Tag: The Masters

The Masters 2022: Tiger is Back

Augusta National
PGA Tour (https://www.pgatour.com/)

For the golfer, Masters week means that Spring has finally arrived, bringing a fresh new golf season where anything is possible. Emerging from his long winter hiatus, he’ll grab the remote and tune into “Live from the Masters” for a first look at Augusta National, and to see what’s in store for this year’s Masters. Incredibly, framed against the gorgeous backdrop of azaleas and emerald green, Tiger is confirming that he will indeed be teeing it up on Thursday to go after his sixth Masters championship. And suddenly the excitement level jumps through the roof. Even after hearing that Tiger has been ripping it on the range, and displaying all of the greenside magic he used to win his first five Masters, it seemed impossible to believe that he could actually be back so soon after the terrible accident just a year ago. But this is Tiger, and impossible is not in his vocabulary. It would seem that Vegas got the memo, where Tiger has been given roughly the same odds to win as Bryson DeChambeau. At Augusta, it’s all about the greens, and Tiger knows them like the back of his hand. Winning the Masters is also about confidence, and Tiger wouldn’t be teeing it up if he didn’t believe he could win. There are quite a few talented youngsters in the field this week hoping to don the green jacket, and they will be a lot of fun to watch. But all eyes will be glued to Tiger, including those in the field as the pressure mounts heading toward Sunday. One thing is certain, this is going to be one heck of a weekend—and could there possibly be a better way to launch the golf season? Especially if Tiger were to do the impossible once again, and take home his sixth Masters championship.

Tiger Woods

The Field

The Masters features the smallest field of all the majors, but includes the biggest names in golf from around the world. The early favorite is Jon Rham, followed closely by Justin Thomas. Scotttie Scheffler, who recently moved into the top spot in the World Golf Ranking, along with Cameron Smith, coming off his victory at the Players Championship, each have an opportunity to notch their first major championship win—so it would be a surprise if they were not among the leaders heading into the weekend. But the player to keep the sharpest eye on is two-time major winner, Collin Morikawa. Having just turned 25 years old, Morikawa has already recorded five PGA Tour wins in his short career. Although he missed the cut at the Players, he has recorded five Top 10 finishes in his last eight starts, including three Top 5’s. And with his precision iron play, expect him to have a ton of good looks for birdie on the devilish Augusta greens. Jordan Spieth also knows his way around Augusta, and it will be interesting to see if he can improve on his T3 at the 2021 Masters. Another player of particular note is Patrick Cantlay, coming off his FedEx Cup win last year and trying to break through for his first major championship. Also watch for Brooks Koepka, who always seems to get himself in the mix when a major championship trophy is on the line. And then there is Rory of course, who will no doubt crush the par 5’s and play flawlessly tee to green, so that only his putter can hold him back from securing his first green jacket. It will also be fun to see Freddie Couples, teeing it up once again at the Masters. Somehow, regardless of how badly the back is hurting, Freddie finds a way to bring his best game to Augusta every year. He last made the cut in 2018, but this is shaping up to be a magical yearwouldn’t it be something if Couples could pull a rabbit out of his hat and make it to the weekend?

John Rham, Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas

The big story, of course, is Tiger. If he can get himself into the mix come Sunday, the roars will be deafening. And the pressure on the field will be astronomical. There is nothing Tiger would love more than to match Jack’s back nine on Sunday at Augusta in ’86, and add a sixth green jacket while he’s at it.

Collin Morikawa

The History

Augusta National has provided some of the greatest moments in golf history—from Jack’s magical victory at 46 years old in ’86, to Tiger’s win in ’01 that completed the “Tiger Slam.” And of course, who can forget Greg Norman’s monumental collapse at the ’96 Masters, or when Fred Couples’ tee shot on 12 miraculously defied gravity, clinging to the slope above Rae’s Creek as he went on to win. And then there was Phil’s leap, following his birdie on 18 to win his first major, and the amazing approach on 13 from the pine straw when he took home his third green jacket in 2010.

The Masters 2022

Augusta National was founded in 1934 by Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts, and designed by legendary architect Alister MacKenzie. Built on the site of a former nursery, with unique and abundant flora from around the world, Augusta is a place of unsurpassed beauty. And the Masters, where the giants of golf have gathered each Spring to match their skills, has become the most desirable championship in the world. When you watch the Masters, you are seeing golf history unfold before your eyes. And the 2022 Masters may prove to be the greatest ever.

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A Masters without Phil

Augusta National
PGA Tour (https://www.pgatour.com/)

After missing all of February and March over his statements in support of the Saudi-backed Super Golf League, we now learn that Phil will not be at the Masters this year. The big question is why? Has he been officially suspended? The PGA Tour has been cryptically mum on that. Do the powers that be at Augusta National really not want him there? A three-time Champion? The reigning PGA Champ? Or did they bend to the wishes of Tour Commissioner, Jay Monahan. Again, a wall of silence. One thing is for sure, the television ratings for The Masters will take a hit without Phil. Granted the Saudi government, and specifically Prince Mohammed bin Salmon, is the very definition of “undesirable.” But the U.S. government hasn’t had a problem doing business with Saudi Arabia, having sold over $60 billion in military hardware to the Kingdom between 2015 and 2020. Yet Phil is being crucified because he made a few off-color remarks, for which he has since apologized. Phil is a professional golfer, not a politician. He was trying to apply additional pressure on the Tour to increase revenue sharing with regard to digital media rights. And yes, Phil would reap a substantial reward if successful, but all of the other tour players would benefit greatly as well.

Greg Norman

Super Golf League

The looming threat of the Super Golf League, offering guaranteed money, no cut, and large bonuses for big name talent had already begun to draw a reaction from the PGA Tour well before Phil entered the picture—he just gave it a nudge. A lucrative player incentive program (PIP) was announced back in April 2021, whereby players would receive bonus money based strictly on media appeal. The criteria being a complex algorithm that includes the frequency with which a player’s name comes up in Google searches, social media presence, and network broadcast appearances. For 2021, the PIP was $40 million, and jumps up to $50 million in 2022. Tiger, not Phil, was the primary beneficiary of the PIP, taking home the $8 million first place prize. And then the Tour bumped the purse at the 2022 Players Championship to $20 million, a $5 million increase over 2021. Phil was in exile for the Players, so he didn’t benefit from that either (Cameron Smith walked away with the $3.6 million first place check). In addition, the Tour has increased the FedEx prize money to $75 million for 2022, a $15 million increase over 2021. And since Phil has been banished, with no return date in sight, his chances to share in that pot of gold would appear pretty slim as well.

Getting a Pass

Taking the Heat

And what about all the other players who played footsy with the Super Golf League? Are they paying a price? Apparently not. Even players who have admitted to signing NDAs with the Super Golf League, including Dustin Johnson, Lee Westwood, and Adam Scott, have been given a pass by the Tour and continue to play. Phil alone is taking the heat, and with a thirty-year legacy as a stand-up guy, I suppose that is what we should expect. Still, it would be nice if a few other players (other than Rory of course), would get behind him and state the obvious—Phil belongs at the Masters.

Legacy at Augusta

But since we won’t have the opportunity to see Phil try to add a fourth green jacket to his closet this year, let’s take a minute to review what we will be missing. Mickelson has been in the field at Augusta National for 30 Masters Championships, making the cut 26 times. His record includes three wins, eight Top-5’s, and he finished among the Top-10 fifteen times. And who will ever forget Phil the Thrill dropping it inside ten feet from the pine straw on thirteen when he took home his third title in 2010. With his amazing PGA Championship victory last year at age fifty, we know Phil still has fuel in the tank. Let’s just hope he is there this year to defend it.

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2021 Masters Preview

Augusta National Golf Club, GA

The Masters Tournament

With the schedule change to the fall last year, it feels like only yesterday when we watched Dustin Johnson lift the 2020 trophy at Augusta National, and it feels like Christmas came early this year with the Masters back where it belongs—the best golf week of the year. With the weather warming up, flowers coming into bloom, birds chirping, the golf season starting up, and four days of watching the best players in world compete at one of the most beautiful and iconic settings in golf, you really can’t ask for a more. We missed out on that feeling last year, and it’s making 2021 all the more special. The Masters was founded in 1934 by golf legend Bobby Jones and his friend Clifford Roberts. Jones and Roberts built the course on a beautiful piece of property that had previously been a nursery, with trees and plants coming from all over the world. When they decided to host their own championship, it was originally called the “Augusta National Invitation Tournament,” and held that name until 1940, when it became “The Masters Tournament”. Since inception, The Masters has been played in the first week of April, and Bobby Jones’ immense popularity combined with the sheer beauty of the course, immediately made the event one of the most popular on tour. Masters week begins with the Champions Dinner on Tuesday evening, with all of the previous winners in attendance and the reigning champion selecting the menu. On Wednesday, players compete in the famed Par-3 contest (interestingly, no winner of the Par-3 has ever gone on to win The Masters). Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Par-3 contest will not be held this week.

The Field

Since Bobby Jones remained an amateur throughout his career, The Masters field includes a large number of accomplished amateurs, including the reigning U.S. Amateur champion and runner up, as well as winners of the British Amateur, Asian Amateur, U.S. Public Links and U.S. Mid-Amateur championships. Amateurs competing in The Masters also have the opportunity to stay at the “Crow’s Nest,” located in the clubhouse above the locker room—an experience that every talented young golfer dreams about. The Masters has the smallest field of all the majors, generally between 90 and 100 players. In addition to the amateurs, the top 50 players in the world automatically qualify along with players who have won the PGA Championship, U.S. Open, or Open Championship within the last 5 years. In addition, past Masters champions receive a lifetime invitation, allowing each player to decide for himself when the time has come to withdraw from the field. The favorite this week has to be Jordan Spieth. With a host of top ten finishes in 2021, fresh off a win at the Valero last week, a Green Jacket already hanging in his locker and a white-hot putter, Jordan has to be licking his chops. As the number one ranked player in world and reigning Masters champion, Dustin Johnson should be at the top of the list as well, but he’s been struggling with the driver as of late. Perhaps the familiar surroundings and positive vibe will rouse him—Augusta has always been a friend to the big hitter. And speaking of big hitters, Bryson DeChambeau will no doubt make his presence felt this week. Also keep an eye on Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm—all power players likely to be in the mix on Sunday. One of the great things about Augusta though, length means a lot—but not everything (remember Ben Crenshaw with a pair of Green Jackets). And the Masters can be entirely unpredictable as well—maybe we’ll see an amateur making history this week (Ollie Osborne perhaps?).

Augusta National Golf Club

Augusta National was established by Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts in 1933. The course was originally designed by the legendary Alistair Mackenzie, with a great deal of input from Bobby Jones. Over the years, some of the great names in golf course architecture have lent their abilities to maintain the essence of Bobby Jones’ vision and keep the course current in the face of changing equipment, including Perry Maxwell, Robert Trent Jones, Sr., and Jack Nicklaus. In addition to the eighteen-hole championship course, Augusta National also includes one of the finest par 3 courses in the world.

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