Martin Dempster’s round-up from Augusta National.
AMATEUR DRAMATICS Spare a thought for Robert MacIntyre as he watches this week’s event in Oban. It could have been him, after all, rather than Englishman Scott Gregory playing here if the result of their meeting in last year’s Amateur Championship final had gone the other way. Gregory faces five rivals in the battle to be top amateur, including world No 1 Curtis Luck, a rising Australian star.
Two-time champion Bubba Watson is set to add a splash of colour to the proceedings this year by playing with either a pink or green Volvik golf ball. “It’s really about the way I’m feeling,” Watson told the Augusta Chronicle. “Whichever is closest to me to grab, which one I see in my locker. But it’s not Masters green.” He’ll make punters missing out green with envy if he wins at 50-1.
”It really is a place that seems to suit the Spanish way of playing,” said debutant Jon Rahm of Augusta National. He’s not joking. Seve Ballesteros won here in 1980 and 1983 before Jose Maria Olazabal also became a double champion after victories in 1994 and 1999. With new star Rahm, Sergio Garcia and Rafa Cabrera Bello in the field along with Olazabal, a fifth Spanish success is a distinct possibility.
ON THE BAG Scotland’s player representation is matched by the caddies on duty from the game’s cradle this week. Craig Connelly, Martin Kaymer’s experienced bagman, right, will be trying to help the German break 70 here for the first time in 27 rounds, while Mark Crane is back for a second successive visit with Chris Wood.
JACK’S SACRED JACKET A Green Jacket may be about to go up for auction but there’s no chance of six-time winner Jack Nicklaus giving up his one. “Goodness, I don’t know that... I wonder what I could get for this one?” joked Nicklaus of the upcoming auction item, before adding: “The Green Jacket is very special and sacred to me.”
BADGE OF HONOUR Gone but definitely not forgotten. That’s the message the Masters will send out today as it remembers Arnold Palmer. Revealing patrons will be given commemorative badges, chairman Billy Payne said: “It will be an emotional goodbye but an even more powerful thank-you to the man we dearly love.”