This edition of the Fantasy Foursome will be divided into separate posts as we will explore our expert opinions in a little bit more depth.This week the Masters will be played at the sacred Augusta National Golf Club, in Augusta, Georgia. The course will play at a par 72, 7435 yards and odds are it may be the most grueling challenge of the year. Augusta is the only course to host the Masters and when you step foot on these hallowed grounds, you know how great the challenge is that lies ahead. There have been so many memorable moments at Augusta like Jack winning his sixth and final Masters in 1986 at the age of 46, Tiger becoming the youngest Master’s champion in 1997 at the age of 21 earning his first of 4 green jackets, Tiger’s untouchable chip shot from just off the green on the par 3 16th, Gary Player winning his third green jacket in 1978 at the age of 42, Phil’s first major became his first Masters of two Masters in 2004, and not to forget “the shot heard ’round the world” from Gene Sarazen in 1934.
Last year Trevor Immelman received the green jacket from Zach Johnson after he outlasted Tiger Woods to win with a final score of -8. Tiger finished alone in second at -5, Stewart Cink finished T3 with Brandt Snedeker at -4, Phil Mickelson, Padraig Harrington, and Steve Flesch finished T5 at-2, and Miguel Angel Jimenez, Robert Karlsson, and Andres Romero finished T8 at -1 to round out the top 10. Immelman is the first South African to win the Masters since Gary Player last won 30 years ago. His first three rounds resulted in scores of -4/68, -4/68, -3/69 and then his final round on a windy Sunday was +3/75, but was still good enough for a 3 shot victory. That 75 was the highest final round score ever for a Masters Chanmpion.
Tiger never came within 5 strokes of Immelman during that final round. For the tournament last year Tiger shot 1 eagle, 11 birdies, 52 pars, and 8 bogyes with scores of 72/71/68/72. This was his second consecutive runner up finish, after finishing 3rd in 2006 and winning the whole thing in 2005. Don’t forget this 2nd place finish came shortly after Tiger said the grand slam was “well within reach”. Now, don’t get me wrong here, I don’t disagree with him. But that idea was shot down pretty fast. Ya like apples Tiger? Yea, well lets see what kind of balls you’re playing with son. I think he can do it this time around. He has done it already once, just not in the same calendar year. You know he is going to come out ready to play beacuse this was the tournament he worked so hard to be back in time for. He knows the course and he knows how to beat the course, so I have to put him up there among the favorites to win, aside from the fact that his name is Tiger. The scary thing is that since his knee is finally 100% healed for the first time since God knows when, he could even go out and surprise himself by winning by 9 strokes again.
Last year Phil Mickelson marked 13 birdies, 49 pars, 9 bogeys, and 1 double bogey with scores of 71/68/75/72 last year. He was competitive throughout and is definitely capable of getting his third green jacket this year. In 2004 he birdied 5 of the last 7 holes including the par 4, 18th after holing out an 18 foot putt to take home a 1 shot victory. That was the fourth time in Masters history that a birdie putt at the last hole resulted in a victory.
Speaking of players who held the title “best player not to have won a major”, Sergio Garcia will come out firing on all cylinders trying to get the proverbial monkey off of his back. He missed the cut last year after shooting an opening round 76, following it with a 72 on Friday. He knows that his showing last year was not up to par. (how’s that for wordsmithery?) And what better stage to reassert himself as one of the best in the world than the Masters? Oh and I can’t forget about Greg Norman who is playing again this year for the first time since 2002. He doesn’t have the length off the tee anymore to keep up, but he’s savvy. Will this be the year that the Shark finally wins the ever so illusive green jacket? Probably not, but thanks for trying.
Davis Love III dropped out of the top 50 in the World Golf Rankings keeping him from qualifiying for the event. He needed to win the tournament last week in Houston to qualify, which as you now know did not happened. Boo Weekley could possibly turn some heads this week if he can get hot with the putter. Zach Johnson won without length and if Boo get hot with his irons, he is as dangerous as they get. Last year he finished T20 at +3.
Dustin Johnson is making his first Masters appearance fresh off of a DUI a few days ago. He started the year off very well, but hasn’t really done much as of late. He won his first ever tournament, the Turning Stone Resort Championship and then 4 months later he came in 2nd at the AT&T. Johnson has the length and scoring ability to compete at the Masters, but it’s just a matter of not being intimidated by the course. I know, it sounds so easy, right?
The highly touted Irish phenom, Rory McIlroy is making his very first appearance at the Masters. He earned this first trip to Augusta only 18 months after turning pro. He is also the youngest player to reach the top 50 in the World Golf Rankings (somewhere DLIII is crying). McIlroy made it to the quarter finals of the WGC Match Play Championship where he lost to the eventual champion Geoff Ogilvy. He took home his first professional victory at the Dubai Desert Classic and really put himself on the map early in the year. McIlroy is a definite wild card this week. He might just go out and put together rounds that people dream of just because he doesn’t know any better. Call it dumb luck or whatever, but I think there’s a definite possibility that he has a good showing.
Speaking of Irishmen, Padraig Harrington is going for his 3rd consecutive Major Championship. The thing to remember about Paddy is that in 2007 he finished T7 and in 2008 he finished T5 proving that he can compete on this course. Ultimately the storyline following him throughout his rounds will be whether or not the weight of getting 3 in a row will be too much to carry.
Ultimately I think this will be a very memorable Masters weekend. We will continue our extensive coverage into the weekend so get ready. Spencer and Dan have taken Thursday off and we are all given Friday off for the Masters Good Friday. The par 3 contest will air on ESPN Wednesday at 3PM EST if you have some free time. We haven’t decided if we are going to live blog the entire tournament or not, but keep checking back to see what we have scheduled.