Charlie Rymer’s 2023 Masters Musings: Something Different in the Air This Year

Charlie’s feeling it: all the good feelings in the game of golf that come with a Masters Week that’s almost upon us. And beyond the vibes, he’s also got some strong feelings about what’s different about this year at Augusta National – from course tweaks to pending media room drama to dissecting the contender possibilities from both LIV Golf and PGA TOUR camps.

By Charlie Rymer

It’s that time of year. My nose is itchy. That rogue sneeze comes out of nowhere. My BBQ grill and car are turning yellow. I’ve seen a yellow foam on waves breaking in the ocean surf. Color is popping up everywhere. We all know what this means:

Yes SIR!!!! The Masters is right around the corner!

And while we‘ve had a warm winter with excellent days of playing conditions, everybody knows golf doesn’t really start until April. The solid green flag waves on April 6th in Augusta. That’s when golf is off to the races. Whether you’re an avid golfer or casual fan you can feel it. Everybody is getting their clubs out from winter hibernation. Heck, I even went golf shopping this week. I got one of those orange whippy things so I can stretch things out and build up some strength from having to take a year away from playing the game. I can feel it. Golf is calling my name. I’m ready to go and I’ll bet you are, too. So let’s dive right in to a little Masters preview.

There’s going to be a lot of talk early in the week about the lengthening of the par-5 13th hole. I’ll tell you right up front that I don’t like the change. Not one bit. If there was going to be a protest I’d go march. I’ve said countless times on television and other places that the 13th hole at Augusta is the best designed golf hole on the planet. It never was intended to be a par 5. It was intended to be a par 4 and a half. It’s produced some of the highest drama in Masters history precisely because of its lack of distance. Adding length will make it more boring.

At its current length every player in the field is forced to consider No. 13 a two-shot hole. The scores range from 3 to 8. With the added distance the decision to turn it into a three-shot hole will be made on the tee. When the leader gets to this tee on Sunday and opts to hit a 3-iron, the whole world will understand why adding length is a bad call. Scores will now range from 4 to 6.  Bobby Jones is rolling over in his grave. A few years back they gave the par-5 15th a similar treatment. It’s basically been a snoozer ever since … except the days when it’s playing short.

Other than this I don’t have any strong feelings on the matter.

Early in Masters Week I’d much prefer the talk in the press room to be about ghosts in the pines and what Scottie Scheffler is going to serve at the Champions Dinner.  But LIV Golf and Tiger’s girlfriend breakup will likely hijack most of the conversation. And that’s a shame. I’m sick of hearing about both. I wish The Masters was strictly going to be about The Masters. And for the entire week! This year that won’t be the case until Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, and Tom Watson hit the first tee around 8 am Thursday morning. That’s the signal that it’s all about the golf from here on out.

So who ya got? Who ya got? Who ya got?

I’m gonna break it down this way. And boy it sure seems strange, but this is the world we live in.  From the LIV Tour, Dustin Johnson is hard to ignore. He had a monster year last year and will come in very rested. He’s stayed above the fray in any heated discussion about leaving the PGA TOUR. I’ll be shocked if he’s not in the mix. British Open Champion Cameron Smith will be a factor as well. That putting stroke. Oh my! And how about a wild card: Phil Mickelson didn’t play The Masters last year because it was thought he would be a distraction. And that was a good call. He’s played horribly over the last year. But there’s something about Magnolia Lane that is a Fountain of Youth for the likes of Jack, Phil, and Tiger. And Phil looks hungry. Literally. He’s at his college weight. He might just be ready to feast on birdies.

And from the PGA TOUR … I normally have Rory McIlroy as a favorite. But not this year. He’s been way too involved on the administrative side of golf. He’s played well at times, but he just looks distracted. He’s guilty of being too nice and generous with his time. There’s time for that after the playing years are over. I’m a huge Rory fan in general and I hope he gets back focused on his game very soon. It’s hard to overlook Jon Rahm. Monster year already. Controlling his emotion at the most emotional place in sport will be his challenge. And defending champion Scottie Scheffler will be a factor. His game and demeanor are a perfect fit for Augusta. My wild card is Patrick Cantlay. He’s ready.

Enjoy The Masters!