Masters week finally arrives, Jim Herman stuns in Houston, Lydia Ko dazzles us again, Tiger Woods masters the Friday news dump and more in this week’s edition of Monday Scramble:
The Masters is always the most anticipated major, for a few reasons:
It’s the tournament most players most want to win. It’s the inherent beauty and mystique of Augusta National. And it’s the Masters’ place on the calendar – eight months have passed since the last major championship, and every event since has felt like a referendum on the list of favorites.
But this year feels a bit different, no?
Fourteen PGA Tour events have been played in 2016. Eight have been won by major champions, and four former Masters winners have already won a title this year. It’s why the Masters field is so small – almost all of the top players are snatching up titles (and, by extension, the automatic invitations).
Four of the top five players in the world have won an event this year, and the only guy who hasn’t, Rory McIlroy, blew a 54-hole lead at Doral and is, well, Rory McIlroy, so he’s a threat every time he tees it up. McIlroy and the other top two players in the world – the winners of five of the past six majors – are all 8-1 odds or better to win at Augusta.
The point here is that this Masters has all the makings of an instant classic, of one of the most memorable majors in the past two decades. Too many great players are in form for there to be a rout, a dud winner, a lack of drama on the back nine.
- Jason Day: The rare player who can smash right-to-left tee shots and sky-high irons while also dazzling around the greens with one of the game’s best short games. The only thing he hasn’t done at Augusta – where he already has a pair of top-3s – is win.
- Adam Scott: Augusta’s stressful greens will test his revamped stroke, but Scott’s ball-striking is strong enough to give himself a great shot at a second green jacket.
- Bubba Watson: The favorite as the Tour left the West Coast, Watson contended at Doral but tweaked his back and then bowed out early at the Match Play. Both of his Masters wins have come in even-numbered years and following victories at Riviera and runners-up at Doral. Hmmm.
- Jordan Spieth: Not exactly peaking heading into Augusta, with five over-par scores in his last 10 rounds, but in his young career he’s already shown a remarkable ability to rise to the occasion on the biggest stages.
- Rickie Fowler: The timing just seems right: He’s in good form, with a win in Abu Dhabi and a bunch of other top finishes, and he’s placed in the top 12 in each of the past two Masters. Too bad orange and green don’t go well together.
- Rory McIlroy: Yes, his pursuit of the career Grand Slam remains a major storyline this week, but it almost seems as if he’s flying under the radar, with Day’s emergence and Spieth’s defense. If he can have a decent putting week and avoid a nine-hole blowup, it could be his week.
- Phil Mickelson: For years, Lefty’s early-season struggles were disregarded because his record at Augusta was so good – Don’t worry, he’ll find his game once he heads down Magnolia Lane. Though he remains winless since July 2013, he has played well during the year’s first few months. Now, expectations are understandably high.
- Dustin Johnson: His physical tools are undeniable and he’s coming off his best result at the Masters (T-6). It remains to be seen, once again, whether he has the discipline to handle the Sunday pressure.
- Louis Oosthuizen: His runner-up at the Match Play (his fifth consecutive top-15) eliminated any chance of being a Masters sleeper, but perhaps King Louie will go overlooked after laying an egg in his final tune-up in Houston.
- Justin Rose: Quiet start to the year, but he owns one of the best scoring averages on Tour and has finished outside the top 25 only twice in 10 career trips to Augusta.