Every morning this week, writers and editors from Sports Illustrated and Golf Magazine will address one pressing question about the Masters in a daily version of PGA Tour Confidential, our weekly roundtable discussion.
\nJim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: The weather report for the week calls for Thursday thunderstorms that could soften up the course and make it play longer. Since the course changes, those conditions have seemed to work in favor of the short-knocking wedge artists such as Mike Weir, Zach Johnson, and some degree Trevor Immelman. Will the weather influence the outcome, vacuum system and Tiger be damned?
\nRick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: Except in hyper-extreme circumstances (tornado for the morning wave, utter calm for the afternoon wave, for example), weather doesn't make or break anybody's chances, any more than a pairing does. The best players, those who will contend, block out all the chatter and will be singularly focused on golf.
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: The key is not Thursday's chance of showers but that the following three days are supposed to be hot and dry. The course should be firm and fast for the weekend, the best conditions to separate the men from the boys because precision and talent shots are mandatory, and the greens could be frightening. It will take a big-time talent to prevail. Could be a shortish hitter, but he'll have to play perfect golf.
Joe Posnanski, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Yeah, I agree with Alan. Masters aren't won on Thursdays. The rain could muck things up early in the week and maybe give us a quirky leader or two. But, anyway, like Peter Jacobsen said, the Chicago slums are filled with Masters first-round leaders. With the weather pointing to warm and dry Friday, Saturday and Sunday, we should get a good and true test over the weekend. If it's dried out by Sunday, and we get a little wind, we could have another one of those survivor Sundays at Augusta.
\nMark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: I don't think it favors anybody, either, but I think a weather delay is the last thing Tiger would want to see. If he's playing well, the last thing he'll want to see is a stoppage in play, and the folks at Augusta haven't done him any favors by sending him out in the second-to-last group on Thursday. Even if he's playing poorly, I think he's better served to try and play his way out of his funk. Sitting around will only add to the pressure and perhaps put doubts in his mind about whether he came back too early.
\nMike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine: Agree. Shorter guys like Mike Weir and Tim Clark with a record of success here have a chance to win in perfect conditions and a softer course puts them firmly in that second group of contenders after Woods, Mickelson, Els, Westwood and Harrington.\n
Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: The weather forecast is only dicey on Thursday. The course survived a brutal winter, including that massive storm that dumped 4-6 inches of snow, and it'll hold up. The guy who handles his nerves and makes his putts will be donning the coat.
Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: A soft track late Thursday will keep some of the afternoon players' errant drives from going too far into the trees, and make it easier to fire at pins. That'll favor Tiger if the forecast is right and both he and Phil if the rain comes earlier than expected.