It was a shortened practice round for the golfers as storms and rain lashed Augusta ahead of the much-awaited 81st edition of the Masters. The weather gods showed all their fury on Monday as practice was stopped in the afternoon at 2.30 following reports of a severe storm, which saw massive tree falls, power outages, accidents and fair amount of damage in this city.
As players, fans and officials scurried off the course, so did Asia’s most promising star — Korea’s Jeunghun Wang. He will be among 20 first-timers to tee up at the Augusta Masters on Thursday. The 21-year-old Korean, who is already a three-time winner in his blossoming career, finished third on the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit last season. Wang is hoping to break his Major jinx by making the cut at the Masters following shortened appearances at the British Open and PGA Championship last season.
Wang earned his ticket to Augusta National by being in the top-50 of the Official World Golf Ranking. “The Masters is my dream tournament. I’m so excited right now. It’s going to be really fun,” said Wang. “I started watching the Masters when I was about 10 years old. I can remember the golf course well and I think it’s pretty cool that the winner gets to wear the green jacket. I’ve always thought Augusta National looks great on TV. I’ve already played the Open and the PGA but missed the cut. So I can’t wait to play at the Masters and try to make the cut.”
Since breaking down in tears after losing the 2014 Dubai Open where he led with one hole remaining, Wang has shown his immense potential. He won back-to-back titles in Morocco and Mauritius last year to become the youngest golfer in European Tour history to achieve the feat. Earlier this season, he claimed another big win in Qatar, which propelled him into the world’s top-50, an achievement that belies his young age.
World Number One Dustin Johnson, fresh from his victory at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, headlines the star-studded field that includes 18 previous winners. Johnson has won each of his three previous starts before Masters and is a hot favourite. Rory McIlroy, who has finished in the top 10 in his last three visits, will be hoping to complete the career Grand Slam by triumphing this week. Henrik Stenson will be among the 30 Major Champions in the field as he looks to win his first Green Jacket and second Major in nine months.
There will be 37 European Tour members aiming to make a mark on one of the biggest stages in golf, with six debutants among them. Tyrrell Hatton and Thomas Pieters are two of the rookies looking to impress on their first time at Augusta. Last year, Danny Willett took advantage of a collapse by Jordan Spieth and held off a late challenge from compatriot Lee Westwood to become the first Englishman to claim the Green Jacket since Sir Nick Faldo in 1996.
Willett trailed Spieth, winner in 2015, by three shots going into the final round and was five behind when the American reached the turn. Willett signed for a blemish-free round of 67 while Spieth dropped six shots in three holes, quadruple bogeying the 12th hole. Westwood eagled the 15th hole to move to within one shot, but Willett birdied the 16th to move to five under par, which ensured he would become the first European Tour Member to win the Masters since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Last year Willett almost never made it to Augusta. His wife, Nicole, was due to give birth to their first son during the Masters weekend, but Zachariah arrived early, allowing Willett to make history.