Peaking too soon is a problem for every golf season, for the Masters at Augusta – the first major of the year – is what the sport is all about.
The greatest names have embarked on Georgia in pursuit of a prized green jacket.
But to enjoy a successful Sunday this week, players must get to grips with perhaps the biggest star of them all: the iconic course itself.
Augusta is what makes the Masters the Masters, so Stats Perform breaks down where one of the most prestigious tournaments sport might be won and lost.
At 575 yards, the par-five second hole – Pink Dogwood – is the longest on the course, but that does not mean it is the toughest, instead offering some respite following the tricky first.
Historically, number two has been played in 4.78 strokes on average, making it the third-easiest hole at Augusta in relation to par. In fact, the lowest average on record came in 2020 (4.467) – and that was not a mere quirk of the strange conditions around the course in recent years without the usual crowds, given the highest average, in 1957, was 4.996. Yep, the second has never played at even par or worse.
Skill rather than strength is required to negotiate Redbud, the 170-yard, par-three 16th. Considered too easy in the tournament's early days, the installation of a pond added some peril – and plenty of drama. With three bunkers around the green, too, the tee shot has to be pretty perfect or something spectacular will be required to come up with a birdie, as Tiger Woods will attest. "In your life, have you seen anything like that?"
Unsurprisingly, though, given its length, the 16th is also the setting for the vast majority of the Masters' holes-in-one. Of the 33 in tournament history, 23 have come at Redbud, including the first from amateur Ross Somerville at the inaugural tournament in 1934 but also 16 since the turn of the century. The last came courtesy of Tommy Fleetwood in 2021.
Think of Augusta and you will likely quickly focus on Amen Corner, but the most daunting challenge of all lies at the hole immediately prior: the par-four number 10 Camellia. Statistically, with a stroke average of 4.3 (0.3 over par), this is as tough as it gets – albeit only fractionally ahead of the 11th.
With its lowest stroke average 4.082 in 2018, the 10th has never played at even par or better... unless your name is Jordan Spieth. The 2015 Masters champion has a real knack around Camellia, with four birdies in four rounds last year. Few others have been able to follow Spieth's example at what was originally the first hole.
With the hardest hole followed by the second-ranked 11th and fourth-ranked 12th, there might be a sense of relief at Azalea, the par-five number 13 with a 4.77 stroke average. But there is very much a risk-reward approach to this 510-yard hole, at which the player can go for the green in two but must beware the water to the left and the trees to the right.
This is another set-up that suits Spieth well, as it does the absent Phil Mickelson, even if his most memorable shot at Azalea was not exactly an exhibition in playing the hole. An error created the opportunity for Mickelson's six-iron from the pine straw on Sunday in 2010.
The course record belongs to Nick Price and Greg Norman, who both shot 63s, but perhaps it should come as no surprise Spieth has the best career average of all players to play 25 or more rounds at Augusta, with his 70.46 leading Woods' 70.87.
That mark will come under threat should Dustin Johnson (71.03) produce anything like his sensational record-breaking 2020 performance again, however. Helped by carding only four bogeys – a low among Masters champions – Johnson's 20-under total of 268 trimmed two off the previous week-long benchmark owned jointly by Woods and Spieth.
Still, with Cameron Smith and Im Sung-jae 'only' five back, Woods' record winning margin of 12 strokes to Tom Kite in 1997 remained.