I can’t believe it’s already here. It feels like just the other week that I was giddy from last year’s wild finish, but you know what they say…361(ish) days have passed, so it makes sense we’re back at Augusta National Golf Club. Well, actually, it’s technically my first time officially with press credentials. I’m not going to lie — after I went through the gates, took the press shuttle to the media center, I nearly started skipping down the stairs before I checked myself (no running allowed!) to the entrance to the front desk where you pick up your credentials. I felt like I was Charlie winning the Golden Ticket.
Since I was coming from the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the ladies major, I’m behind schedule and I have to admit I’m disappointed I haven’t had the full experience of attending all the pre-Masters stuff, like going to all the press conferences and walking the course, blah blah blah. (I know you’re playing your itsy-bitsy violin for me!) And I’m trying to explain why I’ve been mostly absent. Luckily, Conor and Brendan have been
feeding the beast keeping WUP running with fresh content.
Well, there’s always next year (hoping I don’t do something totally reckless, it’s like walking on eggshells a bit — even the players will tell you that). I did finally make it out to the famous Oak Tree behind the clubhouse, which is like a big social gathering and also where reporters hang out to talk with players and their entourages. I also kind of felt like I had gone back in time to the 1950s and walked into an episode of Mad Men. Eerie and surreal…
OK, it’s late and I’ll get to the point and make my picks. I need to leave the media center because it’s starting to feel a little eerie (or more so than usual), so here’s the short version that I’ll try to update when I return to the house…
With all the massive storms rolling through Augusta this week, the golf course is rather soggy. What do the soft conditions mean? Well, it levels the playing field out and takes away some of the advantage from guys like Phil Mickelson. It also becomes more of a bomber’s paradise (guys weren’t getting any roll in the fairways in practice rounds today). Expect lots of mud balls (which Tiger brought up just a few times). In short, the course is expected to play really, really long, so take the high-ball power hitters that can also putt, and you have your champ! Sounds easy, right?
Favorites (these should be pretty obvious):
*Robert Garrigus (he’s my top dark horse pick)
Long shots or just guys I like:
*Fred Couples — This is an automatic pick every year. Duh.
*Ryo Ishikawa — Because I love him. He’s such a stud.
*Brandt Snedeker —
*John Senden —
*Kyle Stanley —
*Bo Van Pelt
Not sold on, but can’t ignore ’em:
*Luke Donald — it’s supposed to rain more and the temperatures are expected to drop over the weekend, which is a disadvantage for shorter/average-distance hitters, but according to reports, his acceptance speech for the GWAA Player of the Year Award at the banquet was absolutely phenomenal and hilarious this evening. Now I’m kind of regretting I missed it…
*Adam Scott —
*Jason Day — word is he’s been battling a back injury since Riviera..
*K.J. Choi —
*Angel Cabrera —
*Update: See, I’m such a scatterbrain. I forgot Lee Westwood. Silly me.
**Update 2: I love the friends that come out of the woodwork every year on Wednesday night before the Masters and video call you through gchat. No, it’s not to wish you a happy belated birthday or catch up on life or just to chat. It’s because they want your expertise with their Masters pools/bets. Then they tell you that you probably won’t be invited to their upcoming wedding, but that’s alright I’m obviously not taking it personal. But we’ll still make this pool — format is pick 5 players from three different groups the field is split into, top 3 scores count — a team effort and I’m covered for the buy-in.
*1. Tiger, Keegan, Ryan Palmer, Kyle Stanley, Ryo Ishikawa.
*2. Rory, Keegan, Peter Hanson, Robert Garrigus, Gary Woodland.
We were trying to hedge our bets, so we didn’t want much overlap, but both thought Keegan was strong. We’ll see.
***Update 3: Here’s a screen shot of my Fantasy Team….oh, by the way, does anyone have a fun pool organized that I can join?? Let me know, thanks.
OK. I’m reemphasizing the important things: Weather is expected to play a factor — rain and t-storms are likely, especially in the afternoon and evening, high of 80F. It cool down Friday with chance of some more showers, and then the sun comes back over the weekend, but it’ll only be in the low-to-mid 70s, so it won’t really be warm enough to dry the course out. Think Augusta as kind of a beast (more than usual) because it’s playing so darn long and conditions will be so soft. The SubAir system will suck most the moisture out of the greens, but they’ll still be softer and more receptive. The weather will also level the field, so, say, Phil and Tiger won’t have as big of an advantage as they usually do, especially Phil. That’s why he was making pseudo snippy comments in his presser. Key words: High-ball hitters. Bombers. Solid putters.
Is there anyone I didn‘t name? Yeah, probably the guy Charl helps into his green jacket on Sunday, otherwise known as the winner.
(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)