It’s a great component of The Masters’ appeal that, for 75 years, issues have gone down more or less the exact same way. And so, in a certain sense, fans – pardon, “patrons” – know what to expect when the players tee off at Augusta National on Thursday. The course will be immaculate and devilishly hard. The scoreboard will be operated by hand. The announcers will whisper. And, when the weekend’s over, one of the players teeing off on Thursday will pull on a not-terribly-flattering green blazer and smile. Which brings us to one last way in which this year’s Masters resembles those that came prior to – nobody truly knows who that player will be. The consensus, though, is that defending Masters champion Phil Mickelson looks like the favorite again this year, which would indeed make this year’s Masters like last year’s. “Mickelson is suddenly the reigning king of the place,” Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel writes. “He’s not just as the defending champion, either. For once, he’s the favorite over longtime nemesis Tiger Woods with both oddsmakers and, as much as it could be measured, the general mood of the location.”
Obviously, there’s one issue with this – until his victory in last week’s Houston Open, Mickelson hadn’t won anywhere because he last won at Augusta National. Tiger Woods, who has four green jackets to his name, would seem a decent choose as a favorite, had he not struggled so a lot of late while rebuilding his swing. And Tiger is still Tiger, whatever his swing looks like. “The debate about whether Woods is foolish to switch swing coaches – once more – and tear down his game to its foundation at age 35 may miss the larger point,” the Washington Post’s Thomas Boswell writes. “First, Woods has time – and a fantastic deal of it – on his side. Second, as he has produced clearer than ever here this week, his radical changes are more necessity than obsession.” At Slate, Michael Agger looks at Tiger’s recent stats and sees a player who is getting his groove back.
That is, a player with 1 top-10 finish this year who’s maybe obtaining his groove back. In an ordinary tournament, it may be hard to call Mickelson and Woods favorites over such present stars as Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell. But this isn’t an ordinary tournament – Kaymer has missed all three of his cuts at Augusta National, for example, and McDowell has missed two of three. And so, a minimum of for now, the two big-name stars that seem to have the course figured out stand out as early favorites to some experts. “Like Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus before them, they’ve cracked the code,” Cameron Morfit writes at Golf.com. “As ordinary as they’ve looked – and they’ve each looked painfully so for a lot of the last year – Mickelson and Woods remain overwhelming co-favorites at Augusta.” At the extremely least, they’ve carried out it prior to. Questioning, on the tournament’s initial Thursday, whether or not they can do it once more has become something of a Masters tradition, too.
The Journal has a full team in Augusta – remain with the Fix through the rest of the week for updates from John Paul Newport, Jason Gay and Stephanie Wei. They’re already underway today – we’ve got the latest news and an updated leaderboard.