The storms that ripped through Augusta National Golf Club on Tuesday night most likely won't have any significant impact on Thursday's opening round. Masters chariman Billy Payne confirmed during his annual Masters week press conference on Wednesday that despite having to deal with several downed trees and washed out bunkers, the course will be ready.
What remains to be seen, however, is how the course reacts to the 1.4 inches of rain that fell overnight, soaking every inch of the grounds. Augusta National has a SubAir system that should dry things up a bit in the next 24 hours, but Payne admitted that the course was still "extremely wet."
And with rain in the forecast for Thursday and Friday (there's a 60 and 70 percent chance chance of shower for the first two rounds), there appears to be no end in sight. Augusta National is going to play soft, and that could play right into the hands of the longer hitters in the field.
As Phil Mickelson noted during his Tuesday weather forecast press conference that the soft conditions could turn this year's tournament into a "birdie-fest."
"As soft as the golf course is, you can fire at a lot of the pins. The greens are soft. I don't want to say they are slow, but it's just not the same Augusta. It's wet around the greens, and there's no fear of the course. You've got to attack it this week," Mickelson said. "Unless something changes, and I know they have SubAir and hopefully they will be able to use it, but unless they change it, it's going to be a birdie-fest."
What he failed to mention is the birdie-fest could be an invitational-only party for long hitters. Augusta National plays 7,435 yards this week, with every par 5 playing at least 510 yards; there are also a couple of par 4's that play stretch out to, or within a couple yards of the 500-yard mark.
You can debate all you want about how technology has changed the game, even for the shorter hitters, but there's no question the bombers in the field will be at a distinct advantage this week -- even if tournament officials decide to play everything down for the entire week and bring mud balls into the picture.
The soft conditions could also take some of the speed off Augusta's notoriously tricky greens, and while that's not an advantage to one group or the other, if longer hitters are able to reach the par 5's in two and have shorter irons into the holes, chances are they're going to have an abundance of makable birdie opportunities.
A lot could change between now and the weekend if the rain holds off on Thursday and Friday, but for the moment, it looks like we'll be seeing some incredibly low scores this week at the Masters -- especially if you happen to be a long hitter with some semblance of a short game.
- Augusta National Golf Club