens, and by doing so, then you’ve got putts you can make. If you’re not hitting it very well, and you’re just kind of scraping it around and putting it in the wrong places, you’re in for a very, very long week.
Putting is a huge part of that golf course. So I think it comes down to three putts. Again, I’m going to use Tiger as an example. Over the last five or six years, where he hasn’t won, he’s had four, five or six three-putts each one of those tournaments. It’s a golf course you can’t give shots away on because it’s so hard to get it back, particularly since they’ve made it longer. So eliminating three putts is exceptionally important.
If you look at the history of the Masters, the guys who play the Par 5s well usually do well. For the Tigers and the [Phil] Mickelsons and the Dustin Johnsons of the world, you can knock it on in two. But as we saw a few years ago when Zach Johnson won, he laid up on every single one of them. He’s a wonderful wedge player and was able to pull that off. So how you play the Par 5s is very, very critical. I’m not going to say the winner plays the Par 5s best, but the winner usually plays the Par 5s exceptionally well and in a lot of cases they’ve been the lowest under par on the Par 5s.
We’re looking at a very, very interesting Masters. You’ve got Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy, Phil and Tiger all coming in off of wins. On paper, we have what looks like it could be as competitive and exciting a Masters as we’ve had maybe going back to that stretch of two or three years when Vijay [Singh], Phil, [Retief] Goosen, Ernie [Els] and Tiger were like 1-2-3-4-5 in the world and they were all playing the best of everybody. So I think looking at those four players, we have a really exciting Masters ahead of us.