Saturday 24 March 2018

Everything falls into place for vintage Masters week

A large crowd follows Rory McIlroy as he hits from the eighth fairway during practice for the Masters. JAE C HONG/AP
A large crowd follows Rory McIlroy as he hits from the eighth fairway during practice for the Masters. JAE C HONG/AP

Joe Molloy

Navigating my way around the travails of daily life, I will occasionally recall the words of Melvin Udall, aka Jack Nicholson, who once gloriously turned to his fellow patients in a psychiatrist's room and asked, "What if this is as good as it gets?"

He had a point of course, but when it comes to Masters week, I'm generally just fine if life doesn't get much better. It is my favourite sporting week of the year, every year: both grippingly current and drenched wet through in nostalgia. Even a very bad Masters is a very good Masters.

The 2016 vintage is beautifully set up. It is decades since so many of the world's top players were playing so well and so primed. Last year on the PGA Tour, there were a lot of first-time winners across the early part of the season. This year, the big boys have hit back.

Jason Day, the world No 1, has won his last two events and loves Augusta. Adam Scott has won twice this year and is back to the player who won at Augusta in 2012.


He's also got Steve Williams back on his bag and has a huge chance. Bubba Watson could conceivably end up with four or five Green Jackets; he's also won this year and is playing well. Then of course there is Rory McIlroy. Last year he turned up undercooked.

This year he's played eight tournaments and is close to his best. There is the distinct possibility he'll catch fire. Phil Mickelson parted ways with Butch Harmon last year, and appears rejuvenated. Crucially, he knows Augusta and is looking for Green Jacket No 4. Rickie Fowler conversely is a player reborn under Butch in recent times. He'll win a Major soon and with his increased length and consistency, the Masters looks as likely as any other.

You'll notice I haven't even mentioned defending champion and all-round phenomenon Jordan Spieth. He's the one guy struggling for some form, but who dares write him off? This will be glorious. Who wins? Angel Cabrera.

Irish Independent

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