The 2014 version of the Masters will feature two former Wake Forest golfers in Bill Haas (’04) and Webb Simpson (’08). Each will be looking to become the second golfer from Wake to win one of golf’s most prestigious titles, as Arnold Palmer won four of them over the course of his illustrious career. Fellow Wake grad Len Mattiace came in second in 2003, losing in a playoff to Mike Weir.
Despite a rough winter, Augusta National is widely expected to be in immaculate shape as it seemingly is with each new edition. Ice storms throughout the past few months crippled the course, and one of the course’s most famous landmarks, the Eisenhower Tree which sat perched on the 17th hole, actually fell down. In true Masters’ form though, the Tree has been replaced and a guard stood watch during Wednesday’s Par 3 tournament ensuring that it remained safe until the tournament begins on Thursday.
For Haas, a Masters title would be the first of his stellar career and likely his biggest win. Winner of the 2011 Tour Championship in dramatic fashion on the third sudden-death playoff hole, Haas simultaneously claimed the 2011 Fed-Ex Cup awarded to the season champion. This will be Haas’ fifth Masters, all over the previous five years. Billy is one of only four players on the PGA Tour to have a win in each of the previous four seasons but is still seeking his first major victory.
Simpson, the 2012 U.S. Open Champion, enters his third Masters with a best finish of T-44 in his previous two visits to Augusta. Simpson holds four victories on the PGA Tour in his six year career, most notably the aforementioned 2012 victory at Torrey Pines to earn the title of U.S. Open Champion. While Haas has never missed the cut at Augusta, Simpson failed to make it to the weekend last year following rounds of 73 and 76 over the first two days.
Augusta has generally been known for producing winners who were able to keep the ball long and straight while navigating the hilly course. Long-hitters like Haas have the ability to reach most of the par fives in two shots, but perhaps the greatest challenge that the Masters’ provides is the nature of the greens. The pristine condition with which the greens are kept presents speedy, difficult-to-read greens on nearly every single hole which reward experienced players who have competed in numerous Masters while punishing unsuspecting newcomers.
If I were a gambling man I would not put it past either Haas or Simpson to be slipping on the green jacket on Sunday in the twilight, but golf is a difficult sport to predict and an even harder sport to pick a single favorite to take home the crown. Webb tees off at 9:24 Thursday morning, while Haas gets his tournament started at 10:08.
|4||Flowering Crab Apple||3||240|
Awesome site that has a GIF flyover over all 18 holes.
Both Haas and Simpson have the style of game to win at Augusta, an extreme compliment to the both of them. Simpson’s methodical style and deft putting (currently ranked 25th in 2014 in putts per hole) will almost certainly always provide an opportunity for Simpson to snag a Masters over the next two decades. Similarly, Haas’ consistency (16th in the 2014 in greens hit in regulation) coupled with his ability to get up and down from nearly anywhere on the golf course gives insight to why Haas has stuck around for the weekend in each of his trips to Augusta.
|Player||Driving Distance||Driving Accuracy||Greens in Regulation||Scrambling||Strokes Gained Putting|
|Bill Haas||288.8 (82nd)||60% (91st)||70% (16th)||61% (40th)||.165 (66th)|
|Webb Simpson||290.1 (71st)||63% (50th)||69% (27th)||62% (25th)||.728 (8th)|
|Bill Haas||1||2||3||4||5||6||7||8||9||Out||10||11||12||13||14||15||16||17||18||In||Total||To Par|
|Webb Simpson||1||2||3||4||5||6||7||8||9||Out||10||11||12||13||14||15||16||17||18||In||Total||To Par|
TV coverage begins on ESPN at 3:00, but online coverage is available in the mornings on Masters.com.