Five things to know: The Masters

4/5/2011 - Golf Tiger Woods Phil Mickelson + more

Think you know all there is to know about the 2010 Masters Tournament? Think again. ESPN's crack research staff has unearthed the following array of factoids to take your understanding of this year's event to a whole new level.

1. Tiger tees it up, but can he win?
By making his first PGA Tour appearance of the 2010 season at Augusta, Tiger Woods will try to become just the second golfer to win the Masters in his first official start of the season. Several came close to achieving the milestone, but only Ben Hogan pulled it off -- and he did it twice in the 1950s.

Best season debuts in Masters since WWII
Year, Player, Result
1951, Ben Hogan, Won
1953, Ben Hogan, Won
1968, Roberto De Vicenzo, 2nd
1961, Charles Coe, T-2
1957, Sam Snead, 2nd
1955, Ben Hogan, 2nd
1954, Billy J. Patton, 3rd

2. The day of reckoning
What's the most important day of Masters week? At least one finding suggests it's Saturday. Why? Because 18 of the past 19 winners at Augusta have emerged from Sunday's final pairing.

A run of 16 straight years of Masters victories by last-pairing participants was snapped in 2007 when Zach Johnson, playing in the third-to-last group, came from 2 shots behind after 54 holes to win. But you get the picture: Play your way into the last group on Saturday, and you have an excellent shot to win on Sunday.

3. Thrice as nice
Phil Mickelson will enter this year's Masters field looking for his third win at Augusta. He is seeking to become just the eighth player to win three green jackets.

Even though Mickelson hasn't had the start to the 2010 season that he and many of his fans had hoped for, "Lefty" has finished among the top 10 on the leaderboard in 10 of his past 11 Masters starts. His streak of eight straight top-10s was snapped in 2007. The most consecutive top-10 finishes at the Masters is 14, by Ben Hogan (1939-1956). Mickelson has seven top-5 finishes in the past nine years.

Mickelson finished fifth at the Masters in 2009 and made a stirring Sunday charge playing in the same group with Woods. Both came up just short of winning the green jacket.

4. Curse of the Par-3 Contest?
First played in 1960 (when it was won by Sam Snead), the Par-3 Contest has become a Wednesday tradition at the Masters. Tournament participants, noncompeting past champions and honorary invitees can participate in the lighthearted event.

The nine-hole par-3 course, built in 1958 by architect George Cobb and Augusta National co-founder Clifford Roberts, is a par-27, 1,060-yard track played over DeSoto Springs Pond and Ike's Pond. In the history of the contest, there have been 70 holes-in-one made, including a record five in 2002. There have been 18 sudden-death playoffs, the last in 2004. Art Wall (1965) and Gay Brewer (1973) share the course record of 20. Tim Clark won in 2009 with a score of 22.

But is the Masters' Par-3 Contest champ doomed to failure on the longer track later in the week? No contest winner has won at Augusta in the same year as his short-course victory. Fifteen contest winners have missed the Masters cut, including three of the past four.

Winners of the annual Par-3 Contest at the Masters lately have fared poorly in the main tournament. Below are the results of the past six Par-3 Contest winners.

Year, Par-3 winner, Masters finish
2009, Tim Clark, T-13
2008, Rory Sabbatini, Missed cut
2007, Mark O'Meara, Missed cut
2006, Ben Crane, Missed cut
2005, Jerry Pate, Didn't play (invitee)
2004, Padraig Harrington *, T-13
*Won Par-3 Contest in playoff

5. Pleading for fifth
Although Saturday might be crucial at Augusta, Friday might be the real Masters moving day, at least based on results in the past decade. All of the tournament's eventual winners during that span could be found in fifth place or higher after 36 holes.

Below is a look where the eventual champion stood on the leaderboard at the 36-hole and 54-hole mark since 2000.

Year, Winner, 36-hole standing, 54-hole standing
2009, Angel Cabrera, 3rd, T-1
2008, Trevor Immelman, 1, 1
2007, Zach Johnson, T-4, T-4
2006, Phil Mickelson, T-5, 1
2005, Tiger Woods, 3, 1
2004, Phil Mickelson, T-4, T-1
2003, Mike Weir, 1, 2
2002, Tiger Woods, T-4, T-1
2001, Tiger Woods, T-2, 1
2000, Vijay Singh, T-2, 1