AUGUSTA, Ga. – So, you want to win the Masters? That’s easy. All you have to do is follow these few simple instructions.
It all starts with the tee shot.
You’ve got to hit it long here. Like, Superman long. Ever since this track was beefed up, big bombers hold a major advantage over their pea-shooting peers. Grip it and rip it, tee it high and let it fly.
That’s the key to winning this tournament.
Well … actually, there’s one more thing.
I mean, you can’t hit it long and crooked. That’s no good. No, there’s a premium on accuracy here, so long and straight obviously works much better.
And there you go. Drive it long and straight for four rounds, then proceed directly to Butler Cabin to pick up your green jacket.
Oh, sorry. Just one more thing.
With a few holes bending right-to-left, it really helps to hit a draw on this course.
So that’s long, accurate and with a right-to-left ball flight. Got it? Good.
Then again, there are some holes on which a cut works just as well – if not better.
So make that long and accurate, with draws and fades. Easy as that.
Really, though, it’s a second-shot golf course. Precise approach shots are of the utmost importance to finding success, because you need to put yourself in the proper position to have a makeable birdie attempt.
“I think it's a lot about second shots here,” said Jason Day, who finished in a share of second place last year. “If you placed them right, [you can] walk off at the end of the week saying the greens were slow, if you can leave yourself under the hole. If you short side yourself and leave yourself downhill putts or downhill chips, you're going to struggle.”
Makes sense, right?
OK, great. To review: Hit it long and straight off the tee, be able to work it both ways and make sure you have perfect iron play. No problemo.
Of course, not every iron shot will be perfect. The important thing is that when you miss, you need to miss in the right places, rather than leave yourself in a precarious position.
Ben Hogan once famously said of the 11th hole, 'If you ever see me on this green in two, you'll know I missed my second.' Similar theories apply today.
“You need to know where you can miss shots around here,” explained Webb Simpson, who is making his Masters debut, but first played the course as a 12-year-old. “It's so hard to be precise on every hole and there are just certain places – front left pin on 1, if you hit it left – you're going to make five or six. There are certain holes where you cannot get it up-and-down and you just have to know where you can chip the ball close and hopefully get up-and-down for pars.”
Well, duh. That’s pretty sensible stuff.
So again, the key to winning is long, straight, draws, fades, perfect iron play and miss ‘em in the right spots. That’s everything, right?
On those rare occasions when you do miss the green – in the right places, of course – decisive chipping is of the utmost priority. After all, you can’t get up and down without getting the “up” part sorted out.
Let’s amend: That’s now long, straight, draw, fade, don’t miss, miss right and chip like a champ.
And there you go. Your tricks to winning the Masters. Just follow each step and … what’s that?
Ohhh, right. Your ball still isn’t in the hole.
OK, one more ingredient for the recipe, but without it, this would be like a bundt cake without the bundt. That, of course, is putting – and according to some competitors, it’s the most imperative aspect of them all.
“The margin of error is so incredibly small here, because of the speed of the greens,” said Rory Sabbatini, who finished in a share of second place five years ago. “A power lip-out can create a three-putt when you really didn’t hit a poor putt in the first place.”
Finally – yes, finally – we have completed our secret to success at Augusta National. Add it up and you’ll find that all it takes to win here is bombing the ball off the tee, finding plenty of fairways, working the ball left, working it right, hitting precise iron shots, missing in the right spots, controlled chipping and flawless putting.
If that sounds like an untenable proposition, there’s good reason: It is.
Only on the rarest occasions in the tournament’s history has a Masters champion perfected each of these attributes during competitive play.
It’s an important message to recall in the days leading up to this week’s edition of the event. Anytime a name is dismissed because the player doesn’t hit it long enough or doesn’t work the ball right to left or isn’t proficient enough from around the greens, remember that nobody does everything perfectly.
And therein lies the one secret ingredient to winning the Masters – and it’s the only one that matters. The simple truth is, there is no secret ingredient.