Golf’s Masters begins the major tournament season with the usual fanfare and tradition that you can only get at Augusta National.
The course, despite its changes over the years, remains the annual host and there’s a sense of familiarity that you don’t get with the PGA Championship or U.S. and British Opens.
Past is often present as we recall the meltdowns and the miracles of years gone by with every drive from Tiger Woods, to every missed putt by Rory McIlroy.
Let’s get to the driving range and spray some worm-burners:
Tiger’s Tale: The five-time winner begins his first round Thursday morning at 10:18 a.m. Woods has made the cut 23 times in 24 appearances (1996 the outlier) but finished 47th last year.
“For him it’s not so much the golf it’s the walking,” USA Today columnist Christine Brennan told the DC Sports Huddle, “His leg is rebuilt. Every night he’s got ice baths and he’s got to do incredible massages and all kind of stuff he has to do just to get ready to play the next day.”
Will potential inclement weather mean that Tiger has to play more than 18 holes one day? But one knows never to count out the best golfer of the 21st century.
Repeat after me: Tiger (2001-02), Nick Faldo (1989-90), and Jack Nicklaus (1965-66) are the only men to win back to back green jackets. Scottie Scheffler won his first major last year and is currently atop the PGA Tour rankings and has already won twice this season.
Rory’s Chase: As has been the case since 2015, Rory McIlroy is a Masters win way from the career grand slam. But even before he won his first major (lighting up the field at Congressional Country Club in 2011 at the U.S. Open) he’s dealt with issues at Augusta National. McIlroy went from contender to pretender by carding a final round 80 in the 2011 Masters and has had a checkered history since. He needs to avoid another slow start (Rory carded 73’s on Thursday and Friday last year) this week.
Rahm Service Delivery: FedEx Cup points leader Jon Rahm has three wins and six top 10 finishes this season, but withdrew from last month’s Arnold Palmer Invitational after a first round 71. Other players having elite seasons entering this week’s major include Max Homa, Kurt Kitayama, and Keegan Bradley.
Living with the LIV Guys: Eighteen golfers from the breakaway tour will participate, including six former champions: Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Charl Schwartzel and Bubba Watson. For all of the chatter over the last calendar year, it’s going to be intriguing when these players are put together with their former PGA brethren-especially Saturday and Sunday.
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