Each year I wax lyrically about how the Masters has no peer. But I won’t go into my borderline obsessive love for the tournament, it’s incredible history and the impossibly perfect golf course that it is played on this time, I shall rather just focus on the tournament itself and what lies ahead. And boy are we in store for a real humdinger of a Major ahead!
In my 15 or so years of being a golf fan, I don’t think there has ever been a Major that has held the CRACKER potential that the 2012 Masters does. There are just so many stories within stories within contests for this one and challengers in many shapes and forms. Let’s have a look then at the players to watch for as they tee it up after Gary Player on Thursday.
The Tiger is back
A phrase you are perhaps a little tired of hearing, but a phrase that is finally true. Tiger is and probably always will be one of my least favourite sports stars, but there is no disputing his amazing ability and him having turned the corner since his golfing slump. Like any true great, the taste of the biggest stage will bring the best out of him when it matters most. In the last two Masters’ he has resembled a well dressed hacker and still been in the mix on Sunday – with a little more composure and consistency in his game this year he could be where the smart money’s at.
It was a joy to watch Rory making Augusta his bitch last year as he stormed away from the field in what looked like his first Major triumph. Then he showed the world that there are actually houses down the left side of the 10th fairway with a drive that went so far left the cameras lost it within seconds. He then went on to absolutely Greg Norman the rest of the back nine ruining his challenge and providing Charl Schwartzel the opportunity to achieve greatness. This time round Rory will be eager to right the wrongs of that final round, and is a year older and a Major championship better off to do it – put some money on him to at least place…
The 40 year old virgins
Neither is 40 just yet, but you can bet your balls that both Lee Westwood and Luke Donald would like to reach that milestone age with that elusive Major title under the belt. Something tells me this isn’t the Major for Donald’s game, but Westwood with his tremendous long game and clutch putting ability could be in the reckoning come Sunday afternoon. Personally I wouldn’t put money on either for the win though.
The Green Jacket Hunter
For the past few years I have found myself putting a few bob on American Hunter Mahan in all the Majors. He strikes me as solid guy all round; naturally talented, decent head on his shoulders and seemingly unflustered by pressure environments. But then he duffed his chip at the last Ryder Cup handing Graeme McDowell the win and I thought he maybe isn’t as good as I thought he was. Fast forward to this year though, Mahan is the only multiple winner on the USPGA Tour having owned Rory McIlroy at the World Matchplay and betting off all comers last week at the Houston Open. So we know he is in form, we know he is ready for the challenge and we know he won’t be under too much pressure to succeed. This all makes him a rather dangerous prospect for the week.
Boerewors on the menu?
One of the great traditions of this great event is that the defending champ hosts a dinner to welcome invited guests, and of course gets to choose what cuisine is served. Defending champ Schwartzel will no doubt plug the room with some decent meat which will spur him and fellow South African Louis Oosthuizen on no end. These two fly the flag for the South African challenge, and both will do so almost under the radar with all the hype on the players mentioned above. Bring it home boykies!
Beware the (long) dark horse
Augusta is a long course with no rough and some exciting par 5s – no prizes for guessing it favours the longer hitters. This means that a guy like Bubba Watson could well be a decent pick or even someone like Gary Woodland. Alvaro Quieros has the ability to go low (and long) so it wouldn’t hurt to have a wager on some of these dark horses going into the event.
What we all want to see
Apart from Charl defending his title, I think the world will literally come to a stand still if Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods are going toe to toe down the stretch on Sunday. If there are golfing gods out there – please make it happen!
For more on this incredible tournament – visit www.themasters.com