Unless you've been marooned on a deserted island, have yet to join Twitter or forgot to pay your Direct TV bill, you know that it's Masters week. And when it's Masters week we look ahead unless something spectacular happened the previous week. So, with all due respect to Matt Jones and his triumphant victory last week at the Houston Open, it's time to move on.
What is it about the Masters, though? Why is this the most eagerly anticipated event each year? Several reasons come to mind. There's the scenery - let's be honest, Augusta is easy on the eyes. There's the way this event seems to crown only the best of the best (most of the time). Beyond that, however, there's something else that raises the level of excitement and that's familiarity. From the lighting-fast greens, to Amen Corner, to trees than don't exist anymore (the Eisenhower Tree), everything about Augusta brings a certain image to the mind. These images are formed early as we watch the Masters for the first time, and they're slightly revised year after year as we watch the best golfers in the world play the exact same holes year after year.
In a certain sense, it's amazing that we haven't grown tired of Augusta after all these years; after all, we live in a culture that gets bored after 30 minutes of just about everything. Augusta and the Masters is something different, though. The origin of the phrase, "familiarity breeds contempt" is unclear to this day, but what is clear is that whoever coined that phrase, never watched the Masters.
This week: Masters - Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, Georgia
Last Year: Adam Scott shot a final-round 69 on his way to a playoff victory over Angel Cabrera.
Players to Consider:
There are weeks when course history means little -- this is not one of those weeks. Mickelson certainly fits the bill as someone who has a positive history here. Beyond that, he's more focused than ever on the majors, and he knows how to win at Augusta. He's not at the top of his game entering this week, but he's getting there.
Scott's win here last year was no fluke. In his two trips to Augusta prior to last year, Scott finished T8 and T2. Scott returns to the 2014 Masters with the confidence of a major champion and the game of one of the best golfers in the world -- that's a dangerous combination.
Discount Cabrera at your own risk. He's not one of the best players in the world, but come Masters week, he sure looks the part. Cabrera has finished outside the top-25 just once in his past six trips to Augusta.
Watson surprised most of the golf world when he won here in 2012, and although he hit a long rough patch after that win, he seems to be back on track now. His track record here is a bit spotty, just two top-20s in five starts, but we've all witnessed what he can do at Augusta when he's on his game.
A risky pick only because of the questions surrounding his thumb, but prior to that injury, he was on the short list of players to take this week. If healthy, he will be in contention this week, plain and simple. He's one of the best players in the world and he knows how to get around this course.
Players to Avoid:
While course history is important, it doesn't trump awful form. OK, "awful" is a little harsh, but Watney set the bar high a few years back and has struggled to live up to heightened expectations. If recent struggles weren't enough, we haven't even seen Watney since early March when he withdrew from the Cadillac Championship.
Yes, Johnson is a Masters champion, but unlike Scott, who was trending toward his win, Johnson's win came out of nowhere. There's a reason for that; winners at Augusta are generally long off the tee and while Johnson was so locked in the year he won, he hasn't found that zone before or since, and the odds are he won't find it again this year.
Fowler is simply not ready for this stage yet. He's played fairly well here, making the cut in all three starts, but struggling on the weekend a bit. Perhaps down the line he'll figure out Augusta, but don't expect it to happen this year.
DJ's had his moments here, but for the most part he's been a non-factor in his four starts. His best finish came last year with a T13. Johnson is bound to pick up a major at some point, but it's doubtful it will be in the form of a green jacket.
Furyk's track record here is good, but not great. His form entering this week is good, but not great. He's simply caught up in a numbers game this week. There are way too many quality options to take someone like Furyk this week in a one-and-done format.
ONE AND DONE GOLFER
Last week: Henrik Stenson (T14) - $15,656; Season - $1,989,884
This week: Phil Mickelson - Very tough decision here between Scott and Mickelson. Both players are high-quality plays this week, so it really comes down to personal preference. I just have a good feeling about Mickelson this week, and perhaps defending his title from last year will adversely affect Scott's play this week.
Group A: Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott
Group B: Angel Cabrera, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Justin Rose
Group C: Charl Schwartzel, Sergio Garcia
Last week: Charley Hoffman; Streak - 5
This week: Adam Scott - I won't double-up this week, mainly because there are two extremely solid choices, so for the survivor pick, I'll go with Scott, who has only missed one cut here in his last nine tries.