Masters Preview and Predictions
For me the biggest news before this coming week’s Masters Tournament is that Tiger Woods is going to play. I believed he would not think his game was major tournament ready and therefore not play, but obviously he thinks he can compete at a high level. Rory McIlroy, Bubba Watson, Adam Scott, Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson have interesting stories and could be the headline makers come next Sunday, but right now the talk is about Tiger.
Tiger has been out of the public eye and tournament golf since February 5, when he had to quit in mid-round after his back tightened up. But his short game problems and ball striking have been the chief issues preventing him from playing a tournament on the PGA Tour for nine weeks. The question is, “How will he play with that long of a layoff?” In 1953, Ben Hogan played in only five official PGA tournaments and won them all, including three majors. He played in an unofficial tournament in January that year, but didn’t compete again until the Masters and won with a record score of 274 bettering the old record by five shots. Can Tiger repeat what Hogan did?
There are reports that Tiger has been practicing diligently at the Medalist Golf Club in Hobe Sound, Florida. It was reported that he shot a “worst ball” score of 66. The “worst ball” format is where you hit two balls and select the worst ball after each shot, then two balls from that spot, etc. What makes it exceedingly difficult, is that you have to make each putt twice. For instance, your worst ball is on the green in regulation about 30 feet from the pin. You then make that putt, but to record a birdie, you have to make it again! So, if he truly did shoot a “worst ball” 66, to me it is the equivalent of shooting 56. So let’s say the ball striking is strong, but how will the nerves react with the public scrutiny over the delicate wedge shots that have to be hit at Augusta National. Hogan was able to win after a lengthy time between tournaments. I just don’t see Tiger being able to do the same thing.
My pick to win the Masters is Jordan Spieth. He is playing well and has been in contention in almost every tournament he enters. He was leading last year at the Masters and faltered on the last day. I think he has learned from his failure of last year and has the resolve to close the deal this year.
Here are my top ten picks and Tiger.
- Jordan Spieth – Rory’s main competition for years to come.
- Henrik Stenson – a major is in his future and he is peaking. Has the super-star composure.
- Dustin Johnson – scary good at times. Seems to have his act together.
- Patrick Reed – won’t back down and has the guts to win at Augusta.
- Jason Day – been close lately. Has the game and temperament. Needs to get a few breaks.
- Rory McIlroy – can never be counted out. Great talent, but is a little off his game lately.
- Bubba Watson – three out of the last four years is asking a lot, but he could do it.
- Adam Scott – Course suits him. Can he putt good enough with his new short putter?
- Jimmy Walker – silently one of the best players on tour. Is he major championship caliber?
- Phil Mickelson – struggling right now, but rises to the occasion when needed.
- Tiger Woods – want him to play well, but don’t see the short game holding up.
One thing for sure is the Masters will be entertaining and exciting. This is the first major of the year and all the top players will be extra excited and motivated to win a green jacket. Should be fun!