Part of the charm of Masters week is the nostalgia and history that comes along with it, and in that sense this one packs a little more than most.
The print and television run-up this week has included revisiting Jack Nicklaus’ legendary 1986 Masters victory on its 30th anniversary. Included in the coverage is an excellent tribute documentary the Golf Channel aired Tuesday night.
Will this year’s event be another one for the ages? It certainly seems to have that potential.
Several past Master champions come in playing well – Adam Scott, Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson, etc. Will they make more history or will the green jacket find a new closet? On Thursday, we start to find out. Here’s a look at a few storylines for the week and then Chris Mayson seeks to pick a repeat winner at August (he called Spieth a year ago).
Will Day Have His Day? – Can the hottest player in golf double up on majors with a win at Augusta? He took last week off to arrive early and practice at a place where he’s had a solid history (T2 in 2011; 3rd in 2013), but never a victory.
A past championship here is the only thing Day doesn’t have going for him as he rolls into Augusta having definitively declared since winning the 2015 PGA Championship that it’s indeed a different day for his game. Can we make the Masters leap?
Jordan Rules Again? – The odds of a Jordan Spieth repeat seem a little easier to fathom with his impeccable putting stroke returning to form, but his ball striking has been uneven and a source of audible frustration on the course. Nobody has repeated here since – guess who? – Tiger in 2001-2002.
What Spieth accomplished a year ago, much less what it led to, will be hard to recapture, but he has the confidence of having done it against a field playing at its peak – and putting is always at a premium at Augusta. When he’s right, he reminds us of that guy who won back in 1986.
Stat: Spieth’s winning total of 18-under was the best since Woods posted that number in 1997. How low will the winner have to go this year?
Will Phil Thrill Again? – Mickelson retooled his swing after a year where his game peaked for majors but rarely for regular tour events.
This year, Phil, save for a second-round flameout at the Farmers, has been consistently in contention leading up to Augusta. We know Phil has the veteran saavy and short game to tame the course, but will his new swing be enough to put him over the top once more?
Phil’s last major victory was the 2013 British Open after a back-nine charge. Will he muster another at age 45 and six years removed from his last Masters win?
Speaking Of Lefties – Starting with Mike Weir in 2003, half the champions since have been lefties. Tiger-proofing the course made it friendly for left-handers and Phil and Bubba Watson in particular have cashed in. Will Bubba bomb his way around Augusta again and make enough putts to win? He’s been putting well enough that he’s among the favorites again.
Will Weather Determine The Winner? – There’s a bit of rain in the forecast for Thursday and high winds through Saturday. The winds are notoriously baffling at Augusta, which certainly would seem to hand an advantage to players with a longer history here who have seen the course under a range of conditions. Several in the field fit that saavy veteran pedigree (Louis Oosthuizen, Zach Johnson, etc.). The player Chris Mayson has in mind will be making his seventh Masters start.
Now onto Chris’s predictions:
I can’t believe it’s Masters time already. It truly signals that summer is right around the corner, and the best players in the world will be hoping that their games are starting to peak or are peaking! It seems that this Masters is a little more up for grabs than past Masters, and I am having a hard time really identifying a true front runner.
Typically Jordan Spieth would be a firm favorite but his form in 2016 has been patchy at best. But a solid tied 13th last week shows his game isn’t far away, and he will be more than determined to defend his crown this week.
Jason Day and Rory McIlroy will be high on everyone’s list, and well they should be. Day has been on a tear the last month and is the new world No. 1, and Rory always seems to play well at Augusta. Bubba Watson loves Augusta too, but he has been hampered with a sinus infection that has haltered his preparations.
There’s a saying on tour that if you want to know who is going to win this week, then look who finished second last week. That was Henrik Stenson, and he has been playing very well of late including a third-place finish at Bay Hill two weeks before. He is certainly trending up and he will be hoping to complete the 3rd-2nd-1st streak. I am not going to pick him, though, because he is not a stellar putter, and that is needed at Augusta.
There were many contenders who will be very happy with last week’s work including Phil Mickelson (13th), Rickie Fowler (10th), Patrick Reed( 10th), but I am going to go with the man who finished third last week and has been on the cusp of a major championship for some time now…….Dustin Johnson. DJ hits the ball far off the tee, which is a must at Augusta, has silky hands around the green and is an underrated putter. He seems to have a great demeanor to not get flustered, and I feel that Day and McIlroy want this championship too badly. DJ is my pick for the 2016 Masters.