Could this year bring the best Masters yet?
March 09, 2016
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
- Adam Scott has won back-to-back TOUR events, but he still pegs Bubba Watson as the Masters favorite. (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
There are 29 days until the Masters. Start the countdown.
The first major of the year is the one players look forward to the most, partly because it’s eight months from the previous one.
It’s the one fans look forward to, for among other more obvious reasons, because it’s a sort of rite of spring, especially with half the country coming out of a deep freeze.
There’s still a lot of golf to be played between now and then, but this year’s Masters will go down as one of the greatest ever. One can hope, anyway.
That’s a lofty statement. Hyperbole, even -- it was 30 years ago this year that Jack Nicklaus won what was the greatest Masters to date.
But can you recall a year when so many of the game’s top players seemed to be in such good form and so poised to make a run at the Green Jacket?
Adam Scott has won each of the last two weeks, beating stellar fields on difficult golf courses. Does he consider himself the Masters favorite?
“No,” he said bluntly. “I think Bubba is.”
Watson has finished second and first in his last two starts and has already won twice at Augusta National, a course suited for his long-hitting ways and creative genius.
"Even if I won every tournament I play before the Masters, if Bubba keeps finishing second, I'd still think he's favored,” Scott continued. “It just sets up so good there for him. Obviously his record there is amazing the last couple of years. He's got to be feeling great about his game.”
Know who else feels great about his game? Phil Mickelson.
A three-time Masters champion, Mickelson is driving the ball the best he has this early in a season in years. He’s hitting one or two more fairways a round, which might not sound like much, but it has allowed him to attack pins and make birdies.
The 45-year-old also leads the PGA TOUR in scoring average at 69.008 and in his last six starts has four finishes in the top 11, including a second, third and fifth.
Right behind Mickelson and Scott in scoring are Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy, the latter of whom will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam this April.
The glass-half-empty approach would be to say both have choked away multiple tournaments this year. It’s a fair argument.Even if I won every tournament I play before the Masters, if Bubba keeps finishing second, I'd still think he's favored.
The glass-half-full approach would say they’re rounding into form to make a run at the Masters, a place where both have performed well but neither has won.
“I just feel like we're working out any kinks on the way to Augusta,” Fowler said. “Definitely know that I've been swinging really well. The putter wasn't great (at The Honda Classic), and I didn't swing it very well on the weekend. But it was nice the way I was able to manage it and kind of hang around and still get a decent finish out of it with not having a good weekend.
“To be there and to be frustrated and upset with the game and to come away with a sixth-place finish, it's not bad. … As far as where my game is at and what I'm able to get out of it; when things are clicking, that's when I'm winning.”
Speaking of winning, the guy who won the last major, Jason Day, has yet to do so this year. He hasn’t been awful, though, finishing in the top 11 in two of his four starts in 2016. He has also finished second and third at the Masters.
Then there’s the defending champion.
Last year, Jordan Spieth became the first player to reach 20 under there before settling for tying the four-day scoring record at 18-under 270.
This year, Spieth is the No. 1 player in the Official World Golf Ranking and opened 2016 with a win, a fifth and a second.
Don’t think the Masters isn’t on the players’ minds, either.
Watson was scheduled to take a trip there earlier this week. Fowler is planning a visit, too.
Spieth already took one.
“When we leave the West Coast and come over to Florida and then in Texas, that's what I think is, OK, it's time to get ready for the Masters,” he said. “Yeah, it's right about this time.”
And in 30 years we might be still talking about this one.
Inside the PGA TOUR
Jordan Spieth in New York City following 2015 Masters victory