Masters poll: On Augusta challenges, first-timer mistakes, the 2024 winner and more

jon rahm celebrates his 2023 masters win

We polled GOLF's Top 100 Teachers on Augusta National challenges, difficult tee shots, Rory McIlroy, the 2024 winner and more.

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Over the years, GOLF has polled PGA Tour pros and our ultra-savvy readers about the quirks, extraordinary challenges and outright awesomeness of Augusta National. But when it comes to the Masters, there’s always more to learn. So, who better to school us than GOLF’s Top 100 Teachers in America? Their syllabus is below.

What’s the best hole on the front nine at Augusta National?


“The very difficult 495-yard par-4 5th is a tough driving hole where you must avoid the severe bunkering left of the fairway. It’s 315 yards to carry or hit short or to the narrow fairway right. The hole gets even harder because of the false-front sloping green that is difficult to hit in regulation. Once on the green, there are few ‘easy’ putts!” —Ed Ibarguen

“No. 1. A few things make this the best hole on the front. The anticipation and stress of the first tee shot of the day plays a big factor in scoring on that particular hole. For the right-handed player, shots that are hooked left go longer than shots that fade right. The design for the 1st hole does not setup to allow these misses.” —Mike Malizia

What’s the hardest thing about Augusta’s greens?


“Learning to match your speed and line so that putts don’t get away from you is crucial. Understand there are some putts you can’t make but can leave in an easy spot for the next putt.” —Tony Ruggiero

“Matching speed with lines that can break many feet is challenging. When playing greens of this slope and speed you are always on the defense as to not run putts way by and three-putt. It takes imagination and a greater degree of touch to play these type of greens. Most all putts are dying into the hole, so aggressive putters have to putt differently on these greens.” —Mike Bender

What’s the best Masters of the last 25 years?

“Tiger Woods winning in 2019. Maybe even more powerful than when he won in 1997. The will he showed to win the event in front of his now-teenage children was nothing short of amazing. The emotion that he shared with his family behind 18 was a moment I’ll never forget.” —Tim Cusick

“I have a couple. Seeing Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka battle it out in 2023 was a lot of fun. I also enjoyed it when Hideki Matsuyama won [in 2021], and his caddie bowed down to Augusta after the victory. Just awesome!” —Tina Tombs

“How about the 2004 Masters when Phil Mickelson made an 18-foot birdie on the 18th hole to beat Ernie Els? It was Mickelson’s first major, and had to set the world record for the lowest celebratory jump in the modern era!” —Steve Bosdosh

“I’m cheating (because it’s not from the past 25 years), but Jack Nicklaus winning in 1986 is still my favorite Masters moment. His victory was unexpected, and his Sunday charge with Jackie Jr. on the bag was unparalleled in terms of excitement and fun viewing!” —Ed Ibarguen

What’s more important at Augusta: putting or driving?


“All players at this level are adequately long. But the players who can avoid 3-putting and are deadly on the 4-8 foot comebackers will thrive at Augusta.” —Josh Zander

“Distance helps, especially after length additions over last 10 years. That said, chipping and putting are critical to success at ANGC.” —Kevin Kirk

“The most important thing at Augusta is driving the ball to the proper parts of the fairway, allowing a player to have the right angle and club to hit the correct spots on the putting surfaces.” —Kevin Weeks

What’s the 1 mistake players can’t make at the Masters?


“Compounding bad shots. If they put themselves in a bad position, they have to make a bogey and stay away from triples and doubles.” —Mike Malizia

“Impatience. At Augusta, just taking what the course gives you is a must!” —Dom DiJulia

“Poor distance control on approach shots. You must hit the ball pin high at Augusta. If you don’t, you won’t be putting from the right spots on the greens — so the difficult slopes and undulations will bite you.” —Jason Birnbaum

What’s the toughest thing for Masters first-timers to figure out?

“Understanding where to miss on certain pins, and how putts break; since the speed of the greens change from Thursday to Sunday.” —James Sieckmann

“Conserving energy for the whole week. It’s an adrenaline-fest, and the excitement can wear out even the best-conditioned athletes. First-timers are going to show up excited for the first day, while veterans save up their strength for the tournament rounds.” —Joe Plecker

“There are places on the greens that they have to hit their approach shots, depending on the pin position. Gather information from others who have played Augusta before in order to learn how to play the course on those types of shots.” —Trent Wearner

Is the tee shot at 12 really that hard, or is it more of a psyche job?

Hard hole — 53 percent
Psyche job — 47 percent

“It’s difficult because of the pressure both mentally and physically. The landing area is only eight paces from front fringe to back fringe. Mix the swirling winds and non-commitment to the club selection and situational pressure makes this one of the toughest shots in golf!” —Don Sargent Jr.

What’s holding Rory McIlroy back at the Masters?

“At this point, it’s mental. He has all the tools. Now he has to put less pressure on himself and play with freedom.” —Dale Abraham

“This means everything to Rory. Maybe too much.” —Mike Shannon

“What’s holding Rory back? Rory.” —Jim Murphy

“He wants it too much. He needs to try less and treat it as any other tournament.” —Jonathan Yarwood

Who is going to win the Masters this year?

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