Tiger will win, Phil will thrill, and more to watch at most anticipated Masters in years

April 10, 2013

AUGUSTA, Ga. — It's Masters week so you know what that means.

Prepare for a steady helping of "This is the Most Important Masters of All Time" talk and assorted similar hyperbole. You can't really blame the media. There's the scent of azaleas and dogwoods in bloom working on them like nerve gas. Plus, it's been eight months since the last major championship so the media are suffering withdrawal.

And, added Captain Obvious, a full-fledged outbreak of Tiger Mania is lurking in the cathedral of pines, waiting to bust out like a virulent case of Legionnaire's Disease. It's looking like another All-Tiger All-The-Time Masters this week. I'm pretty sure CBS won't disappoint in that department.

My lineup of other Masters thoughts:

* Who will be the first to mention Grand Slam if (or when) Tiger Woods wins? Oh. Me, I guess, since I just did. Tiger will field a Grand Slam question in the winner's press conference, if he's there – that's an iron-clad guarantee.

Second, a win means the Countdown To Jack resumes with a new level of hysteria. Third, a Tiger win means he can mathematically tie Jack at 18 majors this year if he wins all four majors.

* It's not an official Masters until somebody downs a fried chicken sandwich. The people who think the Masters pimento cheese sandwich is iconic are rank amateurs.

* This is a crucial Masters for Rory McIlroy. That's a sentence you're sure to hear. Crucial for Rory? Other than it being a major, not hardly. He's going to play 25 more Masters after this. If Rory doesn't win this one, big damn deal. He'll still have plenty of time to win six or eight green jackets. Or, um, none.

* Phil Mickelson has never had a Masters where he didn't do something amazing. Last year it was almost winning despite two triple bogeys. What'll it be this year? His secret special club? A fourth green jacket? Putting with a fat oversized grip? We can't wait to see.

* Another fable you'll hear is that this is the most crucial Masters ever for Tiger. That's a big bowl of crapioca. (Yes, that's a word I invented. You're welcome.) He's in a bit of a green-coated dry spell (winless since 2005) and a major drought (since 2008) but at 37 he figures to have at least a dozen more years to win majors, maybe more. After three wins before April, not winning the Masters would be a letdown for him, but it's nothing he can't overcome because I heard on TV, "Winning takes care of everything." So it must be true.

* The Masters has two women members. I know that should be fascinating, but every story I read about either one of them gets more boring than the one before. None of us came to the Masters to read stories about members. We're here for tournament golf. Let's move on.

* I hope the 14-year-old kid from China, Guan Tianlang, breaks 80 … but I wouldn't bet on it.

* No Masters winner has ever driven a hovercraft the week before the tournament, as far as I know. Not that I'm trying to jinx Bubba Watson. I'm just saying …

* Which hole is Louis Oosthuizen going to have a bigger flashback on — the second, where he made a double eagle, or the tenth, where he made bogey and lost to Bubba's heroic par? I'll say No. 10.

* Look for Gary Player to blow it past Jack and Arnie in Thursday's ceremonial tee shot. Somebody, somewhere, is probably taking bets on that.

Let's go to the Van Cynical Mailbag:

Van Cynical, given all the crazy weather delays this year, are you expecting a plague of locusts at the Masters?
— Rob Roddy via Twitter

Yes, but it will be confined to the free buffet lunch line in the media center.

Gary, what's your prediction for the winning score and who wins?
— Ryan M. Johnson via Twitter

The winning score will have a 2 and a 7 in it. I'm saying Tiger wins it. Based on my NCAA tournament prediction of Florida as national champ, he's a virtual lock.

Eating $2 egg salad sandwiches atop a quiet Augusta hill at the 2007 Masters with your brother. Priceless. Your favorite memory?
— GolfGiftGuy via Twitter

Well, this is an amazing coincidence. You two guys eating sandwiches on a hill looking dreamily into each others' eyes is also my favorite Masters memory. Larry Mize's chip shot wasn't bad, either. But it didn't come with a sandwich.

Enough Tiger and Rory! Kooch, Bradley, Mahan, Rose, Colsaerts — who breaks out this week?
— Mike Cook via Twitter

Joe LaCava, Tiger's caddie. They get their first major as a team.

What hole would the pros renovate if they had a choice?
— Kristopher Barrie via Twitter

No. 7. It used to be a cool, short par 4. Now it's a long thread-the-needle hole to a green that wasn't designed to accept mid-iron approach shots. Move the tee back to its original location and take out a few trees.

I was thinking of going to a Masters one day. Is the experience worth it or is the Ryder Cup better?
— Sanjay Iyer via Twitter

Excellent question with an easy answer: The Masters. You'll never walk a course like this — it's hilly and this loaded with history. The Ryder Cup is an exciting atmosphere, but with 40,000 fans following four groups, it's hard to see anything as a spectator. Go to the Masters, and bring lots of cash. You'll need at least $4K for a week's badge.

Have any of the changes made Augusta National a better, repeat BETTER, course? And your Tiger prediction?
— David Ogrin via Twitter

I think the changes went too far and made the course too difficult, but it has put more of a premium on accuracy than power and made Augusta a more complete test. But not a better course. It's time to take out some trees at 7, 11 and 15.

Tiger? I expect him to win and I expect those who switched sides and said he wouldn't catch Jack will suddenly reconsider and pretend they never said any such thing.

Tweet and Retweet were on the 12th hole at Augusta. As they were crossing the bridge, Tweet fell off. Who was left?
— Dan O'Neill via Twitter

Ha, it's a trick question. They're both buried in Grant's Tomb, along with his horse.