Teed Off (Apr. 13, 2014)
with Robert Bicknell
Well, its been a strange week so far and it could become even weirder by the time the Masters tournament is over. How strange depends on your point of view. First off, the Undertaker's 21-0 streak at Wrestlemania was snapped by Brock Lesner, much to the dismay of the fans. Yes, we all know the outcomes are predetermined and 'Taker wanted to retire, but at the same time, it would have been better if 'Taker won then rode off into the sunset. Staying in the wrestling vein, Jim Hallweg aka "The Ultimate Warrior" passed away three days after being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
Does any of this have to do with the outcome of the Master's?
Maybe and maybe not, but the strangeness continues into golf as well, with Tiger Woods out with injuries, Phil Mickelson already losing a bet to a patron during a practice round , and the field wide open - it looks very likely what a new face might emerge to pick up a green jacket and a piece of golf immortality.
On the surface, Rory McIlroy is the hands on favourite to win, but somehow I just cannot see him as a Masters champion. There is something about his game that just doesn't seem ready for Augusta, but I cannot put my finger on it.
Adam Scott, on the other hand IS a Masters champion, but to repeat back to back is something that is easier said than done due to the amount of distractions the current champion has to face during Masters' week. The pressure is enormous and I am not sure he is ready for it. Suffice it to say if he wins again, nothing can stand in his way.
Jason Day has been very hot lately and is a prime candidate to win in my opinion. He has the tools and is poised to break out in a major way - pun intended.
Jordan Spieth (World Rank: No 13) is also another vast talent waiting to explode.
There is no way to get around the fact that a "Tigerless" Masters will receive more mention than almost anything else during the week. Pundits will blather on endlessly, speculating what the PGA Tour and golf itself will do if Tiger never recovers well enough to become the force he was before.
Already people are questioning who will be Tiger's heir apparent to the golf throne and the simplest answer should be "nobody and everybody".
While people, in general, want to see someone standing head and shoulders above everyone else, be it in sports, business, entertainment or politics, it really isn't good for business to rely on one person. Tiger Woods is both a great and bad example of the wisdom of anointing a player as a "second coming."
It seems we always build our heroes up to mythic proportions and elevate their pedestal so high that the resulting fall will be quite spectacular. Tiger became the guy to beat. The next Jack Nicklaus. He soared higher than any other player in history…
He then obliged everyone with what could be the most spectacular fall from grace ever recorded in modern times, and this fall is still plaguing him today.
I have little sympathy for Tiger and said 18 months ago that I didn't think he would ever win another major… and got brick-batted by friends and foes alike. But so far I am right.
In my view, I would rather see four or five fantastic players duking it out for the win on the 2nd nine holes on Sunday than see one player running away with it. What fun is watching a runaway?
Heck, if a player is leading by seven strokes with a few holes left to play, it's safe to shut off the TV and go practise putting. Unless, of course, that player is Jean Van De Velde, in which case nothing is for sure until the last putt drops.
So, with any luck, come Sunday afternoon, we will see a very tight, close fight down to the final putt. Hopefully, it will include some very promising rookies instead of some old guys looking for one last chance at glory before heading off to the Senior Tour.
Unless that "old guy" happens to be Fred Couples, in which case I will be bouncing off the walls. — VNS