Every Sunday night, Golf.com conducts an e-mail roundtable with writers from Sports Illustrated and Golf Magazine. Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.
Mark Broadie, Columbia Business School professor and author of the new book “Every Shot Counts: Using the Revolutionary Strokes Gained Approach to Improve Your Golf Performance and Strategy” joins our roundtable this week.
1. Adam Scott looked like he was cruising to a win at Bay Hill this week until he stumbled in the final round and lost to Matt Every. How do you feel about Scott’s chances at the Masters after watching him this week?
Mark Broadie: I like his chances and don't put too much weight on one disappointing round. Scott won the Masters last year because of his ball striking. This year he's been putting better than last year, and in his first round at Bay Hill, his 5.1 strokes gained putting was in the top 99.8 percent of putting rounds on the PGA Tour. His good ball striking and improved putting bode well.
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@AlanShipnuck): I talked to him in the locker room Sunday evening, and he had the perfect attitude -- pissed that he let one get away, glad to have tasted Sunday pressure again, excited about his overall play and determined to tighten up the short-game lapses the hurt him on the weekend. He'll be in the mix at Augusta.
Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I think this hurts. He could have had a magic carpet ride to Augusta. Now he's coming in with self-doubt. If he's leading by a shot Sunday afternoon, what does he lean on? He turned it around amazingly after that 2012 British Open loss, but Sunday at Bay Hill makes his Augusta week harder.
Eamon Lynch, managing editor, Golf.com (@eamonlynch): He should still be the favorite on paper. Driving through the gates of Augusta National as defending champion will be a great elixir, and he'll draw more on his showing in the final round of last year's Masters than his sloppy final round at Bay Hill. Only three guys have ever repeated at the Masters, and Scott is playing well enough to make it four.
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@GaryVanSickle): It doesn't appear that Scotty is a wire-to-wire kind of guy. Every week is a new week, though, and a Masters win would erase a Bay Hill stumble in 1.2 seconds flat. That said, his long putter had issues under pressure on the weekend, and that's not a good sign for Augusta.
Josh Sens, contributing writer, Golf Magazine (@JoshSens): Everyone's entitled to a stumble now and then, so I wouldn't place too much emphasis on this week. More relevant is that Scott has not been entirely in form thus far this season. That slightly longer pattern is a better way of gauging his Master's chances than one tournament, and I didn't like Scott's odds prior to this week. Throw in the additional pressure of defending, and I'd say he won't even be the top Australian finisher.
Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated (@MarkGodich): Scott will be fine at Augusta. He has the monkey of never having won a major off his back, and he's returning to a venue where he's proven he can win. I wouldn't bet against him.
Jeff Ritter, senior editor, Sports Illustrated Golf Group (@Jeff_Ritter): Still like Scott's chances at Augusta. He hasn't played a ton of golf this year, and I think his huge Thurs-Fri lead at Bay Hill threw him off a bit. Protecting such a huge advantage requires a different state of mind, and he got caught letting off the gas. Next time I think Scott will handle it much better.
Joe Passov, senior editor, courses and travel, Golf Magazine (@joepassov): Hey, he's the defending Masters champion, he's notched some other nice wins since then, and he looked like a solid world No. 1 for three rounds. He went ugly early in Round 4, and the meltdown continued pretty much unabated, but it wasn't because of nerves. He just stunk up the joint, and it has happened to every great player, except to a healthy Tiger Woods in his prime. Scott is still the pick for Augusta. He's just the prohibitive favorite now, rather than an overwhelming one.
2. Tiger Woods was unable to play at Bay Hill due to back spasms and is unlikely to play again before the Masters. Will Woods’ lack of competitive rounds so far this year hurt him at the year's first major or does he have so much experience at Augusta National that it doesn’t matter?
BAMBERGER: If Woods is healthy at Augusta, nothing he's done so far this year will matter at all. If he's healthy, he'll very likely contend, just as he did when he came back from the hydrant affair.
SHIPNUCK: It matters -- it's not just the lack of tourney rounds but also the corresponding absence of practice time. Tiger was already struggling to find his game, and this doesn't help. But don't forget that in 2010 he came in to the Masters without having played *any* golf and his life was in tatters and he still had a chance to win, which might be the most under-appreciated performance of his career. You can never count him out on that course.
VAN SICKLE: I am not assuming that Tiger will definitely be able to play the Masters. We all hope so. What will hurt him is the endurance factor and whether his body and his back are up to walking and swinging through a spasm-less 72 holes.
PASSOV: That long layoff leading into the 2010 Masters didn't seem to faze him too much. This nagging back issue might be different, though. Two Saturdays in a row, Tiger owned the tournaments he was playing in, Honda and Doral, and then his back went whacko. It's difficult to think this won't affect him mentally if he's in the hunt on Saturday. How can he not dread Saturday night/Sunday morning, wondering if or when his back will give out?
GODICH: The difference between this year and others is that Tiger's not exactly on a roll heading into the Masters. Hard to believe that only a year ago he had already won three times and walked in as the prohibitive favorite.
LYNCH: Craig Stadler has a lot of experience at Augusta National, too, but I don't see the Walrus being a factor this year. Four years ago, Woods returned from his self-imposed post-scandal sabbatical at the Masters and finished fourth, so he doesn't need a lot of competitive reps to finish well there. What he does need is a swing he can trust, and his results suggest he doesn't have that right now.
BROADIE: His back needs to heal far more than he needs competitive rounds. Whether it hurts or helps, I don't think he has a choice.
RITTER: He's parachuted into Augusta and played well before, his post-hydrant T4 offering the best example. But this year, he has an injury that's likely limiting his ability to practice. Hard to see him in a green jacket without putting in serious time on the range -- his game wasn't exactly clicking before the injury.
SENS: Tiger's problems run deeper than (to borrow one of his favorite phrases) "just needing more reps." He ain't hittin' em like he used to, and his head is not where it once was.