⛳️ Good morning! Welcome to a special Masters edition of Axios Sports. I had so much fun putting this together and hope you enjoy it.
Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images
Walking through the entrance at Augusta National is like walking through the gates of golf heaven. This is hallowed ground, steeped in both history and tradition.
Why it matters: Not sure if you've noticed, but the world is kind of insane.
The bottom line: As our world gets increasingly confusing and complex, it is my hope that sports can serve as our North Star. Something to keep us on track and help us maintain our sanity.
P.S. ... Speaking of Augusta National's many iconic features, did you know that the course's 44 bunkers are filled with "the purest silica sand that has ever been found anywhere on Earth"? It's true.
Over the years, the Masters has developed a reputation for being a putting contest, but recent history suggests that a great long game is much more important if you want to win the green jacket.
By the numbers: The average winner this decade (excluding Danny Willett and Sergio Garcia, who didn't play enough PGA Tour rounds for their stats to qualify) ranked just 98th in putting that season.
The intrigue: Here is the "strokes gained from tee-to-green" leaderboard so far this season. Check out who comes in at number nine ...
P.S. ... I have a theory about why the Masters is thought to be all about putting when, in fact, it's not. Here it is: Augusta National is synonymous with iconic golf moments, and iconic golf moments are synonymous with putts.
L to R: Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy. Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios
1. Rory McIlroy (8-1 odds)
2. Dustin Johnson (11-1)
3. Justin Rose (14-1)
Justin Thomas, Tiger Woods and Fred Couples during a practice round earlier this week. Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images
Go deeper: All 87 golfers in the field, ranked
No. 1 (Par 4, 445 yards): Augusta National does not allow players to ease into their Masters experience, as the first hole features a narrow tee shot with trouble right and left. Last year, there were 83 bogeys or worse on this hole.
No. 5 (Par 4, 495 yards): This has been the most talked about hole all week, as it has been lengthened by 40 yards and flattened around the greens. If you land in either of the two bunkers on the left side, you're toast, so accuracy off the tee is paramount.
Go deeper: Hole-by-hole guide
No. 12 (Par 3, 155 yards): Perhaps the most famous par 3 in the world, with the Hogan Bridge on the left of the green, Rae's Creek in front and the azaleas and bunkers behind. Players will be hoping there's no wind, as it can be particularly difficult to read.
No. 13 (Par 5, 510 yards): Everything about this hole entices players to stay to the right, but those who successfully drive their ball over the dogleg to the left are rewarded with a flat lie and clean look at the green. It's the ultimate risk-reward hole.
Go deeper: Hole-by-hole guide
Jack Nicklaus and caddie Willie Peterson react to his birdie putt on the 15th hole in 1966. Photo: Bettmann/Getty Images
Only five players have won the Masters wire-to-wire. The first to do it was Craig Wood in 1941, and the last to do it was Jordan Spieth in 2015.
Answer at the bottom
"In the areas immediately surrounding golf's most exclusive club, there are generally only two types of properties: the ones Augusta National has acquired — and the ones it will acquire," writes the Wall Street Journal’s Brian Costa.
By the numbers: In the last 20 years, Augusta has spent upwards of $200 million to buy more than 100 pieces of land totaling some 270 acres. All in all, the club has expanded its territory by more than 75%, oftentimes buying and demolishing entire residential blocks.
What's happening: This is all part of Augusta's strategy to further insulate itself from the outside world.
A snake eats a squirrel during yesterday's practice round. Photo: David Cannon/Getty Images
How will Jordan Spieth play today? Photo: Michael Reaves/Getty Images
Pro tip: If you want to master the art of sports betting, download The Action Network app.
1. Will Jordan Spieth shoot over/under 71.5 today?
2. Who will record more birdies: Jason Day or Bryson DeChambeau?
3. Who will finish with the lowest first-round score in the Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Phil Mickelson grouping?
🎰 Play now: Make your picks (cutoff time: 1:38 pm ET)
Yesterday's results: 15.6% correctly predicted that the Blue Jackets (+1.5) would cover the spread against the Lightning. They won 4-3 ... 40.3% correctly predicted that Sidney Crosby would NOT score against the Islanders ... 1.8% correctly predicted that Kemba Walker would score 41 or more points. He scored 43.
Kendall "If any of you are at Augusta this weekend, send pics thx" Baker
Trivia answer: Arnold Palmer (1960), Jack Nicklaus (1972) and Raymond Floyd (1976)