This list could honestly have been 100. Choosing 10 stories for Masters 2018 is like choosing a single March Madness memory as your favorite. There sits at the edge of every list an abundance of other choices that are so good that they could not only cut, they could top it.
But because scarcity creates value (or so I was told in college economics), I have limited myself to 10 narratives as jumping points for the 82nd masters. Most are obvious (hello world), but some may not be if you have not been paying attention in the last few months.
Let’s start where we always start when it comes to golf and the Masters, Big Feline’s cave.
1. The last piece of: So far, we’ve seen Woods compete in five different events this year. He has really contested two of them and intimidated the top of the leaderboard into two others. I have not seen anything else prevent me from believing he can fight for (and possibly win) a major championship, but with this appearance at Augusta National, the comeback resume will be officially complete.
is amazing, the fact that he has not won a green jacket in almost 15 years should be even more. Not that he has not had chances. Since Woods beat Chris DiMarco in 2005, Woods has seven (!) Top five finishes. However, he has only played this tournament once since 2013. It was 2015 when he finished T17.
Tiger has been a total thrill so far in 2018, far from what many of us (probably including him) thought he would be back. It’s not that I did not think he would be good – his institutional knowledge of this sport is worth several strokes per. Tournament – it’s I did not think he would average over 300 yards off the tee and be ranked number three on the PGA Tour at club head speed. The short game is also tidy – Woods is placed in the top 20 in strokes achieved around the green and with his putter.
So far in Woods’ comeback, it doesn’t really matter that he hasn’t won. It’s just something that the ramp to Augusta has been widespread with green lights everywhere. Now it suddenly means something that he wins. Not for you, maybe and certainly not for the TV ratings. But for him, it means something. A lot.
2. Phil Mickelson is almost 50: Lefty is trying to match Tiger with his fourth green jacket and he would be the oldest Masters winner ever and attract Jack Nicklaus’ iconic victory in 1986 at the age of 46. The 47-year-old Mickelson has (without a doubt) his best season on half a decade and already has a victory under his belt (a belt that has a logo where he jumps into the air after a Masters victory, remember). Mickelson has become more and more striped at this tournament as he gets older. He has two unanswered cuts in the last four years after only incurring one in the previous 19. But I think he thinks no one has a chance if he is locked inside.
3. Is Jordan Spieth losing? I stand with Chris Solomon from No Laying Up. The next 20 champions lose Spieths. Does he lose most of them? Yes, he will. But he must also win a few, if not a handful. There is an alternative reality where Bubba Watson’s driving on the 13th hole in 2014 goes three yards back instead of to the right where Spieth enters this tournament after winning three of the last four champions. His putter has been shakier than a Markelle Fultz 3-pointer so far this spring, but Magnolia Lane is Spieth’s “Chronicles of Narnia” -like wardrobe. When he comes in, anything can happen.
4. Rory McIlroy goes for sludge: Hi there, my golfing friends. I’m here to remind you that Rory is trying to become the sixth human in the history of this great planet to ever win the US Open, Open Championship, PGA Championship and Masters. This is somehow (in some way) flies under the radar, though McIlroy won in March and has four straight top 10s in this tournament. I promise you it will not be if he goes out and shoots 66-67 on Thursday and Friday.
5. Justin Thomas to No. 1? Thomas said after the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play that he was thinking so much about becoming No. 1 that he could not focus on playing his semifinal match against Bubba Watson. Well, I’m glad he’s out of his system. This week he has a chance to take his second equal championship and become the 21st golfer to ever claim “best player in the world” status. It is as our esteemed former vice president can note, a great … deal.
6. Justin Roses revenge: This is probably leaning more towards the golf nerd side of things, but Rose has the accelerator down right now. He has two runners the last three years here and has a ridiculous number of top 10 finishes in his last 16 starts worldwide. After losing in a playoff to Sergio Garcia last year it would be sweet revenge to take a jacket this year. However, it seems a little too obvious to pick the guy who has averaged 10.6 on the leaderboard here in the last five years. Also, just for fun, I always enjoy looking at how nicely Augusta would fit into Rose’s resume. Here are the courses where he won.
- Muirfield Village
- Royal Aberdeen
Sweet grace, it’s a list.
7. Bubba hovers: Watson will either miss the cut catastrophically or win by six, I am convinced. With two wins already this season and bending on his driver than one of Bryson DeChambeau’s physics experiments, he must be considered one of the favorites. In the last eight starts here, Watson has two wins and six finishes outside the top 30.
8. Someone is the first? A ridiculous list of top 20 golfers who have never won a major championship. I will take this team against your top 10 from either the US or European Ryder Cup teams this year. I would lose, but it’s still a really good team. And someone from there could grab Major No. 1 at Augusta National this week.
9. Old vs. new: I do not know exactly how this will play (or even how I will want it to play out), but solely a Tiger-Phil duel that none of us would go through, I would love to see one of the old lions take the generation they made. Tiger faces Thomas in the final mating on a Sunday. Lefty with Rose in the penultimate group ahead of McIlroy and Spieth. I’ve written this probably 25 times this year, but there’s little (if anything) as compelling as one of the very best trying to absorb hay makers from a currently-in-its-prime greatness. I do not care what the permutations are. I just want to see it.
10. Can Sergio Garcia repeat? We are ten deep and have not yet mentioned the defending champion here, Sergio Garcia. It’s still a crazy reality that Garcia’s first major championship came at Augusta National (of all places!), And I do not really think he can win again. But a repeat champion (which has not happened since Woods in 2001-02) is always a dream, and even more so when it is one of the most polarizing golfers of the last 20 years.