5:52 | Tour & News
Tour Confidential: Rory is back and Augusta hype
Rory McIlroy notches a win ahead of what might be the most anticipated Masters in recent memory.
By Alan Shipnuck
Wednesday, March 21, 2018

I usually hate the Florida swing but this one has been borderline epic. And now Augusta is a mere two weeks away? Hold me.

Do you prefer groups or immediate knock-out for the Match Play? — @JJ_Slice

I still flip-flop on this. I'm old enough to remember a 36-hole final between Jeff Maggert and Andrew Magee that was tedious even for the most strident of purists. For sure, in single-elimination it's problematic to have so many stars eliminated right off the bat, and you can get to the weekend with some unappealing draws. I've grudgingly come to appreciate the glut of matches early in the week. But in my heart of hearts I still prefer the brutal win-or-go-home ethos of the old days.

I know the schedule changes quite a bit for the 2018-19 season but where would you like to see the Match Play positioned? Two weeks before the Masters doesn't seem ideal. — @BobEstesPGA

Yeah, the top players are trying to peak for Augusta and this is a different kind of golf that takes them out of their normal tournament-week rituals and routines. The rejiggered schedule that is coming next year puts the PGA Championship in May and the Players back in March. It will also move the WGC-Mexico up a week in February, so it follows right after Riviera and thus doesn't disrupt the Florida swing. So, every month from February to July is anchored by a major, a WGC or the Players, and then the FedEx Cup kicks in. So why not move the Match Play to January, to kick off the season with a bang? The Hope has lost its identity and relevance, but a match play event at PGA West could be a blast. Or can you imagine the bedlam if it was conducted at Phoenix? Moving the Match Play into January would also be great for the Australian Open, South African Open and other cool international events conducted in November and December because more top players would turn up to solidify their World Ranking.

Do rules officials treat players differently as Reed suggested last week? — @spencer_wideman

Well, they're human, and as such they have emotions, prejudices and bad days, just like the rest of us. Imagine you're a rules a official and you are summoned to a sticky situation by Patrick Reed and, say, Zach Johnson. You might feel a little more anxiety having to deal with P. Reed, and that could color your language and general vibe. But above all else the officials are sticklers for the letter of the law; the rules are a religion to them, and I believe they interpret them the same regardless of the player involved. (I mean, look how many times Tiger was dinged in 2013.) Now, the good ol' boys that run the Masters, that's a different story…

Put the Masters favorites in some kind of order for us rubes: Tiger, Phil, DJ, JT, Rory, Spieth, Rahm, Rose, Bubba — @SNESdrunk

Strong list! In this order: DJ, Phil, Rory, JT, Rose, Bubba, Tiger, Spieth, Rahm.

If the Masters goes to a playoff and Day, Spieth and Dechambeau are involved, will they have to cancel the Tuesday pro am at the Heritage? — Vaidya (@vs2k2)

You jest, but every Masters playoff is a stress-fest because the green coats only leave enough daylight for a few holes before the sun sets. If Adam Scott misses that putt in '13 we were definitely coming back the next morning, which would have been a massive anticlimax. The Angel Cabrera-Kenny Perry playoff also got very dark. Masters officials like to go as deep into the night as possible to boost TV ratings but one of these years they're going to get burned.

What holes will Tiger be required to hit driver on at Augusta National? I say 1, 2, 8, 11, 15, 18....and maybe 7 or 9. #AskAlan — Benjamin (@Ben_Buj)

It's a good list, but you forgot a few. Depending on where the flag is, 3 can call for a driver. Most guys wield the big dog on 17 — that hole has some bite. And the tee shot on 13 is the ultimate risk/reward shot and younger, more fearless players will certainly use driver and Tiger should, too. With its very playable, ahem, rough, Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than any other major championship venue, but it also demands more drivers, and some of Tiger's misses this year have been so wild they will spell doom, even at ANGC. So that's why I think it's folly to make him the Masters favorite, when almost every other top player has an advantage over him off the tee.

#AskAlan: If I tune into the Corales Championship will I get to see real golfers, or will it be Tiger-like coverage of Tony Romo? — John (@misterdomer)

It depends a little on how Romo plays — if he can keep it around par he'll definitely get a lot of coverage. If he shoots 42 on the front nine I think the Tour will be sensitive not to ruin the telecast by turning the him into a sideshow. This ain't a Web.com event and Romo is not as big a star as Steph Curry so I expect the real golfers will be showcased. The field is an intriguing mix of Latin American tour members, recent Web.com graduates and some fun, unexpected names (Davis Love III! Jim Furyk! John Daly! Angel Cabrera!).

With all the press going to Tiger, Rory, Phil, JT and others, is DJ being way understated for the Masters? — Wes (@small_Du)

It does seem like a long time ago that Dustin hit the, uh, greatest golf shot of all time at Kapalua. Mediocre Sundays at Pebble and Riviera took a little shine off what, objectively, was a very successful West Coast. It's certainly hard to imagine any other world number one getting less buzz than DJ is right now. But in our last Tour Confidential I anointed him the Masters favorite. He tied for 6th and tied for 4th in his last two tries, and gawd knows how many strokes he would have won by last year were it not for the unfortunate effects of gravity. I'm sure Dustin is enjoying the lack of fuss as he lumbers toward Augusta like Godzilla approaching Tokyo, bent on destruction.

Dustin Johnson entered last year's Masters as the overwhelming favorite. This year seems to be a different story.

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Recency bias notwithstanding, has there ever been more talent in the pro game than there is now? #AskAlan — Dan (@djdonof)

It's pretty tough to beat the mid- to late-70's: Nicklaus in his prime, Player still relevant, Watson and Ballesteros beginning their ascents, Trevino still chewing scenery, Johnny Miller knocking down flagsticks, badasses like Ray Floyd and Lanny Wadkins and Hale Irwin and Tom Weiskopf all making the scene. There is zero doubt the the game is deeper now and that the pros are maximizing every drop of their ability in a way that would be foreign to their beer-drinking, skirt-chasing predecessors, but that golden era in the 70's had an incredible collection of all-time greats.

I hope Tiger makes the Ryder Cup team, but hate the idea of any playing captain or vice captain. What do you think? — @JeffWeber11

Because Tiger is Tiger — the most dominant golfer of all time, hero to the current groups of young stars, vice captain at the last few Cups — he was always destined to have an outsized role in Paris, especially given how mild-mannered Capt. Furyk is. Clearly Woods is going to be playing for the U.S. They can call him a vice captain or not, but either way I think his role is about the same.

Tiger Woods has now served as a vice captain for multiple United States teams. A playing captain role would be very different. 

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How many Ryder Cups have you attended? And will you be going to France in September? — @MrRyderCup2012

Valderrama was my first and I've been to every Ryder Cup since. Hell yes I'll be Paris – it's gonna be the golf writer equivalent of storming the beach at Normandy!

Any Ryder Cup prediction updates? #AskAlan — Steve (@EllingYelling)

Apparently we now have to revisit my infamous Ryder Cup column every week. It's my cross to bear. I typed it up for Golf Magazine back in the early summer. A lot has changed: Koepka got hurt, Casey reclaimed Euro tour membership and was reborn, Tiger and Phil began playing like it's the turn of the century, Hatton and Fleetwood became consistent winners, Rose went crazy in the fall, etc. Both teams look exceptionally strong and Europe has closed the gap…but not enough. The U.S. is still the pick. Bring the hate.

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