Alan Shipnuck's Hot or Not

Wednesday April 16th, 2008
Not even a birdie on 18 Sunday could lift Tiger's spirits.
Fred Vuich/SI

Hot

1. Trevor Immelman. In a year when we celebrated Gary Player, it only seems natural that another gritty, wee South African would break through. Who would have guessed that Immelman, and not his more talented countrymen Ernie Els and Retief Goosen, would become the second South African to win the Masters?

2. Lorena Ochoa. Despite what you've heard, the Grand Slam lives on. With her latest blowout — by 11 strokes this time — Ochoa has clearly established herself as the most dominant player in golf. Period.

3. Brandt Snedeker. Yes, he made a mind-boggling nine bogies on Sunday, but throughout the week he displayed an absurd amount of flair to go with plenty of game. Sned is my new favorite player, along with ...

4. Andres Romero. In his Masters debut he played alongside Tiger and Phil and showed as much imagination as either one en route to finishing tied for eighth. Imagine if his mentor Angel Cabrera had this much try in him.

5. Tiger Woods. Even on a week when he had his B-game he still willed himself into contention. When playing their best, the difference between Woods and a top player like Adam Scott is negligible. But when they struggle on a tough course, Scott shoots 76 and Tiger grinds out a 72. The importance of this can't be overstated.

Not

1. Tiger Woods. He'll be haunted by Sunday's sloppy round for a good long while. He made par on all four par-5s and missed a pair of four-footers ... and still finished only three back.

2. Augusta National. It has become fashionable to bash the course, and with good reason. I spent all of Sunday walking the grounds, and it was downright boring. If Billy Payne really cares about golf as much as he claims, he needs to oversee some de-Hoot-ification of Augusta National and allow the players to once again showcase their shotmaking.

3. Phil Mickelson. As we approach the two-year anniversary of Winged Foot, it's increasingly clear that Phil has never fully recovered from that career-altering self-immolation. He was in perfect position on Saturday to claim his third green jacket — and win a major for the first time since his 72nd-hole double bogey at the '06 U.S. Open — when he hung up a mystifying 75, replete with bad putting and even worse decision-making. He's suddenly looking as damaged as Ernie Els.

4. England. And not just because of the food, the weather and the teeth. Paul Casey, Justin Rose, Lee Westwood and Luke Donald were all in the mix at the Masters only to collectively shrink at the enormity of the opportunity. Somewhere Faldo weeps.

5. Steve Flesch. You don't really expect him to win the Masters, but one of the game's purest ballstrikers played beautifully for 63 holes only to shoot a homely 42 on the back nine on Sunday. The sad thing is that, at 40, Flesch may never got an opportunity to redeem himself.

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