By Marj Gallagher
The weather has already made an impact at the Masters, cutting yesterday’s practice round short and canceling the Par 3 Contest for the first time in the tournament’s history.
And with temps not topping the low 60s — the coldest Masters readings in 10 years here — now comes for the potential for the 81st Masters to be impacted.
“The weather is going to come in and that’s going to magnify the misses for a lot of players, which means you need to miss it in the correct spots,” said Phil Mickelson, a three-time winner of the tournament who is playing it for the 25th time. “Even though you might miss it big, if you’re in the right spot, you can take advantage of your short game and salvage a lot of pars.
“And I hope to rely on that knowledge and skill to keep myself in it heading into the weekend where players less experienced with the golf course will probably miss it in the wrong spots and shoot themselves out of it.”
Mickelson, 46, is certainly taking the proper approach to playing an already difficult golf course that measures 7,435 yards, and that can be a tough test on a mild, sunny day.
The five-time major champion has seen the course in all manner of conditions over the years, which might give him an advantage. For those who have been here mostly in the past week, they have been greeted with mostly sunny (except for Monday) and warm conditions.
Play was suspended twice yesterday because of rain and dangerous weather conditions, and halted for the day at 1:25 p.m. ET, meaning for the first time since the inaugural Par 3 Contest in 1960, the event was not completed.
The forecast calls for low temperatures in the mid-40s, climbing to only 63 degrees Thursday. The wind is expected to blow from 20-30 mph, with gusts up to 40.
“The biggest change is it puts more of a premium on speed putting; I mean, big time,” said Jordan Spieth, who has finished second, first and second in his three appearances at the Masters. “You don’t want to have 5-footers from above the hole when the wind is blowing. They are already as challenging as anywhere here, and they become a less than 50-50 chance from 5 feet with the wind blowing.
“Because of the speed of the greens and the amount of slope there is, the wind affects the ball that much more. There’s so little friction on the greens that the wind can move putts from 5 feet and it significantly does. More than half a cup sometimes. So it’s a big premium on speed putting and leaving the ball before the hole.”
Depending on the amount of rain overnight, the golf course can be significantly impacted.
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Although Augusta National has a Sub-Air System that helps draw moisture out of the fairways and greens, the course would undoubtedly still be wet Thursday, with the greens slower and more forgiving. But it would also play longer due to less roll in the fairways.
The Masters has not seen any weather delays since 2008, and that year winds gusted to 30 mph on Sunday, resulting in a final day that saw only one player shoot in the 60s.Trevor Immelman won the Masters despite shooting a final-round 75.
The year before, temperatures were in the mid-40s to low 50s with winds gusting to 33 mph. Zach Johnsonwon with a total of 289, 1 over par — tied for the highest winning score in Masters history.
“This golf course … it keeps everybody off balance,” said six-time Masters champion Jack Nicklaus, 77, who is an Augusta member and lamented shooting 79 last week despite hitting 14 greens in regulation. “I don’t care how much you play it or how well you play it; as the conditions change, and it blows from so many different directions, I don’t care how good you are, how much you play, the greens are the most severe greens in the game of golf and I would say the most difficult to putt.”