The 83rd edition of the Masters will officially get underway in less than 48 hours when Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player tee off on Augusta National’s first hole at exactly 8:15 am.
To begin the hype of a “tradition unlike any other,” here are five fantastic feature stories leading into the 2019 Masters Tournament.
1. CONFIDENT WOODS EYES A FIFTH GREEN JACKET
By Jim McCabe, Masters.com
He could stretch the memory bank back years – to 2005, 2002, 2001, 1997 – to fill himself with confidence in preparation for the 2019 Masters.
But Tiger Woods chooses instead to drift back a mere seven months and 145 miles up the road from Augusta National Golf Club to fuel his tank with enthusiasm.
“I think that winning at East Lake confirmed to me that I could still win again,” Woods said.
That victory last September in the PGA Tour’s season-ending Tour Championship had historical significance – Woods joined Sam Snead as the only players to reach 80 PGA Tour victories. Oh, and it put some Bobby Jones flavor into his Masters pursuit this year – East Lake being Jones’ home club and Augusta National being his vision of excellence realized.
2. THIS IS NO ORDINARY WEEK FOR DUSTIN JOHNSON
By John Feinstein, Golf.com
If Dustin Johnson showed up for his pre-Masters press conference on Tuesday afternoon and announced he’d had enough of the golf grind and was retiring at age 34, he could walk off into the Augusta sunset knowing his next metaphorical stop would be the World Golf Hall of Fame.
He’s won 20 times on the PGA Tour, one of those victories coming at the 2016 U.S. Open. He’s played on four U.S. Ryder Cup teams and come achingly close to winning a couple more majors. Enough said.
Assuming though that he doesn’t call it quits and tees it up Thursday at Augusta National for his ninth Masters appearance, the case can be made that the 34-year-old from Myrtle Beach, S.C., is under as much pressure as any of the 87 players in the field this week, save perhaps for Rory McIlroy who will be taking his fifth shot at completing the career Grand Slam.
3. WHEN WAR INTERRUPTED THE MASTERS
By Bill Fields, Masters.com
As thrilling as the 1942 Masters Tournament was – Byron Nelson defeated Ben Hogan by one stroke in an 18-hole playoff – the excitement was tempered by the harsh reality of World War II and the realization that golf was a trivial matter in the larger scheme of things.
Augusta National co-Founders Clifford Roberts and Bobby Jones knew that as the American war effort cranked up, the Club and the Tournament would be shutting down. As David Owen detailed in his 1999 book “The Making of the Masters,” Roberts wrote, “the Lord only knows when we will operate again as a golf club.”
Augusta National closed in the fall of ’42. Jones had the idea of raising cattle on the golf course to keep the grass maintained and later to be sold for beef. Roberts suggested also raising turkeys –more than a thousand were purchased – and the Club’s wartime path was charted.
4. WHY THE MASTERS IS JORDAN SPIETH’S BEST CHANCE TO FLIP THE SCRIPT
By Anthony Gulizia, ESPN.com
Augusta National is a pristine palace, as beautiful as it is challenging, and polarizing enough to make champions or pariahs of the game’s greatest golfers.
For Jordan Spieth, it’s a venue that has served as the backdrop for his richest successes and most haunting collapses. Now, it can be the place where Spieth rebuilds the foundation of his game and snaps out of the worst stretch of his career.
5. RORY McILROY COVETS ELUSIVE GREEN JACKET, GRAND SLAM
By Eamon Lynch, Golfweek.com
Rory McIlroy knew he had a problem even before he walked onto the first tee for the final round of the 2018 Masters. He was playing in the last pairing alongside Patrick Reed. The pugnacious American had a three-stroke advantage, but McIlroy was painfully aware of what sleeping on the lead at Augusta National can do to a man who hasn’t yet won a major championship.
In 2011, a 21-year-old McIlroy took a four-shot cushion into Sunday but tumbled to an ugly 80. He won the very next major by eight shots, and by the time the Northern Irishman faced the media on the eve of his showdown with Reed he was only a green jacket shy of the career grand slam, something only five golfers in history have accomplished.