By Bob Oliver
It’s that great time of the year. Spring, with beautiful weather, golf courses filling up and The Masters getting ready to tee off.
Patrons are itching to get to Augusta. Those who aren’t attending in person are scheming ways to get the most coverage from various sources.
And around every golf club there are people prognosticating and settling on their player who will hoist and then wear the Green Jacket.
Yes, a great time of the year and a great time for the game of golf.
Will Sergio Garcia go back-to-back? Will Ricky Fowler or Justin Thomas claim his first?
Tiger. Tiger. Tiger. People are practicing the chant with heartfelt hope.
Oh, you will hear that 40 of the players in the limited field Masters can’t possibly win. But of course, that’s the half empty theory. In reality, there are 60 or so of the best golfers in the world on center stage navigating the wide Augusta National Golf Club fairways. Each could win this event, as history has shown it’s not the favorite who necessarily wins.
There will be lucky breaks, bad bounces and confounding lies. There will be upstarts coming out of nowhere to post a good solid score. And there will be disasters, like falling or something at one’s cottage before the first round.
The Masters is always willed with story lines.
Hey, Bubba’s back! Watson won in LA and Mexico after a year of malaise. He won in 2012 and 2014 so he’s got the game to win. And just two years ago Jordan Spieth was crowned. Who can possibly say he’s not itching to return. Adam Scott has been showing signs of brilliance.
Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Kevin Kisner and Matt Kuchar come from throughout the US with an eye on a Green Jacket, while Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama asks why not me?
The new breed Euros are poised to challenge, as in Tommy Fleetwood, Alex Noren, Jon Rahm and Thomas Pieters join Rory McIlroy, Henrick Stenson, Justin Rose and Paul Casey as challengers to Garcia’s throne. Aussie’s Marc Leishman and Jason Day are ready to rock.
There are some for sure picks to not win, among them former champions like Angel Cabrera, Fred Couples, Trevor Immelman, Sandy Lyle, Larry Mize, Jose Maria Olazabal, Vijay Singh, Danny Willett and Zach Johnson. Throw in the amateurs and you can see how the list of potential winners can be reduced to about 60 players.
And yes, there can be an unexpected champion. But that’s far fetched as the last first time participant to win a Green Jacket was Fuzzy Zoeller more than 30 years ago.
In Vegas a few months ago, I made my picks. Of course, didn’t know the full field back them, so I picked based upon those with high odds from the guys who make the bets. My list of guys with the potential of a big money payoff were Alex Noren, Thomas Pieters and Daniel Berger. Now that’s going against the grain.
Big odds means big payoffs, and prior to the Masters my long-shots had an equal chance at winning as the low odds favorites.
The oddsmakers liked names like Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tiger Woods or Rory McIlroy to win, but here’s saying that my selections have an equal chance.
That should show you the 2018 Masters is clearly unpredictable. Patrons will roar and groan, and one learns to expect the unexpected. And then wait for the final nine holes which will determine the champion.
Bottom line? It’s Spring and The Masters is here to dazzle, bedazzle, entertain and argue about.
It’s a great time of year.