Keep calm – it’s Masters week!

Keep calm – it’s Masters week.

I see this saying springs up around this time because it is Masters week!

Today brings the start of the annual four-day ritual at the iconic Augusta National Golf Club.

I am a broken record each year talking about The Masters and why it is my favorite major to watch each year.

The course is the same each year as opposed to a rotation of courses as is done for the U.S. Open, The PGA, and The Open Championship.

Playing the same course allows the viewer to become fully invested in watching the tournament. You know where the tee shots must go on every hole. You know what to expect each day based on the pin placements.

Each day on the par 3’s you know where the tee shot needs to land and you know where the ball is going to roll, adding to the excitement of a great shot.

For me the excitement of each round starts on the second hole, the 585-yard, par 5. Based on where the pin placement is, it can be an amazing second shot to watch.

But while there are some great holes on the opening nine, there is a saying about the tournament – “The Masters doesn’t start until the back nine on Sunday.”

I have heard the line so many times, including three I can remember on Wednesday listening to a preview show.

Then again – it’s true.

Even when I watch all four rounds of the tournament, there is a noticeable jump in intensity when the contenders hit the 10th tee.

You see it one the players face, hear it the announcer’s voices, and I even find myself sitting a bit taller on the couch.

This is another reason playing the same course every year makes a monster difference.

When you see the players on the back nine, you know where they can make an eagle, and where even making a par is stealing a shot from the field at times.

Take No. 12 – the 155-yard par 3 that is protected by Rae’s Creek – and has never averaged even par in the history of the tournament.

The closest came in 2002 when it averaged 3.030. The average is 3.27. The backdrop of the patrons framing the tee box and the golfers is stunning.

Then right after you have one of the amazing par 5’s on the back.

No. 13 is a 545-yard, par 5 that is reachable with a good tee shot. A tributary of Rae’s Creek runs right in front of the green, but the good tee shot often brings eagle putts and kick in birdies. The hole average is 4.77.

The next par five is No. 15 at 550 yards.  Plays to about the same as No. 15 but there is pond fronting the green as opposed to a creek. The wind is also known to change, even during a round, forcing various choices to be made depending upon wind direction.

The last par 3 comes next with the 170-yard par 3 No. 16 that has arguably the most exciting Sunday pin placement. There have been a number of dramatic moments, most notably Tiger Woods’ chip from off the green for birdie in 2005.

Facing a seemingly impossible chip, Woods picked the perfect line as the ball tantalizing rolled toward the hole, stopped on the lip for a moment, then fell into the hole prompting announcer Verne Lundquist’s call “In your life have you seen anything like that.”

The course closes out with a 465-yard, uphill dogleg right, par 4 and is no gimme, certainly with a Masters championship hanging in the balance.

The two bunkers along the left side of the hole have gobbled up their share of tee shots as has the pine straw down the left side.

It’s a bit mundane of a Sunday pin placing but that’s the beauty of it – you are on the 72nd hole and it’s a battle to get to the green – let’s end with rewarding someone for their play all week.

Always one of the toughest tournaments to handicap, I am taking the easy out, giving a group of golfers which I believe the winner will come out of.

Scottie Sheffler, Jon Rahm, Brooks Koepka, Cameron Smith, Tony Finau, Wyndham Clark, and Hideki Matsuyama are the players I think the winner comes from.

Who am I rooting for?

Fred Couples and Tiger Woods for starters but do not give either a chance to win but rather hope they make the cut. As for others – Jordan Spieth, Koepka, Max Homa, and Rickie Fowler are among my favorite golfers in recent history.

Woods being in the field is certainly the biggest news, and by all accounts he has been looking strong on the course and on the practice range.

But walking four days over the terrain of Augusta National will extract a toll on his body that has seen numerous issues.

Then again, the guy did win a U.S. Open on a broken leg so I should probably never count him out. And if he was in contention Sunday, the TV ratings would be off the charts.

Have a great four days watching and taking in all the beauty of Augusta National and The Maters.

By Dennis Miller