Ahhhh.... the advent of Spring. When the fancy of men and women turn to thoughts of Green Jackets, Amen Corner, and inexplicably good prepared sandwiches.
We have indeed arrived at Masters Week, one of the most glorious weeks of the year for the golfer and the non-golfer alike. As in years past, we at Dawg Sports take our Masters seriously, so expect a couple more posts concerning this particular invitational golf tournament held at a former nursery in Augusta, Georgia.
If you check our archives, we’ve previously covered the Masters traditions, the food, former Bulldogs in the field, and someone was even crazy enough to play a virtual 18 and write about it (those responsible for this have been sacked). I’m going to kick off the 83rd Masters with something a bit different: storylines.
Storylines are what keeps journalists-turned-TV-golf-pundits happy: the opportunity to expound on the “soft” side of the sport. In golf, everything is normally about the numbers - wins, majors, score, yardage, penalties, ranking, purses, etc. But storylines are the non-quantitative aspect. Which player is coming in “hot”, or in bad form; which player has been distracted with wedding planning or the birth of a child; who has looked foolish in the press for a faux pas or bad sportsmanship; the list of topics is endless.
foolishly for you, I will break some of these down and provide fodder for your water cooler talk. When your co-workers say Dustin Johnson will never win at Augusta because he’s moved to a baby fade instead of his hallmark hard draw, you can throw these nuggets in their face and smirk all the way back to your TPS reports.
- There is such a thing as bad publicity. Does Matt Kuchar, the once adored local wunderkind turned top 10 machine move past his “gamesmanship” and “Caddy-gate”? Or does the petulant Sergio Garcia get back into the patron’s good graces such as in 2017?
- Injuries: Don’t tempt fate. A couple of years ago, Dustin Johnson was #1 in the world, had won his last 3 starts, then “fell on the stairs” at the rental house on Tuesday of Masters week. (Feel free to Google and see if you believe the rumours). Last year, Brooks Koepka was just a few months removed from his first US Open title and a betting favorite, but had to withdraw due to a wrist injury. Jason Day has the power and putter to win this thing every year, but has more stints on the IR than Greg Oden.
- The Freddie factor: Will Fred Couples make the cut? He did for 23 years in a row, and has made 30 of 34 cuts in total (winning in 1992). Somehow Boom-Boom is always hanging around on the weekend.
- Speaking of the Senior Crowd: Bernard Langher has been tearing up the PGA Champions Tour, winning at an incredible rate even at the age of 60 (and older). He’s a two-time champion, he finished 38th last year, and had a top 10 at the age of 56 in 2014.
- B.A.D.: Bryson DeChambeau won the US Amateur in 2015, but held off turning pro so he could be assured of playing the Masters in 2016 (winner gets an automatic invite, but only if still an amateur). He captured low Amateur that year, and has since become a polarizing, if not calculating, personality on the PGA Tour.
- Will Rickie Fowler ever win a major? In 2014 he finished top 5 in every major. But he’s still oh-fer. He did finish in 2nd last year, and already has a Tour win this season.
- Local Knowledge: Can Chucky 3 Sticks break through? The Augusta native probably played this course more in his teens than since turning pro in 2000. I root for him, but he has never seemed to figure out his way around Augusta National.
- And then there’s Phil: Mickelson is a 3 time winner, but is nearing his 49th birthday. He beat Tiger in The Match just before Christmas, won at Pebble Beach earlier this year, but hasn’t done much since. Right or wrong, he was considered to be tied to the admissions scandal recently making the rag rounds.
- Grand Slam: Can Rors finally put the demons to rest? He has four majors, but is only missing The Masters to complete the career Grand Slam (winning all four majors). All signs point positive, and he’s famously said he previously “needed” to win, but this year “wants” to win. He’s been in position to win several times... will this year be the one he gets it done?
- The Italian Job: Francesco Molinari has probably played the best golf of anyone over the last 10 months, winning the Open Championship, schooling the US Ryder Cup team in France, and played near perfect just last month at the Arnold Palmer. He’s not long, but he’s got enough distance and is going to be near the top in odds.
- Falling off a Cliff (Roberts): Jordan Spieth was far and away the #1 golfer in the world just a few short years ago, capturing 3 major titles including the Masters and setting records in the process. He’s now 33rd in the world, and honestly looks lost with his driver and his putter. Similarly, Patrick Reed came into the 2018 Masters in very good form, held off McIlroy and other challengers to win the Green Jacket, but is currently hacking it around the PGA Tour like a $5 Nassau. Will either one get their stuff together this week?
- Quiet, Please: No one seemingly is talking about Justin Thomas. He won the PGA Championship last August, has a magical 59 to his name, and is still #5 in the world rankings.
- A Justin By Any Other Name: the other Justin (Rose) is the current #1 ranked player. He’s becoming the Nick Faldo of our age - mechanical and no-nonsense, but still racking up wins and serious dough. He has just the one major to his credit, but has to be worth laying a sawbuck down at your local OTB hovel.
- Tiger. ‘Nuff said.
So what are the storylines you’re following? Let me know what I’ve missed, or who you’re interested in this week. And yes, I did leave out the former Bulldogs - gotta keep a least a little content for later in the week. Don your Augusta green, grab a PayDay and a lemonade, or fix yourself an egg salad sandwich. Then comment away. But as always...