George Peper: What I’d Like to See at the 2022 Masters

These days, with the Open Championship being the last major of the year, we all have entirely too much time to sit major-less until the next year’s Masters. Too much time to ponder, to anticipate, to dream. All of which can lead to the sort of fanciful notions I’ve been having. Here’s what I’d like to see happen when the show finally begins in Augusta.

1. An End to the Par-3 Jinx I know this a cute storyline, but c’mon, let’s get it over with. The truth is, “cute” has in recent years smothered the Par-3 Contest to the point that some guys now skip it altogether. It’s become a yuck fest where caddies hit tee shots and cavorting kiddie-caddies hit putts. It may be fun for the thousands of spectators who jam onto the little 22-acre course, but it’s beneath the dignity of the world’s most decorous event. Frankly, I think Bobby and Cliff would be appalled. But I digress. Inevitably someone will double-dip on the little and big courses, and I’d like that to happen while I’m still sentient enough to appreciate it, which means the sooner the better. My uneducated guess as to the chance this will actually happen this year: Chance: 5 percent

2. Rain—Lots of It Hear me out on this one. I’m looking for downpours only on Thursday and Friday afternoons. Why? So they’ll have to discontinue play for those days and resume early on Friday and Saturday mornings. This will force Masters officials to break with their silly policy of banning live network TV coverage before 2 pm EDT. Chance: 15 percent

3. Wind—Lots of It Nothing adds drama to the Masters like a stiff breeze. Fairways narrow, greens shrink, and on those already slippery surfaces every putt becomes fraught with terror. Ideally, I’d like a north wind as that turns the opening hole into the toughest test on the course while converting the two inward par fives from pushovers to punishers. Chance: 10 percent

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4. High(er) Scores Assuming wishes two and three are not granted, may we at least see the course stand up to the world’s best players a bit better than it has in recent years. This year roughly 50 yards have been added through the lengthening of holes 11, 15, and 18. Let’s hope this will mean more players approaching those holes with something longer than a 7-iron and ultimately that we’ll get a winning score in the 280s. The average 72-hole total posted by the last five champions has been 13.4 under par, and two years ago Dustin Johnson shot 268, 20 under. That’s too low. Chance: 25 percent

5. Low Scores If we can’t have high scores, let’s go the other way. I’m talking about crazy-low scores, multiple rounds of 62 or better and a winning total of 25 under—enough to insult and embarrass the Augusta powers to the point that they take unilateral action with regard to the golf ball. The club easily could commission its own throttled-back golf ball to be played by all Masters competitors. Can you think of anyone who would refuse? This might be the only way to incite the USGA and R&A to take the kind of substantive action they should have taken decades ago. Chance: 15 percent

6. An Amateur in Contention This event was started by an amateur, and amateurs have been an integral part of it since day one. Ken Venturi came in second in 1956 and Frank Stranahan (1947) and Charlie Coe (1961) each finished joint runner-up, but no amateur has made it into the top 10 in the past 60 years. Six amateurs are in this year’s field: Austin Greaser, Stewart Hagestad, Aaron Jarvis, Keita Nakajima, James Piot, and Laird Shepherd. I’d love to see one of them on the Sunday leaderboard. Chance: 5 percent

7. Victory by a First-Timer Discounting inaugural winner Horton Smith, only two Masters rookies have prevailed, Gene Sarazen (1935) and Fuzzy Zoeller (1979). The Augusta National simply doesn’t give up its secrets quickly or easily. That said, last year Will Zalatoris came within a stroke of doing the deed. As of this writing, 14 pros will be making their debuts at Augusta. What a hoot it would be to see the Masters trophy engraved with the name Garrick Higgo, Harry Higgs, or Talor Gooch. Chance: 5 percent

8. A Nation’s Breakthrough It’s doubtful that anything could match the impact that Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama had last April, but this year’s field does offer a few good possibilities for first-ever champions from their home countries, beginning with Norway’s Viktor Hovland and including Chile’s Joaquin Niemann, Sungjae Im and Si Woo Kim of South Korea, and Italy’s Guido Migliozzi and Francesco Molinari. Chance: 15 percent

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9. A Long Playoff Since the Masters went to sudden death in 1977, we’ve seen 11 playoffs, none of which has lasted more than two holes. When you’re watching a dramatic Sunday at the Masters, you just don’t want it to end. I realize darkness comes early in April, but hey, let’s try to make it at least three holes this year. Chance: 5 percent

10. Victory for Rory McIlroy I tend not to root for players as much as for stories, and assuming Tiger isn’t in the field, the best story likely will be McIlroy’s attempt to join Messrs. Sarazen, Hogan, Nicklaus, Player, and Woods as a winner of the career Grand Slam. McIlroy not only has the game to stand with those five, he has the character. Over the past decade, he has grown into a thoughtful young man, a leader respected by his peers and beloved by fans on both sides of the Atlantic. For him to join the Masters Champions Club would be as much a credit to that group as to him. Chance: 10 percent

So in my dream 2022 Masters, Rory McIlroy wins the Par-3 Contest, then battles through two days of rain followed by two days of wind to post an even-par 288, good enough for a tie with Austin Greaser, Guido Migliozzi, and Talor Gooch. Off they go into the gloaming, all four matching scores at 18 and 10 before heading up 18 again where McIlroy sticks his 6-iron second approach one inch from the hole and wins the green jacket. Chance: 0

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