Every Sunday night, the editorial staff of the SI Golf Group conducts an e-mail roundtable. Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in our all-new live Readers' Confidential or in the comments section below.
A TIGER-RORY-PHIL LETDOWN?
Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: If the Tiger-Rory showdown doesn't materialize this week -- if neither of them contends -- will it be a letdown? Does the Masters need at least one of them to be in the hunt?
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Sorry, it's not a Tiger-Rory world yet. It's still a Tiger-Phil world, or as Paul Azinger likes to say, the tour is a two-show pony. It would be disappointing if Tiger, Rory and Phil aren't in the mix at some point, but not that disappointing. It's the Masters. It'll have an exciting finish, and we'll crown an excited champion and take home another bit of lore, even if someone named Charl Schwartzel creates it.
Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: I think the only way there'd be a letdown would be if Tiger, Rory and Phil all failed to contend, and that's not happening. No way.
Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Agree, Cam. At least one of them will contend, and all three will at least do something to grab our attention.
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: For a decade we pined for Tiger-Phil showdowns, and it only happened a couple of times. Prepare for a letdown.
Godich: You want to create buzz, why not pair Tiger, Phil and Rory in the first two rounds?
Van Sickle: You'd have to ask the people who control golf -- CBS.
Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: The Masters doesn't need Woods vs. McIlroy -- we do. The media always pull for the best story.
Charlie Hanger, executive editor, Golf.com: For the average fan, I think it will be a letdown if Woods and McIlroy and Mickelson completely fizzle. Of course it'll be fun to watch no matter what, but I think there are a lot of golf fans hoping to see those three battling with each other and anyone else who wants to join the fun on Sunday evening.
Van Sickle: Disagree, Charlie. For the average fan, it's a thrill to see the golf course get played well -- or badly -- by anyone. This is the one event the viewers tune in first to see the course, second to see who's winning.
Hanger: I think the course is a co-star, no doubt, but I think the first question out of most viewers' mouths on Sunday afternoon will be, "Where's Tiger? And Phil and Rory?"
Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: The greatness of the tournament is you can't guess how it will play out. It is true theater.
Jeff Ritter, senior producer, Golf.com: Those three names would bring in the casual golf fans, but the Masters doesn't need to do anything besides stage a tournament. It will be the most-watched golf broadcast of the year regardless of who's in contention on Sunday.
Stephanie Wei, contributor, SI Golf+: I'm worried there's so much hype about this being The Best Masters Ever that it's inevitable someone like Simon Dyson (no offense) is going to win.
Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Exactly. Asking for a showdown is preparing for a letdown. It's golf, not boxing.
MAHAN GETS SECOND WIN OF 2012
Gorant: We media types are always predicting breakthrough victories for players (Sergio's Players, Scott's Players, etc.), and while those projections seem logical, they don't often pan out. Hunter Mahan looked to have a potential breakthrough at the Match Play. Does this week's win in Houston legitimize that belief?
Godich: I'd say yes, and I think you can boil it down to the way he played the last four holes today with a one-shot lead. And how about that flop shot at 17? Certainly not the same guy who flubbed the chip with the Ryder Cup on the line.
Van Sickle: I've said it a million times: winners always look invincible when they win because they played their best that week. Mahan at his best is formidable, as Johnny Miller pointed out several times. As far as majors go, though, I'll still list Hunter in the Talented With Potential category until he wins one. I like his chances better all the time. He's driving it like David Toms in his prime.
Morfit: I need to see more to be fully convinced, and I only say that because Hunter cruised along in top-25 mode for so long. He could convince me at a little toonamint down in 'Gusta this week.
Godich: Given the way he drives the ball, I like Hunter's chances better at a U.S. Open. He still has to show me more with the short game; that's why I'm not sold on his winning at Augusta.
Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: Mahan is the real deal, though that doesn't mean winning every week, or close. Three of four wins in a year would be monumental, even for the best American (by ranking) on earth.
Hanger: I think he's a legit top-10 player and a threat to win a major this year. He's definitely joined the elite in my book.
Hack: Hunter is on the doorstep with Lee, Luke, Justin, Dustin, Bubba and Watney. One of them ought to break through soon, you'd think.
Herre: His short game will certainly be put to the test. If he contends at Augusta, you'd have to conclude he has arrived as an elite player.
Wei: Winning the Match Play was key for Hunter and definitely a breakthrough for him. After that win, his caddie John Wood said it was a "huge step forward" for Hunter's confidence. This week definitely adds to that. Now he just needs a major. He was going to be one of my picks for the Masters, but we all know how tough it is to win back-to-back weeks, especially at a major.
Tell us what you think in the all-new readers' live Confidential or in the comments section below: Are you ready to put Mahan in the class of golf's elite players?