Masters 19th hole: Of champions and history

  • Ray Cox
  • The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
8:02 p.m Monday, April 3, 2017 Golf
ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton
April 3, 2017, Augusta: GBI officers join security guards along the first fairway to help clear patrons from the golf course during a tornado watch suspending practice for the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on Monday, April 3, 2017, in Augusta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

The question was posed to 2016 PGA champion Jimmy Walker.

Q: From your perspective, if you took the top four guys — Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and throw Henrik Stenson in there just from a power standpoint — what’s the difference between them? Which is the last guy you would want to see on the first tee Sunday in the afternoon?

A: I mean, as of right now, Dustin is playing so well and he’s making it look pretty easy. Then you’ve got Rory, who has won more majors than all those guys put together. So he would have, I think, more experience to get it done. You know, this is one (championship) that I think that he’s missing, so he’s probably got a lot more going on with this one than any of the other ones probably.

So they are all really good. And you guys have seen it happen here; it’s a tough golf course to kind of finish it up on, I think. There’s so much that can happen. There’s so much that can happen on the back nine. Just depends on how everyone is playing and are the eagles being made. It’s really fun to watch. That would probably be my answer; not to say anything about Jason or Henrik. Like I said, I think they are all good. They all have a shot.

As is always the case with the Masters, there’s memorable history attached to the anniversary years and this is the 20th anniversary of Tiger Woods’ first major and first green jacket.

So from 2017, a look back at years ending in 7:

1937 — Byron Nelson’s first win with a first-round 66 he later called his best round as a pro.

1947 — Jimmy Demaret’s second win, becoming the first winner to shoot sub-par in all four rounds.

1957 — Doug Ford’s comeback victory with a hole-out from a plugged bunker lie on the final hole.

1967 — Gay Brewer’s win a year after giving up lead and losing to Jack Nicklaus in a playoff.

1977 — Tom Watson’s first win, a two-shots victory with a birdie on No. 17 while Nicklaus bogeyed 18.

1987 — Larry Mize’s stunning 140-foot playoff chip-in on No. 11 for a playoff victory over Greg Norman.

1997 — Tiger Woods’ runaway first win, 12 shots clear of runner-up Tom Kite.

2007 — Zach Johnson’s victory in a rare over-par performance with Woods in a three-way tie for second.

“Gives me chills [to be in the Masters]. I’ve been trying not to think about it today, but obviously it went through my head a lot. But I feel like I belong out here. I feel like I’ve played well at every level. College and on the Web.com Tour, I played well. Out here, I’ve won a couple of times, so I am starting to believe that I belong. It feels good to just compete and I felt really excited the whole week to play.” — Former University of Georgia golfer Russell Henley after winning his third PGA Tour event on Sunday at the Shell Houston Open, qualifying him to play in Augusta.

There are three and then all the rest.

Dustin Johnson, who already has won three times in his past three PGA Tour appearances, is at 5-1 favorite this week, according to OddsShark.com. Johnson is tentatively set to follow Woods for Tuesday’s news conferences. Jordan Spieth, a winner here two years ago and one year removed from a meltdown that cost him back-to-back titles, is 7-1. Rory McIlroy, who needs only a green jacket for a career grand slam, is 15-2.

Other notable past winners include 46-year-old Phil Mickelson (25-1), Adam Scott (28-1) and a newly slimmed down Bubba Watson (40-1). Last year’s champ Danny Willett is 100-1.

A respite from the rain for a day. Mostly sunny. High of 87. Winds WSW at 10 to 15 mph. Humidity low around 50 percent. Wednesday’s forecast again calls for 100 percent chance of rain. For the four competition days, the forecast is good with little chance of rain but cooler.

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