The BarnBurner’s 2018 Masters Preview

With the weather yet to turn for the better, I will be spending the latter half of my week and weekend pretending to take in the spring time air of Augusta, Georgia at the Masters. It’s finally Masters Week, which means that warmer days are ahead. One of the great traditions of American sports is the scheduling of the Masters. Always taking place during the first full week of April, golf steps in to fill the void left by March Madness and works as a bridge before the baseball really starts to ramp up and the NBA playoffs tip off.

This year’s tournament should have no shortage of drama. Whether you are a PGA Tour purist or a casual fan looking to enjoy a nice golf nap while listening to Jim Nantz’s peaceful voice and that beautiful piano riff, there will be plenty of reasons to tune into ESPN and CBS this weekend. I’m going to break some of these storylines down here by their level of potential magnitude.

Green-Moderately Interesting.

Yellow-I will be glued to my couch on Sunday afternoon.

Red-Stop the presses. Close up shop and get in front of a television now.

Green Level

The young guns dominate the weekend. Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Dustin Johnson and the like set a torrid pace throughout the week and all find themselves in contention heading into the weekend. Maybe Jordan Spieth has a chance to rebound from his historic collapse on number 12 from a few years back. Pairings of the future make up Saturday and Sunday’s afternoon slots and there is the typical Augusta/Major drama. Someone gets their first green jacket and possibly their first major. Always great to see, but I’m holding out for something more.

Sergio Garcia is in the hunt on Sunday. I almost wanted to scoot this up to the yellow level, mostly because I find Sergio fascinating, but I don’t think the majority of viewers will be tuning in for him. Now that he got the monkey off his back last year, it will be interesting to see if a more calm and relaxed Sergio makes his way around Augusta this week. I don’t think anyone has had more fun with the Green Jacket than Sergio has had over the last year.

If you aren’t caught up on what all he’s done with it, do yourself a favor and do a quick google search. He might have a hard time yielding it over to someone new. If he doesn’t repeat, watching Sergio Garcia put a Green Jacket on the new champion will be excellent entertainment. I love Sergio.

The field surprises us with a no name winner. Any other year, I would be all for this happening. I have higher aspirations for drama in this tournament though. With that being said, an amateur qualifier being in direct contention with the sharks on Sunday would probably push this close to a red level of excitement.

Yellow Level

Phil Mickelson makes a run and/or wins. Phil Mickelson hasn’t won a major since the Open Championship in 2013. He hadn’t won a tournament of any kind since then until he beat Justin Thomas in a playoff at the WGC in Mexico on March 4th. If you watched that tournament, you know the kind of drama that can unfold when Phil is in the mix late. He’s coming into the tournament on a recent hot stretch and while you can’t count on prior play to mean much in a major, all aspects of his game seem to be clicking and he knows how to win at Augusta National. Phil is a fan favorite and I would love to see him make a push. Phil looked strong in his first practice round. He won’t be the only guy looking to turn back the clock this week. (Side note, take a look at what Phil wore during his Tuesday morning practice round. Electric.)

Rickie Fowler wins his first major and takes home the Green Jacket. Since Sergio finally won one last year, Rickie Fowler now has the pressure of being the best golfer without a major championship. Rickie always seems to be in the mix until things go hayware for him. I’m not sure if that is a result of pressing to get the monkey off his back or if it’s simply because any slight mistake can cost you dearly in majors with the best players on Earth. Rickie has been in good form early this season and if he can get the putter working like he is capable of, he certainly has a chance. He might be the most likable player in the tournament and surely will dedicate the win to his good buddy Arnold Palmer. He’ll be rocking some signature neon and we can always count on him to provide some roller coaster theater. Rickie Fowler finally winning a Major would be fantastic theatre.

Rory McIlroy. Fresh off of his victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and once again going for the career Grand Slam, Rory McIlroy seems to have his mojo back. He hadn’t won since the Tour Championship in 2016, but his competitors surely know what he is capable of when his game is on. Rory has been a bit polarizing as of late, with his take on alcohol sales and quips about fan behavior. He’s still one of the top draws for fans even throughout his recent struggles. When he starts heating up, blasting drives, and doing his alpha dog strut, not many players on Earth can match him. Will we see that Rory or will he regress under the spotlight? We’ll have to find out, but it has potential to be one of the biggest stories of the weekend.

Red Level

Threat Level: Midnight. Tiger Woods. Of all the potential storylines, this is the reason why most of the sporting world will be tuning in to the Masters. Tiger Woods changes the complex of golf. His second-place finish at the Valspar Invitational and back-nine push at the Arnold Palmer Invitation gained some of golf’s highest ratings in over ten years. There is no doubt that this is setting up to be the most watched golf tournament in history. The rest of these possibilities help, but it is because of Tiger Woods. No one brings the crowd like he does. Love him or hate him, you will be watching. He’s 42 and says that he feels as good as he has in seven or eight years. Scandals in his personal life and injuries are behind him, along with the chipping yips. He is confident and playing extremely well for a man who hasn’t played meaningful golf in several years with a fused spine. As of just last week he was the Las Vegas favorite at 8-1. That has since changed, but not by much. Nobody is hitting further off the tee than Tiger, but that can only get him so far in this tournament. He can’t have the lapses in accuracy that sometimes comes with his Driver. His short game has been on fire as of late and if that continues, he has just as much of a chance as anyone else in the field. I can think of nothing more that the tournament officials could want than for Tiger dressed in his Sunday red to be near or atop the leaderboard late on Sunday afternoon. Add that on top of any of these other scenarios and you’ve got a recipe for the highest viewed Masters of all-time.

 

Photo Credit:

Golf Digest Instagram

Sergio Garcia Instagram

bangordailynews.com/2012/06/03/sports/professional-sports/tiger-woods-rallies-to-win-the-memorial-ties-jack-nicklaus-for-pga-wins/

ftw.usatoday.com/2018/01/golf-2018-masters-tickets-dad-christmas-gift-stunned-emotional-video

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