Who’s going to win The Masters?
I have no idea. But that doesn’t make for much of a post, so I’ll pick five players who would be the best stories if they won:
Tiger Woods: He looks great, he’s hitting it a mile and he has played well of late. But remember, he hasn’t won a Masters since 2005, and it is possible for Tiger to play well and not win. Also, Woods is ranked 103 in the world. Since the world golf rankings were created, the lowest-ranked player to win here was 69th - Angel Cabrera in 2009.
Phil Mickelson: At 47, he can become the oldest Masters winner ever, he’s playing well, and he could tie Tiger and Arnie for second all-time with four green jackets. Plus, he’s Phil, so if he plays well he’ll be good for four days of incredibly intense storytelling and scientific analysis of every one of his flop shots.
Rory McIlroy: For the fourth straight year, he will try to win The Masters to become the sixth player to win a career Grand Slam. And he’s only 28.
Bubba Watson: Can he win a third Masters before he wins another major? Yes. Augusta National was made for him. He can miss with his driver and survive, he can punch out between trees, he can handle the slippery greens. It doesn’t have to make sense for it to happen.
Jordan Spieth: He’s already created a lifetime of stories here, narrowly missing a win in his first start, running away in his second and hitting two shots into the water on No. 12 on Sunday two years ago and still finishing second. If he putts well, he can win.
-Wednesdays before The Masters tend to be pretty quiet. Few players play 18-hole practice rounds. Jordan Spieth, Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson played a practice round and drew only a small crowd. The Par-3 tournament is packed, with a lot of people in a small space, but by late afternoon the course is clearing out.
-New Masters chairman Fred Ridley is considered a quiet and reasonable man, and in his first Wednesday-before-the-Masters press conference he announced the establishment of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championships, beginning next year.
It’s a major if belated step for a club that had to be pushed into accepting female members.
``We are always looking for new ways to benefit and impact the game,” Ridley said. “We start with the premise and reality that we are very blessed to have the resources to do that. I met with senior staff in October and said I thought this was the right time to do this, right time for the women’s game. I wanted to do this and I wanted to do it here.”
The final round of the tournament will be held at Augusta National the Saturday before the Masters. The first 36 holes will be held at nearby Champions Retreat.
-You can find my column on Justin Thomas, my sidebar on Spieth and continuing coverage at startribune.com, as well as in the Thursday paper.
-My podcasts are at MNSPN.com.