The Masters Preview

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Tiger Woods hits on the first tee during a practice round for the Masters golf tournament Wednesday, April 4, 2018, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Slow flyovers of pristine Augusta National, the iconic green jacket and the soothing sound of Jim Nantz’s buttery voice can only mean one thing. It’s Masters week. Golfers and golf fans alike can feel the excitement in the air. As the first major of the young season gets underway, we’re going to take a look at a few of the golfers in the field that have the best chance to don the coveted green jacket this Sunday afternoon.   

Tiger Woods

No need to bury the lede here: Tiger is back. While it’s been almost 10 years since Woods won his last major at the US Open at Torrey Pines, he is playing the best golf that we’ve seen from him in a long time.

Fred Couples, who played a practice round with Woods on Monday at Augusta National, told ESPN, “He’s hitting it a long way, and it looks beautiful. Today wasn’t any different than it was 10 years ago when we played. It was pretty awesome.”

Is Woods playing well recently? He’s coming off of back-to-back top-five finishes in the Valspar Championship and the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Is Woods playing consistently? He has shot a 72 or better in 20 of his last 22 rounds played.

When the pressure is at its highest, Tiger loves to put on a show – and there will be plenty of eyes on him for the next four days.

Phil Mickelson

Phil might be the only player in the world that can generate more hype going into a Masters than Tiger. Mickelson, like Woods, has been playing like he’s a young buck again.

Lefty picked up a win at the WGC Mexico Championship early in March, and currently sits at third on the tour in FedExCup points. It wouldn’t surprise me if we see Mickelson put on his fourth green jacket when the tournament comes to an end.

Would there be anything better for golf than a pairing of Phil and Tiger on a Sunday afternoon at Augusta?

Jordan Spieth

The winner of the 2015 Masters is coming off of a strong -16 at the Houston Open last weekend, which was good enough for a T3. Spieth was able to make big putts, which looked like it was becoming a problem for him.

Currently fourth in the World Golf Ranking (WGR), Spieth is currently lacking FedExCup points, currently ranked 36 (just behind some guy named Andrew Landry). Though it’s still early in the season, a major win would throw Spieth right back up towards the top of the standings.

Spieth lives to sink big shots, as he showed us in last year’s Travelers Championship. Majors, especially the Masters, are all about sinking big shots.

Rory McIlroy

While I hate having to put the favorite on my list, a hot McIlroy is impossible not to talk about. There may not be any player in golf better than him when they’re on their game.

McIlroy won the Arnold Palmer Invitational a few weeks ago by three strokes with an outstanding final round 64. He reminded us all how clutch he is, as he birdied five of the last six holes of the tournament.

The putting woes that haunted McIlroy last season and long gone. If Rors can catch fire in Augusta, I don’t know if anybody in the field would be able to stop him from completing the career grand slam and finally earning the elusive green jacket. Except for maybe this next guy.

Justin Thomas

While a hot McIlroy is scary, a hot JT is absolutely terrifying. Thomas, last year’s FedExCup champion and PGA Player of the Year, has already come out to an early lead on this season’s FedExCup leaderboard.

The 24-year old has captured two wins and five top-10s this young season. One win came back in October at The CJ Cup. The next came at the end of February at The Honda Classic. Since that last win, he’s played in two events and finished second and fourth, respectively.

While Dustin Johnson still sits at the top of the WGR, nobody can argue that any golfer has been better than Thomas (who sits at a close second to DJ in the WGR) dating back to the end of last season.

Bubba Watson

I’m going to put it out there now, I am not a Bubba Watson fan. However, as an unbiased journalist, I do have two huge reasons why I like the PGA’s biggest jerk (as voted by his peers) in this particular tournament.

Reason number one: Bubba is hot, and I mean scorching hot. In his last four events, Watson has three top 10s, with two of those being wins for the southpaw. On top of being one of only three players with two wins this season, Watson is also fourth in FedExCup points. He has a ton of momentum going into The Masters.

Reason number two: Well, it’s Bubba in The Masters. Watson has never won a major that wasn’t a Masters, but he’s still won two Masters. He knows how to play Augusta. In 2014, he won it pretty handily by three strokes over Jonas Blixt and a then 20-year old Spieth. In 2012, he beat Louis Oosthuizen (who definitely has the most fun name to say in the PGA) in one of the most memorable playoffs in PGA history.

So fellow golf fans, let’s sit back and watch the action unfold on Thursday and hope that all of the golfers on this list will be around for Sunday. And best believe if one of them wins it, I will be here to say “I told you so” (unless it’s Bubba).


Sean Janos is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at sean.janos@uconn.edu.

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