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Rory McIlroy has the right pedigree (two majors victories), game (the power and ball flight to tame Augusta National’s length) and course knowledge (this will be his sixth Masters) to place himself among the contenders for the green jacket.

Jeff Siner • Charlotte Observer,

Souhan answers a few Masters questions

  • April 9, 2014 - 11:42 PM

This time of year, with the winter we’ve had, you just can’t get enough Masters coverage! Or maybe you can? We asked our columnist at Augusta National, Jim Souhan, to take a swing at some questions and, as he said: “Here’s everything you really didn’t need to know about the Masters.”

Who’s gonna win?

Even when Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods were in their primes, they won less than a quarter of the majors they entered, so picking winners in golf is silly.

It’s easier to pick who won’t win. It probably won’t be a first-time entrant — only one player since 1935, Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979, has won in his first try. It probably won’t be a short hitter — the course has been lengthened since Zach Johnson won it with wedge play in 2007. You might not want to bet on a European — only Americans and Aussies have won on tour this year, and no Euro has won since Jose Maria Olazabel in 1999.

Despite that last trend, Rory McIlroy is the right kind of player to pick. The average Masters winner has played in six Masters, and McIlroy will be playing his sixth. He has the power and ball flight to tackle Augusta National, and he’s won two majors before turning 24.

Other intriguing names: Harris English (best player nobody talks about), Phil Mickelson (has won three Masters and loves the course), Henrik Stenson (perhaps best player who hasn’t won a major), Adam Scott (nobody has repeated as Masters champ since Tiger Woods in 2002, but Scott is capable).

favorite Masters moment?

Both involve Woods in 2005. It was my first Masters, and I followed him in an early round when, teeing off on the par-5 No. 2 hole, he hit a tree, then hit into the woods on the other side of the fairway with his second shot, then chipped out. His then-wife Elin was following him, muttering, “Oh, Tiger, Tiger, Tiger.”

Then Woods hit it to 20 feet and made a curling par putt. That’s what he did back then.

The other: In the final round in 2005, I followed Tiger to the 15th green, then, anticipating a dramatic 18th hole and possible playoff, I headed to a spot at the 18th green where I could watch the finish.

As I moved out of sight of the 16th green, I heard an incredible roar, then the loudest groan I’ve ever heard, then the loudest roar I’ve ever heard. Tiger had made his famous chip-in, the ball resting on the lip before finally falling.

Should we miss Tiger?

No. He hadn’t won a major since 2008 and wasn’t exactly peaking before his injury.

a sleeper to watch?

Masters rookie Victor Dubuisson has an incredible short game and has fared well in big-time international competition.

Best Masters traditions?

No yelling allowed on the course (so nobody gets to make a fool of themselves screaming “Get in the hole!” on the first tee). Affordable concessions, including fresh egg salad sandwiches. Even the sandwich wrappers are green, so a wind-blown wrapper won’t taint the beauty of the course.

JIM SOUHAN

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