AUGUSTA, Ga. — Smylie Kaufman’s first Masters pairing will have the international feel the tournament is known for.
The former LSU golfer tees off at 11:33 a.m. CDT Thursday with Danny Lee of New Zealand and Russell Knox of Scotland. The threesome has an early start Friday at 8:26 a.m.
Former University High golfer Patrick Reed starts at 8:37 a.m. CDT Thursday with a pair of major champions: 2010 British Open winner Louis Oosthuizen and 2013 PGA champion Jason Dufner, a winner in 2012 at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. They tee off at 11:44 a.m. Friday.
Two-time Masters champion and 2011 Zurich Classic winner Bubba Watson, with Lafayette’s Ted Scott on his bag, has the opposite tee times: 11:44 a.m. Thursday, 8:37 a.m. Friday. He plays with South Africa’s Branden Grace and England’s Ian Poulter.
Other notable tee times Thursday:
Reigning Masters champion Jordan Spieth at 8:48 a.m.
World No. 1 Jason Day at 12:06 p.m.
Three-time Masters winner Phil Mickelson at 9:43 a.m.
Rory McIlroy in Thursday’s final group at 1:01 p.m.
Golden Bear talks Tiger
Maybe Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods had something to chat about at Tuesday night’s Masters champions dinner.
Nicklaus said he was surprised four-time champion Woods decided not to play in this year’s Masters as he continues to recover from back surgery.
“He was at my house for dinner about a month ago, and he said he felt great,” Nicklaus said at a news conference to discuss his sixth Masters win in 1986.
Nicklaus said he thinks Woods, who has won 14 majors, can still reach his total of 18 — though, at 40 and given his health issues, the odds are longer now.
In addition to winning the 1986 Masters at 46, Nicklaus won the U.S. Open and PGA in 1980. No golfer has won more than three majors after 40.
“I don’t think he’s done,” Nicklaus said. “I think he will win more tournaments. He’ll show up for his 1980 and 1986.”
Par-3 up next
Most tournaments have a pro-am on Wednesday. The Masters has its Par-3 contest.
This year’s players, past Masters champions and other major championship winners compete in the informal event, held on Augusta National’s par-3 course.
Some embrace the event. Some avoid it. Since its inception in 1960, no player has won the Par-3 tournament and the Masters in the same year, launching what is perhaps the tournament’s biggest superstition.
McIlroy is skipping this year’s contest.
“I guess it’s more of a superstition thing than anything else,” he said. “In 2011, I didn’t play the Par 3 and that was my best chance to win the Masters. It doesn’t mean that I’m not going to play it again. It’s a fantastic event and one I’m sure I’m going to play in the future.”
The Par-3 contest starts at 2 p.m. CDT on ESPN.
Numbers to know
89: Players in this year’s field
20: First-time players (a record)
23: Countries represented
16: Past champions
1 3?8 inches: Length of grass in primary rough (second cut)
3?8-inch: Length of fairway grass
1?8-inch: Length of grass on greens
2016 prize money: TBA
How’s the weather?
Rain is expected Wednesday night and into Thursday morning, but the rest of the tournament days should be cool, windy and dry with highs only in the 60s the rest of the week.
The last word
“I’m pretty sure they don’t want 18-under to win. I think they’ll set the course up a lot tougher … enough to make mistakes and enough to make good shots and make birdies and keep everyone in it.”
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter, @RabalaisAdv.