Masters Notes: Donald likes his chances
World No. 1 Luke Donald of England watches his tee shot on the fourth hole during Wednesday's Masters practice round at Augusta. (REUTERS)
What’s the most important skill to play Augusta well? Putting.
Who’s the best putter in the world? Luke Donald.
Last season, on the PGA Tour Donald faced 2,258 putts from inside five feet. He missed 45 of them. That’s roughly one in every 50 attempts.
He has faced the pressure of having a putt in a playoff to win a tournament and claim the No. 1 ranking twice and both times he made the putt.
Does it bother him, then, that all the talk is about Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy?
“I think it’s something as pros we tend to expect,” Donald said. “Everyone wants to make that kind of rivalry and obviously those two guys garner the most attention right now.”
With the Augusta playing long because of the soft conditions there is even more doubt that the short-hitting World No. 1 can get it done this week. A notion that the Englishman dismisses and points to the betting lines to back him up.
“I don’t know where these stories are coming from,” he said. “I’m still a decent number with the bookies, aren’t I? I don’t know if I’ve been written off yet.”
Donald is right, the latest odds have him posted at 16-1, the fourth favourite behind Woods, McIlroy and Mickelson.
NOW, THAT’S CLOSEST TO THE PIN
The Masters Par 3 Contest saw its share of fireworks and then some lightning Wednesday at Augusta National.
Padraig Harrington and Jonathan Byrd shared the victory at 5-under par in the weather-shortened event played on Augusta’s Par 3 course.
What’s the difference between the closest to the pin contests you play at your annual work tournament and the one that the pros played Wednesday?
They can use a ruler instead of a measuring tape to figure out the winner.
Closest to the pin on the fourth and ninth holes were won with hole-in-ones by Mark Wilson and Thomas Bjorn respectively.
There were only three holes where the shot nearest to the hole was outside of one foot.
Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player were on just the third hole when the contest was cancelled because of lightning in the area. That didn’t stop Palmer — looking fine after his recent health scare — from nearly holing tee-shots on both the second and third holes.
The problem for Harrington and Byrd is that nobody who has won the Par 3 Contest has gone on to win the green jacket that year.
GARY PLAYER TALKS CANADA AND SHAQ
Golf legend Gary Player gave a shout out to Canada Wednesday at the Masters.
During a wide-ranging news conference before the Par 3 Contest, Player got on the topic of driving distances. He said the day of 400-yard drives on tour is fast approaching which is when Canada came up in the conversation.
“This young guy from Canada with a Polish name, only weighs 165 pounds or 170, carries it — carries it — 400 yards,” Player said.
Player was referring to long-drive champ Jamie Sadlowski from St. Paul, Alta.
Forget huge drives for the moment, the three-time Masters champ also thinks golfers will become super-sized in the future.
“We have not had the Michael Jordans, the Shaq O’Neals,” he said. “They are coming, because golf is the only sport, or one of the few sports, that has longevity in it.”
Player might be on to something. Million dollar winner’s cheques and no concussions could make golf quite appealing to young big men.
“You’ll have a lot of these people gradually filtering through and 400 yards is going to be common.”