What to Watch For: Friday at the Masters
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The leaderboard is too juicy -- Couples, Watson, Woods, Mickelson. Something, or someone, has to give. My guess is Watson. Yeah, I'd love him to hang around too, but the greens will be firmer tomorrow and the pin positions scarier, a recipe for weaning out old-timers not named Langer or Couples. I hope I'm wrong, but I think back to the buzz surrounding Ben Crenshaw after he opened 71-72 in 2006, only to close with 78-79. Augusta National isn't some quirky links where aging champions can ride the wind and the whims of the land. It's exacting, and it can turn on you in a blink.
Of course I'll also be watching Tiger, that wily cat. Say what you want about the guy, but Thursday's round, given the hype, the speculation, and the distractions, has to go down as one of his greatest ever. As far as I'm concerned the two biggest challenges of his week are now out of the way -- his press conference and his first round. He's certifiably lethal again. If you saw his approach at the ninth, a rocket of a 5-iron around the pines, you know what I mean.
Finally, I'll be watching Phil's putting. A few months ago we were all ready to give Dave Stockton a Nobel Prize for solving Lefty's putting woes, yet Phil quickly seemed to lose his way again. Thursday he drained an eagle putt from 35 feet at the 13th and a hole later canned a birdie from 40 feet. At 15, he made another birdie. "It was a nice little three-hole stretch that made the whole round," Mickelson said. If he can put a few more of those stretches together, it'll make his whole week.
Oh, I'll also be watching for something 2,000 or so feet above the golf course: another lame Tiger joke.