Rain, Tiger and 200-mph ball speed: What to expect during the 2023 Masters

Rain, Tiger and 200-mph ball speed: What to expect during the 2023 Masters

AUGUSTA, Ga. — THE WEATHER DOESN’T look good for the 87th Masters.

There hasn’t been a Monday finish at the Masters since 1983 when Seve Ballesteros won his second green jacket. Forty years later, the weather forecast for Augusta this weekend isn’t great.

Thursday’s opening round shouldn’t be a problem with high temperatures in the mid-80s and a 30% chance of thunderstorms in the late afternoon. Then things get dicey. There’s a 50% chance of morning showers and 70% in the afternoon Friday with the possibility of a few thundershowers developing.

Saturday’s forecast calls for a 90% chance of rain, with totals varying from three-quarters of an inch to 1 ½ inches. Temperatures are expected to plummet once a cold front moves through and won’t get out of the low 50s, which will feel even colder with 12 to 18 mph winds and gusts up to 25 mph. The rain is expected to linger into Sunday morning before partly cloudy skies finally clear in the afternoon.

It would be the fifth straight Masters in which rain fell during the tournament.

“You can’t worry too much about that,” Tony Finau said. “I think you just try and be prepared for any conditions. … If we knew it was going to be sunny all week, then we know the golf course is going to firm out. We know we’re going to have some rain, so it’s probably going to be pretty soft.”

Ireland’s Shane Lowry, who won The Open in 2019 in awful conditions at Royal Portrush, is one of the better bad-weather players. He tied for third at the 2022 Masters. Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Thomas and Max Homa also have excelled in difficult conditions. Rory McIlroy likes a soft golf course, and his length off the tee could be a big advantage if balls aren’t rolling as far on fairways.

Jordan Spieth, the 2015 Masters champion, was hoping for a fast and firm golf course, which probably isn’t going to happen.

“I’ve played better when it is that way,” Spieth said. “It doesn’t look like it’s going to be that way. But, you know, if it forces a lot more kind of wedges into the par 5s and some angles because of the cooler temperatures and the moisture in the ground, I can certainly look at that as advantageous to me, too. I’ll just spin it positively however I can.”

Don’t forget that the final round will (hopefully) be played on Easter Sunday. Two years ago, Spieth won the Texas Open on Easter Sunday. In 2022, he won the RBC Heritage on the same day.

What can we expect from Tiger this week?

The five-time Masters champion was asked earlier this week if he’d seen the weather forecast for the weekend.

“Oh, yeah, I’ve seen it,” Woods said.

At last year’s Masters, Woods made his return to competitive golf for the first time in 508 days since he was injured in a serious car wreck in February 2021. Given the long time off, Woods played pretty well in the first two rounds and made the cut for the 22nd consecutive time. As Tiger said earlier this week, “And then it got cold.”

His surgically repaired right leg, foot, ankle and back struggled to hold up on the weekend. Along with having to make one of the most grueling walks in all of golf, Woods’ body didn’t hold up well in cool and windy conditions. He shot 6-over 78 in each of the last two rounds, his worst scores at Augusta National, and finished 47th.

If there’s a weather delay or play gets pushed back a day this week, it might be even more difficult for the 15-time major champion.

“I can’t imagine [Woods] trying to go 27-plus holes [in one day] around here,” Woods’ caddie, Joe LaCava, told the New York Post.

“He’s pretty banged up,” LaCava said. “If it wasn’t Augusta he probably wouldn’t be playing. … He still has the power, the swing speed, the shots and the length to contend. The injury is devastating, but if he could take a cart, he could contend tomorrow.”

Woods, 47, tees off at 10:18 a.m. ET Thursday and 1:24 p.m. ET Friday. He’ll play the first two rounds with Xander Schauffele and Viktor Hovland, whom he’s never played a round with on the PGA Tour.

Sargent goes for Silver Cup

It’s already been an interesting Masters week for Vanderbilt sophomore Gordon Sargent, who was mistaken for being one of the participants of the Drive, Chip and Putt competition by security guards when he went to have breakfast Sunday morning. Sargent, 19, looks young for his age, but not quite as innocent as the 7- to 15-year-olds who were competing in the national finals.

Sargent is playing in the Masters on a special exemption. Last year, he became the first freshman since 2007 to win an NCAA Division I individual championship. According to reports, he routinely gets his ball speed past 200-mph.

Sargent, who is the No. 2-ranked amateur in the world, played a practice round with Justin Thomas and Max Homa on Monday and McIlroy on Tuesday.

“Phenomenal golfer. Really nice kid,” Homa said. “Hits it 95 miles. He was so far by us it’s crazy. Doesn’t look like he’s going at it that hard. I’ve heard so many good things about his game. It was probably even more impressive to see him in person.”

Sargent said he hit his tee shot about 25 yards past Thomas on No. 11. He hit an 8-iron on his second shot into the 495-yard fifth hole and a 9-iron on his second shot into the 520-yard 11th.

The last go-around for two past Masters champions

This week’s tournament will be the last competitive start for Larry Mize and Scotland’s Sandy Lyle, who won green jackets in consecutive years in 1987 and 1988.

Mize, who was born in Augusta and worked a scoreboard at the Masters as a teenager, had one of the most memorable shots in tournament history. He chipped in from off the green on the 11th hole to defeat Greg Norman in a playoff in 1987. Mize, 64, will be making his 40th Masters start.

Lyle, 65, became the first Masters champion from Great Britain when he made birdie from a fairway bunker on the 18th hole to defeat Mark Calcavecchia by 1 stroke in 1988.

“It’s not a hard decision,” Lyle said. “I’m not going to get that emotional about it. It will be probably the last hole or so thinking, ‘Thank God I don’t have to go out here.’ This is a beast of a golf course, and the young ones hit it so much further than me.

“I suppose [Jack] Nicklaus said the same thing in ’86 when he was 46, and I was lucky enough to be playing with him, and he was basically classed as almost too old or over the hill, and he proved to everybody else he wasn’t over the hill. I’m not expecting to do the same thing, but it’s just age catches you up.”

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