By Oli Burley - @SkySportsOli. Last Updated: 10/04/13 9:50am
Be part of the magic of the Masters with Sky Sports. Ahead of this year's tournament, we gave you the chance to put a question to Colin Montgomerie, who will once again be part of our commentary team at Augusta.
From Masters past to European hopes, you teed up a range of issues for Monty to tackle and he was more than up for the challenge....
Hello Monty, I was watching a clip the other day of Tiger's first win at Augusta in 1997 and found it amazing to see how much his swing has changed through the years. I remember you played in the final group with him in the third round that year and was wondering what your memories are of playing with him that day? Stephen Rankine
MONTY: Although Tiger hit the ball very, very long and straight that day, Stephen, the thing I remember most clearly is his outstanding putting because he didn't miss from inside 10 feet on any hole. That's why Tiger Woods has been the success he has over the years. Most people feel that if Tiger continues to putt the way that he has been in recent tournaments, then he will win that 15th Major.
Hi Colin, What do you think is the biggest barrier to Tiger winning the Masters in 2013? For me his new swing is set up to shape the ball chiefly from left to right which is not ideal for Augusta. Thanks, Michael.
MONTY: You're right, Michael, in that Tiger's swing is set up the 'wrong way' but at the same time he's good enough to adapt and shape the right shots. His driving, however, has not been good. He won the Arnold Palmer Invitational even though he was 75th out of the 77 players to make the cut in terms of driving accuracy. So his driving is still far from perfect but when he does hit the fairway, his iron play is supreme. There is only one thing stopping Tiger from winning the Masters and that's himself. If he truly believes that he can win, then he will but if there's any self-doubt in his mind about his game then the competition is that good that he can be overtaken.
Colin, The way Augusta National is set up there have been many winners of the Masters who have had a magical short game but can you explain why it is that so many players who have that gift are often unable to display the same control off the tee (when the ball has a perfect lie) but can then conjure up imaginative recovery shots? Best regards, Tony Leach
MONTY: Precision off the tee is everything because the rough around Augusta is not there just for definition, it's to ensure that the person who hits the most fairways is justly rewarded. Louis Oosthuizen hit more fairways than anybody else last year and was right there at the end. The person who hits the fairway is going to score well because they can control the second shot and put the ball on the portion of the green that you have to be on. If you are out of position off the tee then it is tempting to try something extraordinary, just as Bubba Watson did in last year's play-off, and pray it comes off!
Virtually all Masters winners have superb short games, so given Lee Westwood's recent move to Florida to address this part of his game do you think he will be a contender? Gavin
MONTY: I would love Lee to win a Major, Gavin, of course I would as I'm sure would most fans of British golf. I think Lee's short game has got better but I'm not sure it has improved enough and it's still putting too much pressure on his long game. Let's hope he proves me wrong over the four days but that's how I feel when you measure him against competition of the stature of Mickelson, Woods, Kuchar, Snedeker - guys have extremely good short games.
Now that he's a fully-fledged US PGA player we'll see a lot less of Lee in Europe and, in the nicest possible way, I wish he'd made the move when he was 35 rather than 40. I think most players tend to peak between those years so Lee may have left it a little bit late but I'm glad he has now taken the decision. He would have regretted not doing it, I think. All I can do now is wish him well.
JUST A MOMENT
Hi Monty! Firstly I would like to congratulate you on a fantastic and long life in golf. My question is about the chances of Justin Rose. He showed at times at Bay Hill that he actually can putt but is prone to miss so many putts to the right from under 10 to 12 ft. With all the experts around him why is it so hard to perfect this part of his game? He can get to within 6ft from sometimes 550 yds only to blow it. If he had putted like Tiger at Bay Hill he would have won. Also if his stats for putting were 10 to 15 per cent better he wouldn't be a million miles from the No 1 rank. Can he still win at the Masters where he has played well before or is it a hope that he has a hot putter. Cheers, Dean Morosoli
MONTY: Justin has got a slight issue with his head when he is putting, Dean, in as much as it moves slightly as he looks for the ball before the contact is made and I think that's why the ball goes out to the right. That's the one thing that could prevent Justin from winning but I have to say I think he's a good each-way bet this year. He's ranked No 3 in the world and along with Louis Oosthuizen, who I do like, he's got a great chance, particularly if Tiger doesn't perform. I think Justin has got the best title chance of any Brit this time.
Monty, do you think that Padraig Harrington has it in him to still contest and win Major championships? Last year he played very well here and finished 8th but could have been even better if his putting had held up. Regards, Jim O'Brien
MONTY: Contest, yes, because nobody prepares better than Harrington and there's nobody who wants it any more than him but I'm not sure whether technically his putting is right for Augusta. Padraig did well and finished in the top 10 but I'm not sure he has got what it takes to win.
That said he had a strong start to the Texas Open, so best of luck to him.
Do you believe a long-hitter like Nicolas Colsaerts stands a Chance in his Masters debut? Is distance off the tee a real advantage? Stefaan Genoe
MONTY: Distance off the tee is a huge advantage, Stefaan. Let me put it this way. If you don't hit the ball up to 300 yards off the tee regularly, you will be at a distinct disadvantage. Nicolas is well-equipped in that department but I think that he will lose shots around the greens that the experienced players won't. That could well be his issue this week but at the same time there is probably no better driver of a golf ball in the world right now than him.
Colin, what is the biggest challenge a rookie has to overcome in order to play well at Augusta? Perhaps something an experienced player wouldn't have to deal with? Thanks Colin O'Regan, Cian, in Cork, Ireland
MONTY: The aura of Augusta. When you arrive for the first time you are only too aware that this place has a history like no other. This isn't a Major, this is a Masters. In the last 10-15 years the Masters has almost become on a par with the British Open as the one to win. You get the sense that you are at a very special tournament as soon as you arrive. There are rules and regulations like no other and you feel very special walking into the locker room, which has its own charisma because you have to share a locker as there aren't enough to go around.
In your opinion, which hole is the most challenging at Augusta? Gavin
MONTY: The most challenging hole now, Gavin, is the 11th. I wouldn't have said that when I was playing because in my day it was around 460 yards but the tee has come back 60 yards and the drive has become very much tighter, making the second shot incredibly demanding. You never go left because of the water so you always go right and leave yourself with a Larry Mize so-called 'impossible shot' that he holed. If you are a handicapped player, hole 11 would be stroke index 1.
BEST OF TIMES...
Hi Monty, Can you remember the best and worst shot you ever hit round Augusta? Iain Swan
MONTY: It's easier to talk about the worst ones, Iain, because I've had a few of them! I've made three eagles at the Masters and for each eagle you make you get a lovely pair of crystal goblets. Each of mine have come at par-fours, rather than par-fives, believe it or not. My first eagle came at the third hole when I holed a wedge shot and on later occasions I holed two five irons. I think the best shot I ever hit was a five-iron to the fifth, which I holed for a two. Trust me, that really helps the scorecard!
I've also hit my fair share of poor-ish shots: I remember putting it in the water at 12, which verges on the embarrassing because you have to walk in front of the tee and drop the ball with everybody watching you hoping that you do it again! That shot was my worst because I didn't strike it well at all.
Hi Colin, European Golfers went on a great run at the Masters throughout the 80s and 90s but it's now 14 years since a European player won at Augusta. Do you think that will change this year? Best Regards, Ewan McQueen
MONTY: As I'm sure you know, Ewan, you have to go back to 1996 for the last British winner - Nick Faldo - and 1990 for the last European champion, Jose Maria Olazabal. The omens aren't good for this year because the last 11 winners on the US Tour have all been American and the hottest favourite we've had for the title for many years, Tiger Woods, is American. Can a British golfer end the long wait this time? All I know is that we've got as good a crop of young guys available to do it as we've ever had. Now it's time to go out and prove how good they are.
Hi Monty, do you hold the Masters in the same affection now as you did when you played? Andy, Enfield
MONTY: I don't care who you are, when you drive up Magnolia Lane to the clubhouse for the first time you get goose-bumps. A lot of the guys will be doing that on Monday and that's when the Masters starts for everybody.
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