Bunker Mentality

Best ever Masters on the cards?

Bunker Mentality

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1. Tiger is back!

Making his reappearance at The Masters was a masterstroke: not only does he have a special relationship with the place since winning his first Major there in 1997, not only is the course better suited to his game than a fish is suited to swimming, but there's the special circumstances of the crowd. The spectators - or patrons, as the club call them - are on a long-since closed subscription list of people who get tickets every year. Nobody in their right mind would dare risk losing their regular allocation by heckling the great man, making Augusta the ideal location for an easy return.

2. Ernie back on song

A single victory can seem like a flash in the pan; two in a row screams "I'M BACK!" from the rooftops with a 1,000-watt megaphone - and that's what the big South African has managed. Nobody apart from Greg Norman has ever played so well at Augusta without winning at least once: the Big Easy had five consecutive years in the top six from 2000 to 2004, with two runners-up spots. Though he's not made the cut since 2006, he knows his way around the course as well as anybody - and we've got everything crossed that this wonderful asset to the game finally gets the Green Jacket he deserves.

3. Euro-madness!

In alphabetical order there are two Danes, eight Englishmen, two Germans, an Irishman, three Italians, two Northern Irishmen, one Scot, three Spaniards, two Swedes and one Welshman. That's 25 Europeans in the field of 94 - the most ever - boosting hopes of a first winner from this side of the Atlantic since Jose Maria Olazabal in 1999. It's not just Europeans, either: dozens of Japanese, Australian, Korean, South African and even South American players will be in the field as well. Not so long ago the odd overseas player was a novelty; now, with just 46 Americans playing, they're comfortably in the majority.

4. Guaranteed birdies

For a few years, The Masters forgot that its role in golf is to be the most exciting, mouth-watering and exciting tournament of the year. Instead, the grizzled old men of the Augusta National Golf Club decided that they would instead set the course up as a US Open-style battle of attrition to determine the player with the greatest reserves of patience. They ended up getting stung by accusations that the tournament had lost its sheen - particularly following the year that Zach Johnson posted the first over-par winning total since 1956. But last year they eased up, allowed the birdie streaks to come to the fore, and the Masters was fun once more.

5. Alliss's Augusta swansong?

British golf fans have enjoyed a quarter of a century of advert-free BBC TV coverage of the Masters, with former Ryder Cup player Peter Alliss leading the commentary in his utterly bonkers but totally unique style. You might despise him, you might love him, but either way you can't deny that he's part of the furniture. But with news that as of next year Augusta may go for a higher bid from commercial TV, this may be the last time we get to enjoy him tutting at people chipping balls into the drink under the unique pressure of The Masters.


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