Rory under the radar at Augusta National

The Masters is the major where Rory Sabbatini has performed best, and he goes into the 2011 event at Augusta National on Thursday in better shape for it than he has ever been.

He shared second behind Zach Johnson in 2007 with Retief Goosen and Tiger Woods, and, this time round, he has form going into the event as opposed to taking it out as he did in 2007 ahead of his win in the Crowne Plaza Invitational in May of that year.

He’s fresh off a one-stroke victory over YE Yang in the Honda Classic on March 6, a victory that came at the peak of an incredible 10-week run of consecutive tournaments.

He promised his wife Amy he’d take a break once he won, and he did, taking time to be with their son Bodhi, born last September. His wife had to be put in the intensive care unit after complications during the birth.

That time was also spent on getting ready for the Masters: “I’ve been playing nicely,” he said. “I just worked on the things I needed to work on in the early part of the year, trying to keep your ball in play and try to eliminate big numbers. “I think that’s going to be key this week, just keep the ball in play,” he added.

And Bodhi and Amy were both with him during the Par-3 Contest played on Wednesday ahead of the Masters. So were the other two kids, Harley and Tylie Jo.

The tableau during the day spoke of a steadiness and a foundation which is the kind of thing that will be the first thing acknowledged should he win.

“I would say I’m liking my chances this week,” Sabbatini said after playing in the Par-3 Contest. “I’m hitting the ball well, my short game feels very good, but especially mostly important is my putting is feeling really good. So on this course that’s the key.”

Length is also a big key around Augusta National, which has been given more metres over the years as defence against the gains modern players have made with the help of technology.

“It’s playing very long,” said Sabbatini of the course. “I would to say you have to favour especially the longer hitters, so I think that me, Ernie [Els], and Charl [Schwartzel] are the three longer South Africans.

“Hopefully come late Sunday afternoon I’ll be in the middle of things.”

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