If you’re a true golf fan, this is the week you wait for all year.
If you’re a casual sports fan, the Masters is surely on your sports radar this weekend, along with the NHL and NBA playoff races and the first weekend of the MLB season.
Over the last decade the names of the contenders have changed (except for Phil Mickelson of course) but the quality of talent has not. Young guns highlight the current crop of professional golfers, and if you haven’t figured it out yet, Jason Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day are just as talented as Tiger Woods, Ernie Els and Padraig Harrington were 10 years ago.
Here are three reasons to pay attention to “a tradition unlike any other” this weekend, on ESPN and CBS starting Thursday:
The Masters is just visually stunning. The deep shades of green, the red-brown of the mulch and the drastic undulation of the fairways and greens. All with creeks weaving through a bevy of holes with beautiful ancient-looking bridges linking it all.
Last year’s champion,Spieth, knows what it takes to attack a world-class golf course like Augusta National.
“I love courses where you have to use your imagination and a lot of feel,” the 22-year-old phenom told PGA.com. “A place that you come back to play every single year in a major, this is the only one. You already have a ton of focus on the golf course and really dissecting, giving it your all that week in a major.”
The course was designed by Bobby Jones himself more than 80 years ago, and while it has been lengthened nearly 1,000 yards since then it still passes the test of time.
Winning the Masters is great. You get a green jacket. Or, in the case of Jack Nicklaus six (four of them for Woods and Arnold Palmer). But just playing in the tournament itself is enough to make grown men cry.
Just ask Jim Herman, who won last week’s Shell Houston Open to get the last open spot on the docket to play at Augusta. It was his first career PGA Tour victory — but the win isn’t what made him break down on the 72nd green. It was making the Masters.
“Sorry for the tears, but I’m pretty happy,” Herman told ESPN last Sunday. “We really did a good job keeping our game plan. We wanted to give ourselves as many birdie chances as we could and keep it low stress. And geez, look what happened. Never thought it was possible.”
The consensus is that this year’s tournament will come down to one of the top players in golf.
To win the tournament you need to have a stellar caddy, a mental toughness, length off the tee, accuracy upon your approach and a soft touch on the speedy greens.Or basically, every club in your bag. And then some.
Players who fit that description are confined to a short list that includes Spieth, Day (who won the PGA Championship last year to net his first major), Bubba Watson (a two-time Masters champ), Adam Scott (another former champ) and Mickelson (who has won twice here too).
McIlroy(seeking to complete the career grand slam)and Dustin Johnson (seeking his first major title) are also key contenders.
“There are probably 10, 12, 15 guys you could make a good case for that have a real shot at winning this tournament,” Scott told PGA.com,”even with the standard of golf that high.”
Take your pick.