April 3, 2023
It's Masters Week
The Masters signal the beginning of spring. All the major golfers have pointed towards this week with preparation and anticipation. Will their hard work pay off with a victory and instant fame and accreditation, or will it be another disappointment for the likes of Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, and Jon Rahm. Hope springs eternal at this time of year for all golfers and TV viewers when we view the idyllic confines of Augusta National with their azaleas full in bloom, birds chirping happily, and the best golfers applying their trade on pristine playing conditions. As Jim Nance says, this is "A Tradition Unlike Any Other", which begs the question. Who will win?
Many of us have experienced an unusually bad winter and want spring to finally arrive. Augusta, Georgia weather unfortunately is not cooperating for this tournament. Rain is predicted every day from Thursday through Sunday. Thursday morning could be clear, but thunderstorms possible for the afternoon. Then the next three days the temperatures go from 69, 54, and Sunday 64. Rain is forecast each day at over 70%. The golfers will play through rain as long as it isn't life threatening or makes the course unplayable. With the conditions as predicted the golf course will play entirely different than in years past. It could be a big advantage to some of the bigger hitters.
The sentimental favorite is Rory McIlroy. The win would complete his career Grand Slam and also be his first major victory in nine years. He is on top of his game right now and he really wants this title. That might be his downfall. Wanting something too much puts added pressure and it is probably why he hasn't fared well in recent Masters. I think the wet course conditions will work favorably for Rory and with his vastly improved wedge game and regained mental toughness, this could be his week. He would be my first pick.
Long hitters like Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler, Will Zalatoris, Patrick Cantley, Tony Finau, and Dustin Johnson will have a distinct advantage because of length and height of the tee shots and iron shots. Each should be on the second tier of likely green jacket recipients. The next stage of players would include Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Xander Schauffele, Collin Morikawa, Max Homa, and Cameron Smith. Each are very capable and long enough to handle the tougher playing conditions. My sleeper picks include Sam Burns, Sungjae Im, Cameron Young, and Tom Kim. Each player isn't recognized as a top tier player yet, but each soon will be.
No discussion about this year's Masters would be complete if I didn't discuss the 18 LIV players competing. They deserve to be there, because they earned their invitation due to past accomplishments. I don't expect any major incidents to occur. At this time, it is hard to assess who among the 18 is playing their best, based on only 9 competitive rounds in three months in a limited field action. Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, and Cameron Smith are the best LIV players entered. Each could win and it would be a big publicity coup for the Saudi back startup league. I hope this will be about golf and not a side show with bickering. Let the golf clubs do the talking.
Thursday starts the action and even with troubling weather it will be an edge of your seat golf experience. Did you know Tiger Woods is playing? Of course you did. The Masters is where anything can happen. This tournament seems to capture "lightning in a jar" every year. We will see what the 2023 edition offers us.