This Wide Open Masters

The next two days at Augusta will be exciting and beautiful.  Starting day three we have a leaderboard that is stacked with experience and underdogs.  Plenty of past champions.  Plenty of “never haves” such as Fowler, Hoffman, Matsuyama, and Garcia.   Also, some youngsters that I am sure everyone will expect to fade.  Then there is Fred Couples the ageless wonder whose expertise on this track was shown at 18 when his approach hit the backboard, came back, and almost went in.  Sometime soon there will be a golfer that wins a major championship in his fifty’s.  It probably won’t be Couples but it will happen soon.  Probably Mickelson.  The pace of change on Saturday and Sunday will be hard to keep up with.  Making this one of the most exciting sporting events in recent history.

The weather for the next two days will be excellent.  Somebody is going to light it up.  The cold and windy weather the first two days kept everyone bunched up.  Now the gates are open for someone to make a lot of birdies.  It will happen and the fun part is seeing who it is.

Garcia no doubt has the most pressure on him.  Such a great golfer with so many years and wins under his belt but no major.  This is the one everyone wants too.  They can say it is the Open Championship or the U.S. Open but nobody believes them.  This is the one Garcia wants too and he knows his chances are dwindling.  A lot of years left sure but the more you come up empty in big spots, combined with age, takes a confidence toll on you.  Hoping that Garcia plays well this weekend.

Fowler will win a major.   Young and so steady and if he just shows up for the next 15 years he will win a couple of majors.  He must play this entire weekend though.  Because his type of game won’t include making eagles on 13 and 15 on the last nine to make a charge.  A Fowler win will more likely be from a 67-68 scenario.  His recent performance in majors proves that he is always a contender, is not phased, and he wants it bad.  The type of player whose game will elevate once he wins a major.

There is a group of guys that are among the world’s best but have just been hanging around lately. By lately I mean this year. Including McIlroy, Rose, Scott, Spieth, Kuchar, Kaymer, and Schwartzel.  What a list.  In other tournaments, we have seen this group get hot and all of a sudden they are eight strokes up and the tournament is over.  Last year’s Spieth meltdown on twelve was fascinating.  How many years will it take him to get over it at Augusta?  Is Kuchar ever going to win a major?  Will Rose bust out and become the man?  Adam Scott just sort of exists.  Yes, he has won a Masters but to me still a serial underachiever without the killer instinct.

Most interesting to me are the folks on the cusp.  Matsuyama, Hoffman, Moore, Rahm, and McGirt.  All great and consistent pros with no majors.  Maybe McGirt is not in that category as he is a bit of a career grinder.  But an excellent chance this weekend for one of these to wear the jacket.

Phil you da man!  He limped home on the back nine yesterday.  But am thinking he can get hot and will do so for a stretch or two these next thirty-six holes.  But what kills him are the multiple bogeys that follow the hotness.  It always happens.  Will never forget him being up two I think on the eighteenth tee at the U.S. Open and he hit driver.  That is one of those golf moments that stick in my mind.  Another one is Tom Watson’s near win at the British Open.  He had a 10-footer or so to win, a win that would have been a historic symbol for age is only number, but instead he left that putt SHORT.  Phil please hit the gym and know that you can compete well into your fifties.

The visuals are my favorite part of The Masters.  The exquisite course, the flowers, the shrubs, the elevation changes, the streams, and all the other carefully crafted bits of engineered beauty.  This is as much responsible for the mystique of The Masters as anything.  The same course every year that we all know by heart, the music, the beauty, and even Jim Nantz and his picture of burnt toast.  Limited commercials, minimal loud talk and no nonsense.  These qualities are less and less in society each year.  So cheers to another exciting Masters weekend.  The real start of spring.

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