So much is written and said about what it takes to win a green jacket.
It requires pristinely accurate iron play. Towering approach shots which land softly on the firm and unpredictable greens and, once on them, a “masterful” ability to negotiate the difficult slopes and contours.
You have to be a great “lag” putter. You have to make all the easy putts, and more of the hard ones than the rest of the field.
You need a happy knack of avoiding trouble, but also for limiting the damage when you inevitably find yourself in it.
You need patience. And skill. And mental toughness. And so on, and so on.
Those who watch say you need a bit of luck, too. Those who play say you make your own.
In the lead-up to Augusta, there is always a select few apparently better placed than most.
They come down Magnolia Lane riding momentum.
Take world No.1 Rory McIlroy, for instance. His game has been described as “perfect” for this particular course and challenge.
And yet the US Masters is the only Major left for the Northern Irishman to conquer.
And yet that fact, as far as some are concerned, makes 2015 “his year”. His time to complete the career grand slam.
Consider these comments from four-time Major winner Ernie Els to get a taste of the expectation surrounding McIlroy.
“He’s playing against great players but, you know, Rory has that factor where, when he’s on, these other guys can’t play with him,” said Els, who will also be chasing a green jacket next week as the final piece of the puzzle to fill out an extensive career resume.
“There are no guarantees in this game but I’d say he would win at least four [US Masters titles],” he said.
“This one is going to be quite big.”
Adam Scott knows something of the sense of destiny one can carry into the storied tournament. He did so in 2013 and famously fulfilled it, carving out a unique slice of Australian sporting history.
The world No.6 will be a contender again this year, but this time supposed “destiny” circles around another Australian: Jason Day.
He is a part of this year’s select few – those who seem to have their game at the right place at the right time.
Two of the game’s most powerful men, Swede Henrik Stenson (world No.2) and American Dustin Johnson (world No.7) have shown signs recently of the scope for dominance their physical gifts afford them.
You can easily stick defending champion, world No.3 Bubba Watson, in that category, too, with the gung-ho American having finished top three in two of his last three events.
There is still the “Tiger” factor, in only that everyone wants Tigers Woods to play the Masters but no one thinks he can actually win it.
After much to do involving private jet spottings and secret practice rounds, the four-time past winner has confirmed he will play, but anything past that is anyone’s guess. Augusta is not the place for one to recover from the “yips” and only a once-in-a-lifetime player could come from the depths Woods has sunk to recently and turn it around and contend in such a short space of time.
Fortunately, Tiger qualifies.
American Jimmy Walker is a player whose profile remains disproportionately low compared to his earning capacity – the world No.10 has won five times in the past 18 months and yet could probably walk into any golf shop in Melbourne and not turn a head.
And US young guns Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed both have a flair for the big occasion.
They have each rocketed up the rankings on the back of fast starts to the new season, 21-year-old Spieth having won twice since Australian fans saw him so impressively claim our national Open in Sydney last year, and 24-year-old Reed not so consistently at the top of leaderboards but consistently dangerous when he is there.
The difference between those two, at least at this stage, is that Reed (world No.15) feels as though he is playing like a top 5 player in the world. Spieth (world No.4) is a top five player already.
But the argument against that dynamic duo, and also Walker, is that they are not yet Masters worthy. “Worthy” in the sense that they must first pay their dues by coming within touching distance of the green jacket a couple of times only to have the sleeves yanked out of their hands (albeit Spieth finished tied second last year).
Perhaps they must first feel the agony before the ecstasy. Perhaps, perhaps not.
Nonetheless, Day – at least in that sense – is one such player “worthy” of Masters glory.
The Australian contended deep into the 2011 tournament (second) and went to the precipice the year Scott won it (third), leading by one shot with three holes remaining.
His game, proven already to be Masters-proof, has gone to another level in the past six months.
His clutch playoff victory at the Farmers Insurance Open in February was viewed, at least in Australia, as the coming-of-age moment future Major winners have – similar to Scott’s triumph at the 2012 Australian Masters which led to him “swapping a gold jacket for a green one” a few months later.
Physically, which is a key issue for the 27-year-old, Day is not only injury-free now but fit, having changed his diet and work-out regime under a new trainer, the same man that helped Stenson chisel his built-for-pro-golf physique.
That is body, but what about mind?
Greg Norman is someone who knows how important the mental aspect of the game is to success or otherwise.
And he believes this Sunday at the Masters could be Jason’s Day.
“I’ve loved the way he’s refocused and rededicated himself to the game of golf. I think he’s primed,” said Norman, also adding that this could be the “widest open Masters in a long time.”
Day is not recoiling from the hype, either, admitting he had a good feeling about himself this time around and that, unlike in other years, he is now no longer “scared to fail”.
The world No.5 is the leader of the green-and-gold contingent, having officially usurped Scott in the world rankings.
You discount Scott at your own embarrassment, though, considering he leads the PGA Tour for greens in regulation (on percentage), but his putting is not what it was in 2013-14 and the uncertainty around the short and long putters is a mental hurdle others don’t have to jump.
He will use the “broomstick” next week, and who says the 34-year-old (who has just become a father) can’t sweep to another epic, if for now under-the-radar, win.
Marc Leishman plays well at Augusta, although he might understandably choose to stay by his wife’s bedside as she fights a serious illness.
Geoff Ogilvy has enjoyed a rejuvenation in his game and outlook recently, and then there’s Antonio Murdaca, the 19-year old amateur from South Australia who won his way into the tournament by winning a qualifying event at Royal Melbourne last year.
According to Billy Payne, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, Murdaca was set to become a favourite among fans and members next week, like other amateurs before him.
“We are so proud of them, they are like our children,” Payne said.
But when it comes to having everything that it takes to win at Augusta, Day seems to be the one, not only from an Australian point of view, but perhaps the best placed to challenge top favourite McIlroy.
He can do everything you read at the start of this article, as can McIlroy and others, but what sets him apart? What’s the something extra, the intangible that you really need to win a green jacket?
“I guess I just want it more,” Day told Fairfax Media this week.
“It’s nothing else other than what I’ve experienced since I first start playing at Augusta. But really just wanting it more this year,” he said.
“This tournament is really close to my heart.”
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