The Masters: Justin Rose says Augusta knowledge vital for green jacket win
By Paul Higham Twitter: @SportsPaulH. Last Updated: 10/04/14 9:04am
Justin Rose believes he is capable of playing well at Augusta National
In one of the most wide-open Masters in years, Justin Rose says course knowledge will be a major factor for the winner.
Rory McIlroy has already said that as many as 70 players could win this wide-open contest at Augusta, but Rose believes that only a select band of the 97 competitors have a chance to slip on the famous green jacket on Sunday.
Although the last rookie to win at Augusta was Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979, there seems an excellent chance from a bumper rookie crop of 24 players this year - especially given that so many have already won on Tour.
American 20-year-old Jordan Spieth leads the way as the world No 13, while self-proclaimed top-five player Patrick Reed was impressive when winning at Doral - and both of those will play with Augusta 'veteran' McIlroy in the first two rounds.
On the PGA Tour this year the likes of Russell Henley, Scott Stallings, Matt Every, Steven Bowditch and Matt Jones have all won tournaments - Jimmy Walker won three times in just seven outings at the start of the year.
With the lack of big-name winners so far in 2014, many believe it could be another unheralded name to top the Masters leaderboard come the final reckoning on Sunday.
"I think if you're outside the top 50 in the world this week, you've got a great chance," Rose said as he summed up the run of winners this season.
In all seriousness though, the Masters usually goes to a big-name player - being the only major played at the same venue every year gives those with course knowledge a distinct advantage, hence the distinct lack of first-time winners.
The recent run of major winners including Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson, Jason Dufner and Rose himself have all been among the higher echelons of the world rankings, so Rose thinks the 78th Masters will go a similar way.
McIlroy said that 70 players had a chance to win at Augusta this week as he looked down the list of Masters debutants, but Rose thinks that course knowledge will prove vital and believes far fewer are really in with a shout.
"I think Augusta is different," said Rose. "There's so much course knowledge that you build up through the years that definitely swings the pendulum in the favour of the more experienced player.
"I would say 15 guys separate themselves a lot from the field. Always you can have the unknowns that can happen, but I would say 15 guys are pretty strong favourites."
Rose, who finished fifth in 2007, counts McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter as major European challengers looking to end the 15-year wait for a Masters win following Jose Maria Olazabal's success in 1999.
McIlroy has come closest with his famous final round meltdown when sitting on a four-shot lead in 2011, leaving 15th as his best-placed finish in his five previous Masters, but he feels this year could be different.
"I certainly feel comfortable on the golf course here," McIlroy said. "There's a lot of guys that seems like once they drive up Magnolia Lane, something sort of lights up inside them.
"I'm disappointed that my best finish was only 15th. I feel like I've played better than that and haven't quite got the results. Hopefully I can change that this week."