The 2018 Masters is not short on storylines, with the biggest storyline being Tiger Woods is back, playing well and figures to be a factor on the weekend for the first time in a long time. Tiger is generating more buzz for the Masters Tournament than I can remember. Scalping tickets for this event will not be cheap! Tiger has taken the last two weekends off after finishing 12th at Honda, T5 at Bay Hill, and T2 at Valspar in preparation for Augusta. Tiger is trending upwards and I expect to see the red and black on Sunday in contention. I do not think he wins, but he will contend and it will make for some dramatic TV early Sunday evening. Another interesting story is the 47-year-old lefty Phil Mickelson playing great golf. He won a few weeks ago in Mexico, his first since 2013 and has contended in a few other tournaments this year. Phil will be in contention also this weekend and it would be awesome to see if Tiger and Phil play in the same group on Sunday.
On Tuesday, Phil and Tiger played a practice round together with Freddy Couples and Thomas Pieters. This is noteworthy because Tiger and Phil had never done this before, and they were electric on the course and in the press room. A reporter asked Phil how the decided who went first on the tee and he replied, “4,3,1,0 number of green jackets. Tiger has 4, I have 3, Freddy has 1, and Thomas has zero, it’s a respect thing.” Tiger and Phil had a rivalry in the early 2000s that was awesome. Tiger and Phil were battling for every major tournament and were #1 and #2 in the world forever. Before Tuesday, they had never played a practice round together in their 20+ year careers, and they were acting like they were old buddies meeting up for a round of golf on the weekend. They were smiling, talking to each other and their press conference after the round was on fire. Tiger was busting on Phil for his button-down shirt and Phil was playing along. Towards the end of the interview, Phil gave Tiger respect, saying that “everything he has gotten from this game is because of Tiger and the popularity he brought to the game.” I am hoping a couple of 40-year-olds in the twilight of their PGA careers can crash the weekend party of the young guns on tour.
Jordan Spieth won his green jacket in 2015 and had a chance to win two others in 2014 and 2016. In 2016, Spieth was going for back to back green jackets and had an epic blowup on the back nine where he held a 5 shot lead. He then bogeyed 10 and 11 and then hit two balls in the water on the par 3 12th, where he took a quadruple bogey. He dropped to fourth and then battled back to finish second behind winner Danny Willet. Jordan will play in the next 20 or so Masters and will not win them all, but he will be in contention to win a majority of them. He is the favorite along with Justin Thomas at 10/1 this year. He along with a few others are the future of golf.
A couple other things to watch this week in Augusta are Rory McIlroy going for the grand slam, needing only the green jacket to complete it, and World Number 2 Justin Thomas, who is playing the best golf of anyone on the planet right now. McIlroy and Thomas are both playing lights out and can drive the ball accurately, which will be needed this week at Augusta. Also a name to watch this week is Dustin Johnson, who missed last year after falling down the stairs at his rental house the week of the tournament. Johnson is ranked number 1 and he can hammer the ball down the fairway. Johnson had been a little erratic at the beginning of this year, but watch out if he gets his game going this week.
The field is deep this year with a number of guys who have a legitimate chance to win it all. If all of these guys play their A game this week, we will be in for a heck of a tournament. There are at least fifteen guys that could win the green jacket, and with the weather in Augusta, it looks to be a fast track. The winner will be the golfer who can limit penalty strokes and three putts. My prediction for who Sergio will be putting the green jacket on Sunday evening will be Rory McIlroy. Rory is looking good this year and is swinging better than he has the last few years in my opinion. He’s primed to complete the grand slam and be the Masters Champion. Hope they’re ready for some bangers and mash at the Champions dinner next year along with I assume some Guinness!