And On the 2nd Week of April, Bobby Jones Said,

"Let There Be The Masters."

“Let There Be The Masters.”

Obligatory link to the greatest website in sports.  Masters.com.

Happy Masters week, everyone.  The shining beacon that is The Masters holds an especially dear place in my heart this year after enduring MEGA-WINTER.  I haven’t had a chance to play golf yet this year–possibly a new all-time low for me, and I don’t think many people around here have gotten their proper fix.  The few warm days we’ve had, you’ve probably needed a canoe to navigate most local dog tracks.  I see the hunger for golf in people’s eyes, I hear it in their wavering voices as they gently cradle their new $400 drivers.  The Masters is going to take care of that for you, because the Masters always delivers.  Even when it’s bad–it’s good.

I don’t know many sporting events that could live up to that billing.  The NCAA tournament coming to a conclusion tonight, might work for some people.  Perhaps the NHL playoffs?  But other big-time events stand out to me for how utterly terrible they can be–The Super Bowl? During my formative years, the Pro Bowl was more competitive.  The Masters though is almost guaranteed to deliver some excitement.  Now that we’re safely out of the, “Tiger could win by 11 era,” things have been quite good lately…

2013: Adam Scott’s playoff win.  After Snedeker, Day and some others fell off the pace Adam Scott and Angel Cabrera exchanged blows on the 18th.  Cabrera’s 2nd shot when he needed a birdie to tie was electrifying and a great moment with his son on the bag.  Scott’s putt in the playoff erased decades of Australian demons.

2012: Bubba’s Hook.  Another playoff, one remembered for Watson’s brilliant recovery from the woods on the 10th hole, but earlier in the day, playoff loser Louis Oosthuizen made a two on the par-5 second hole and vaulted into contention with just the 4th double eagle in the tournament’s history.

2011:  The Rory Buckle.  After McIlroy started (hilariously?) leaking oil on the back nine, this thing was wide open. We even had a hint of a Tiger Woods charge before he started missing putts and ran out of holes.  A two-man battle between Jason Day and Adam Scott was interrupted by Charl Schwartzel who decided to birdie the last four holes and win by two.

2010:  Mickelson’s Pine Straw Shot.  The least dramatic of the last four tournaments had the most lasting shot, with Mickelson dodging a tree on 13 to set up a birdie that kept a flawless final round going.  Mickelson pulled away from a field that included Lee Westwood, Tiger Woods and Fred Couples for a relatively comfortable win.

***

As you can see, we are on a hell of a run of events and I hardly even mentioned Tiger Woods, so while his absence will certainly be noted, it’s not a reason to tune out.  If you think you’re going to miss Tiger, just get up every couple of hours and lip out a 4-footer on your carpet.  That should fill the void.

No Tiger, Phil may be still hurting and so we’re left with what many people are calling a changing of the guard type of Major.  A new, fresh era.  Non-Tiger and Phil contenders can be broken down into a few categories:

Next Dominant Player:

  1. Rory McIlroy.  As much I dislike Rory as a fan, he’s in this category by himself, because he’s still younger than most of his peers, and he’s won two majors in dominant fashion.  You can’t disrespect Rory by listing him with Adam Scott, even if Scott has had a better last 12 months.

Major Validators:  This is a long list and could be longer.  There are a lot of guys out there toward the top of the Official World Golf Rankings who have one major.  None of these guys is likely to have even Mickelson, or Ernie Els’ career, but with every major victory you validate the one prior and separate yourself more from the field.

  1. Adam Scott
  2. Jason Dufner
  3. Keegan Bradley
  4. Justin Rose
  5. Bubba Watson
  6. Charl Schwartzel
  7. Louis Oosthuizen

Career Cappers:  Some guys, despite their talent are likely to never get to the heights of the multiple major winners. They are looking for a signature win and still have the game to get it done.

  1. Sergio Garcia
  2. Matt Kuchar
  3. Brandt Snedeker
  4. Ian Poulter
  5. Henrik Stenson

Next Generation:  Very fresh faces who could use a major win to challenge the like of Rory and could become the game’s next great player–in time.

  1. Jordan Spieth
  2. Patrick Reed
  3. Hideki Matsuyama
  4. Jason Day

You could certainly add names to most of these lists, but I feel like this will be story that the press gravitates toward depending on which players are in contention.  For me, I’d like to see someone very old, or very young win this year. Or Dufner, I kind of like Dufner.  But, give me a playoff between Craig and Kevin Stadler and I’d be pretty riveted.

***

Five Thoughts Presented As Facts:

1. Someone is going to butcher the 1st hole on Sunday and vanish from contention.  The first hole at Augusta National is so, so hard.  One bad drive and you’re hacking out, skanking up, two chip and three putting your way to triple or worse.  Leading Candidate: Matt Every.

2. Sergio Garcia’s going to contend.  No one should ever pick Sergio to win any event, especially a major, but I think Sergio has 4-6 serious flirtations with a major left in his career.  I think he’s more likely to break through at an Open Championship where putting has been mostly neutralized, but he’s close to top form and has a decent Augusta track record.

3. We Won’t Hear Much About Slow Play.  There’s the small field for one, but I have a feeling that if the final twosome six hours on Sunday, we’d all be happy to watch.  Plus, after the blowback from giving a 14-year old a slow play penalty last year, I think the tournament committee will go back to being content making this issue someone’s else’s problem.

4. We’ll Hear ALL ABOUT the Eisenhower Tree.  For those living in a dark hole, we lost the Eisenhower Tree to this winter’s ferocious ice storm.  The tree, named after that guy who was you know, like a General and President and stuff, was a major hazard on the 17th hole.  For those expecting the tree to be replaced like nothing happened, that apparently is not the case as Augusta is moving on without its signature piece of foliage.  I expect 11-17 minutes from Nantzy on the history of the tree.

5. You’ll Root For Someone To Hit in the Water on 15.  Let’s be honest here.  Things are going to be tight.  You’ll end up on one side of the coin.  Maybe it’s someone you really dislike, maybe it’s someone you just can’t justify as a Masters champion.  They’re going to come to 15, probably needing a birdie to keep pace, they’re going to take out their hybrid (this player will almost always be hitting a hybrid and not a 3-iron) and you’re going to say, “Get in the f*cking drink.”  That’s sports.

The Top-10–In Exact Order:  

In case you forgot, I put on one of the great golf handicapping clinics of all-time last year, nailing the PGA, the Open Championship and having Justin Rose finishing 2nd at the US Open.  I’m not entirely sure I got enough credit for this, which is a shame, because it’s very unlikely to ever happen again.

  1. Matt Kuchar
  2. Zach Johnson
  3. Rory McIlroy
  4. Jason Dufner
  5. Hideki Matsuyama
  6. Sergio Garcia
  7. Jason Day
  8. Angel Cabrera
  9. Adam Scott
  10. Keegan Bradley

 

Advertisements