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Ken Brown's Augusta preview

BBC golf commentator Ken Brown
By Ken Brown
BBC Sport golf commentator

THE MASTERS
Venue: Augusta Dates: 10-13 April Coverage: Watch on BBC ONE, BBC TWO, BBCi and BBC Sport website (UK only); Listen on BBC Radio 5 Live; highlights on BBC iPlayer for seven days


Augusta National
The 2008 event is the 72nd staging of the famous Masters tournament
If Augusta is wet and long and a bit chilly, it really does bring the big hitters to the fore - the likes of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh, Ernie Els, Retief Goosen and Angel Cabrera.

It has been like that most years recently until last year when it was drier and warmer and the greens got hard and crusty. When it's like that, a larger range of players become competitive.

But the course is so long now that if it's wet it really is a high ball, long ball-hitters' paradise, so a little depends on the condition of the course as to how many have a chance to win.

Augusta does take a little getting used to. You make a few silly errors when you haven't been there before. But all the home players have got a chance. It's not like sometimes in the old days when they were overawed and didn't know what to expect.

The likes of Justin Rose, Luke Donald and Ian Poulter have all played in the Masters several times now. They have a bit of experience, all have had some good results here, and all of them can be in the reckoning.

Rose had a great chance to win last year. He is just coming back from a long break, improving his fitness after suffering a little with his back and neck and is speaking very positively about the Masters.

Padraig Harrington and Justin Rose
Harrington and Rose are showing signs of form at the right time
He had a successful 2007 playing a fairly sparse season and is trying to do the same again. He realised that preparation is absolutely critical to get the best out of his game each week.

Playing a limited schedule sometimes works and sometimes doesn't, but he will come into the Masters with a lot of confidence.

Donald is a very, very steady all-round player, with a good record at Augusta, so he has got a great chance. It will help if it is a bit faster and running for him.

He has the game to win a major championship - he has been around now long enough so he knows what is needed and what to expect.

Poulter has gradually improved each year at the Masters. Last year he finished with a few bad holes, which is so easy to do - an odd error here, a double bogey there - and felt he could have done better, and finish in the top dozen or so.

If Woods is singing and dancing the others can sing for their supper

Padraig Harrington has played the last few weeks in America to try to get his game into good shape. He will be pleased with how well he is putting at the moment.

Being Open champion, Harrington knows he can win a major. If you haven't won one, you are not sure whether you can hold your nerve when your chance comes along, and he now knows he can do that.

Lots of things can happen at the Masters, but there's a big difference between getting in contention and having a chance and winning it - it's like night and day.

A dark horse would be someone like American JB Holmes, who is a massive long hitter. He can cart the ball all over the place but also has moments of absolute brilliance. If Augusta is a little bit wet he can put himself amongst things.

606: DEBATE

Henrik Stenson is a more consistent player than Holmes and Augusta suits his game. And on the bag he has Fanny Sunesson, who knows her way around the course.

Any player has a chance, but you are always looking at Woods, Mickelson, Singh, Els and Goosen. They are the players who do consistently well year after year and are nearly always in the hunt.

When you go out to play you concentrate on your own game, but you know that if Woods has his A or even his B game you must be at your absolute best to beat him.

Tiger Woods
As always, all eyes will be on the unmistakable figure of Tiger Woods

He comes in as probably the hottest favourite ever in a major championship - around evens. Even when Jack Nicklaus was in his humdinger form he was only 4-1 or 5-1.

But Woods is such a dominant figure that he has set the bar much higher for everyone and to beat him at the moment is not easy.

He's long, he's got good iron play, his short game is absolutely mustard and he's brimming with confidence. But Zach Johnson managed to beat him last year - it can be done.

It all depends on the main man. If Woods is singing and dancing the others can sing for their supper. You see him wander around as though he doesn't feel the pressure.

I don't know if Woods was born with that ability or learnt it, but however he has got it, the others need a bit of it.

Ken Brown was talking to BBC Sport's Matt Braithwaite


see also
Masters coverage on the BBC
19 Oct 07 |  Golf


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