08 April 2014

2014 Masters Preview

It is that time again when all eyes will be focused on Augusta National Golf Course down in Georgia for the 78th edition of the Masters Tournament. It is the first major of the PGA Tour season as well as the most prestigious, and the ability to put on that green jacket is a sign of future immortality for any golfer? Who will be that golfer that will win the 2014 Masters?

Can Adam Scott repeat?
I always note how tough it is for players to repeat as Masters champion, only three players have done it and none since 2002. But over the past two years, few are playing as well as the defending Masters champ. Scott had always been dogged somewhat as being an underachiever, but he dug out of that hole by winning at Augusta, the Barclays in August and the Grand Slam of Golf at the start of this year, and he finished third in his last tournament at Bay Hill. It will be a tough hill to climb, but Scott has the game to do it.

Will Tiger Woods be missed?
For the first time since 1994, Eldrick Tont Woods will not be playing in the Masters. Even as Woods has not won a major since the 2008 US Open nor has he won the Masters since 2005, Woods is always a player to watch out for. And considering how big of a star he is, there is no question that you will see a drop in television ratings and ticket sales. But the theory that the Masters will lose the magic or not be as exciting without Tiger is a silly one to me.

After a sluggish start to 2014, will Phil Mickelson be in the mix?
Mickelson has not had a great start to the year, entering Augusta without a top ten for the first time in a while. And he has never won a green jacket without starting the year with a top ten. Of course, this does not preclude Lefty from winning the Masters, but history has shown you generally need to be playing well coming into Augusta and quite frankly, he has not of late. He has become one of the best big game players on the tour but I do not think 2014 will be his year.

Can Rory McIlroy finally put it together to win, let alone finish in the top ten?
We have long known that McIlroy as one of the most talented players on the circuit with elite talent, but that has yet to translate to results at Augusta as his highest finish was 15th after he fell apart in 2012. I picked him to win last year but amid his noted troubles with adjusting to Nike clubs, he never was competitive as he finished tied for 25th. Now he has been playing well in 2014 thus far, and it definitely would be unfair to say he does not have the stones to win the Masters, but can he finally put it all together? Personally, I have no question in the world that this could be the year he does it.

After making waves with his "top five player in the world" comments, will Patrick Reed be competitive?
There were some fantastic rants that were made in the wake of Reed saying that he was a top five player after winning at Doral a month ago, which was his third PGA Tour win since August. Personally, I have no problem with Reed showing a little bravado and feeling confident in his game, and there is no question that he is a star on the rise. That said, he had yet to play in a major and his first opportunity comes this weekend in Augusta. A strong performance from him will go a long way in backing up his comments as he makes his way upwards on the tour.

In the end, who will win?
It would be great if I could just go with the field as I have yet to predict the winner of the Masters during the time of this blog, but that's not what I do. The guy I think is going to win on Sunday is Henrik Stenson. Sure, he has never played all that well at Augusta National, finishing tied for 18th a year ago, but he has been playing great over the last calendar year as he won twice down the stretch in 2013 at TPC Boston and East Lake. I think he is primed to win a major and will get his first green jacket this Sunday.

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