Walked Augusta National today. Saw a lot of salmon-colored shorts, pink-striped seersucker shorts, and heard this:
``Is that real grass?''
Yes, yes it is. That is real grass.
Picking the winner of a golf tournament has been silly since the days when it was reasonable to pick Tiger Woods against the field, but here are the golfers I think have the best chance to wear the green jacket (which does not go well with seersucker shorts):
-Rory McIlroy, the subject of my Thursday column, is the easy pick, for all the right reasons. He can hit a high and far, he can work the ball, he can putt, and he knows how to win under pressure. He has to be the favorite.
-Jordan Spieth: Playing well, contended last year at The Masters, great putter, wants to be great.
-Dustin Johnson: Seems to have straightened out his personal life, hits it as well as anyone on tour. The big question: Can he think his way around a course that will challenge your decision-making?
-Bubba Watson: The course is perfect for his game, but I can't believe he's going to become one of the rare players to repeat at The Masters.
-Jason Day: He's approaching best-player-to-never-win-a-major territory. Can he putt well enough on these tricky greens?
-Henrik Stenson: Had the flu all week. Can't imagine him having the stamina necessary to win.
Yes ,this course requires stamina. While golfers get picked on for not being great athletes in term of cardiovascular capabilities, walking 72 holes up and down hills under intense mental and emotional pressure will wear anyone out.
This is a beautiful course. It is also a challenging walk.
The Twins are 0-2. They lost to a great pitcher on Monday in a clean game. They looked horrible in a horrible game on Wednesday. They have yet to score.
Now, I believe the suspension of Ervin Santana had an emotional impact on the team, and also forced Ricky Nolasco, who should be a fourth starter, to take the ball in game 2. I believe Santana's suspension takes this team from having a chance to win 80-plus games to probably winning 76-78.
Outfield defense and bullpen depth are both concerns that played out poorly today.
-No team's fate is determined after two games. The '91 Twins were lousy for two weeks, and that turned out OK. If this were an NFL season, we'd be in the middle of the first quarter.
-This team finished seventh in the big leagues in runs last year largely because of contributions from Danny Santana and Kennys Vargas, who will be in the big leagues all year. Santana can hit. Dozier can hit. Mauer, when healthy, can hit. Vargas can hit. Plouffe has been relatively productive the last three years. Hunter should be fine. Arcia is a question mark but has lots of talent. Buxton and Sano could be in the majors by midseason.
I think the Twins will have to make a change in centerfield, and the bullpen will be a work in progress. But this team should score runs, and anybody who panics after two games should be watching a different sport.
In my latest podcast, Doug Mientkiewicz tells some stories I've never heard before, including what Terry Ryan said to him and Ron Gardenhire during a private and emotional meeting, all at SouhanUnfiltered.com