A Fortnight from Augusta: Our Green Jacket Challenge

Six Australians have their invitations secured for the much anticipated first major of the year – The Masters Tournament at Augusta National – which is now just over a fortnight away.

The next two PGA TOUR events in Texas will provide confirmation of the final field and the two Australian defending champions of each event, Steven Bowditch (Texas Open) and Matt Jones (Houston Open), will need to repeat their 2014 success to join what is already the largest contingent of Masters invitees from any nation outside the United States.

Adam Scott Adam Scott (Credit: Anthony Powter)

2013 champion Adam Scott, Jason Day, John Senden, Geoff Ogilvy, Marc Leishman and Asia Pacific Amateur champion Antonio Murdaca will stake their claim for Australia’s second Green Jacket with Day our best performed player so far in 2015.

Day has been in red hot form in 2015 with victory at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines alongside three additional top five finishes.

His last two starts have been just a notch or two below the form he showed over the January/February months but the world number five has had his sights set on peaking for Augusta since taking time out to rest niggling injuries that plagued him last year.

World number four Scott’s form on return from his three-month layoff has been mixed with an impressive first up tie for 4th at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, followed by his first missed cut in years at the Valspar Championship and a tie for 35th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

All eyes have been fixed on the Queenslander’s switch to a short putter and the same claw grip that he has employed with a long putter to great effect for most of the past few seasons.

Time will tell if Scott’s decision to dabble with the short stick in a condensed tournament preparation so soon before The Masters will pay the ultimate dividend, although he did have plenty of time to get comfortable with the change during his long break.

Of the remaining Australians, even Senden, Leishman and Ogilvy would probably agree their results thus far in 2015 haven’t inspired confidence in their ability to make a charge for Masters glory.

Senden’s T25th in the Tournament of Champions back in January is the best result returned by any of the trio since the Christmas break.

On the plus side however, a combined 15 Masters appearances between them suggests a degree of comfort with their surroundings at Augusta, which is a factor that is more important than at perhaps any other major venue.

Let’s not forget that Leishman was in the thick of the action in 2013, paired in the next-to-last group with Scott, and Ogilvy also challenged right to the end alongside Scott and Day when Charl Schwartzel prevailed on a classic final day in 2011.

Out of all the Australians, Murdaca faces the most exciting and daunting challenge when he makes his Masters debut courtesy of his Asia Pacific Amateur win at Royal Melbourne last year.

Most Masters debutants and particularly amateur first-timers find the prospect of performing at their best in The Masters cauldron a very tall order, however, Murdaca only has to look to the example set by China’s Tianlang Guan in 2013 for inspiration.

The then 14-year old made history as the youngest Masters invitee on the back of his Asia Pacific Amateur triumph and went on to make the cut with all of the world watching on.

Fresh from a recent trip to Augusta National recently, Murdaca will return with expectations of an equally good showing after a comprehensive seven-stroke win in the South Australian Amateur Classic last week.