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Adam McKendry: Stats point to close contest but Rory has game to stand out from crowd

Child’s play: Sergio Garcia with wife Angela and daughter Azalea at yesterday’s Par 3 tournament at Augusta
Child’s play: Sergio Garcia with wife Angela and daughter Azalea at yesterday’s Par 3 tournament at Augusta

By Adam McKendry at Augusta

One of the first things you get when you walk into the press building at Augusta is a bag with three books inside.

The first is the journal of the week - similar to a programme - the next is a media guide and the third is a player guide.

All three are thicker than any books I own at home, so I shudder to think how long it took to put them together.

Inside, you can find pretty much any statistic that you want for any player that you want for any part of their game that you want.

For instance, I can go to the back of the players guide and discover exactly where each player ranks in strokes gained on each individual hole - Rory McIlroy, for example, statistically does best on the 17th, where he is ranked fourth in the field; but he does not fare so well on the 10th compared to the rest of the field (57th).

You can easily get lost in the statistics at an event like this. One of the most impressive being thrown around on Tuesday was that no player outside the top-10 after the opening day has won since Tiger Woods in '05 - but the truth is they're not really going to make much of a difference.

You could make an argument for any player in the field by taking one statistic, allying it with another and claiming this is his key to success. At the same time, for the exact same player you could pick out two more stats and tear his challenge to shreds.

At Augusta of all places, the form book is thrown out the window. Jordan Spieth, of all people, is the prime example, someone who consistently pulls out outstanding performances at The Masters regardless of how his form has been for the rest of the season - you can bet he'll do it again this week.

And you know that coming down the stretch on Sunday, there'll be no shortage of stats thrown out there.

Ulsterman McIlroy is one-under par on the 18th hole at Augusta in 38 rounds played, which is fairly reassuring. But if he stands up on that tee on Sunday with a one-stroke lead, you can be sure it won't stop the nerves from creeping in.

So as we eagerly await the first tee shot today, and as we assess who we think will come out on top, it's about time we set aside the statistics and just let the golf speak for itself as the best in the world challenge arguably the best course in the world.

At the first Major of the year, these are the only three that matter: 69 golfers, four days, one winner.

Let the games begin.

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