by Jeff Skinner
Sunday at The Masters is one of the best days of the year and this Sunday has the potential to be a very memorable one. The cast of characters that are poised to win the 78th Masters is full of just that, character. Each pairing provides us with skilled golfers perched on the edge of history all carrying their own individual, fascinating story.
1:40 pm: John Senden & Gary Woodland. Woodland had a history making front nine yesterday (30) but stumbled on his back nine. If he can start that way again he can easily make up his five stroke deficit. Woodland looks like a new player since he started working with Butch Harmon and with long time, major veteran caddy, Tony Navarro on his bag he has a chance to get his first major.
John Senden stumbled on his front nine yesterday but managed to right the ship and stay in contention at one under and four strokes back. Playing a bit back in the pack may allow Senden to post a good score without the bright lights of the final pairing beating down on him.
1:50 pm Kevin Stadler & Fred Couples. Young Stadler has a chance to be the first son of a Masters winner to earn his own green jacket and wouldn’t that be amazing. He would make it two broomstick putters in a row to win at Augusta. He’s only four off the lead and at Augusta and that’s hardly anything at all.
Fred Couples may just get more cheers today than anyone on the course. He is loved at Augusta and he loves it back. He calls it his “favorite place in the world.” And one more solid day of dragging that creaky back over the hills of Augusta may just have Freddy not only breaking Jack Nicklaus’ record for oldest Masters winner he’ll be breaking Julius Boros’ record as oldest major winner at 48 years and 4 months at the ’68 PGA.
2:00 pm: Thomas Bjorn & Justin Rose. Oh would it be sweet for Thomas Bjorn to win here. The Great Dane is one of the most respected men in the game but his history in the majors has been painful.
If the defending U.S. Open Champion can fly under the radar Rose is doing just that. His opening round of 76 may have something to do with that. But Rosey has been very solid since then going 70-69 to sneak up the leaderboard. The last time he was four strokes back at a major? The ’13 U.S. Open…we all know what happened then.
2:10 pm: Lee Westwood & Jim Furyk. Lee Westwood win a major? This perennial major runner up has his best chance in awhile and wouldn’t it be fitting for him to win here and be welcomed back for the rest of his life. Westy needs to calm his nerves and control that short stick if he wants to wear that green jacket.
Jim Furyk steps into the Hall of Fame if he wins his second major championship today. He certainly has been here before and that can be a good thing for the experience or bad for his recent results. If Furyk can find his old putting magic he may just be thereat the end.
2:20pm: Miguel Angel Jimenez & Rickie Fowler. This is going to be one fun pairing to watch. Miguel and Rickie have more in common than meets the eye. Even though they are separated by 25 years they both have fun on the course, play a gambling style and golf isn’t the end all for either of them. Miguel has a chance at his first major and a good history here with three top ten finishes. More than anything, Miguel brings his cool, individual style with him everywhere. His demeanor is that of “devil may care” and that has earned him legions of fans. I can only try to imagine the celebration if The Coolest Guy in Golf is slipping into that green jacket tonight. And think about this: he is making his Champions Tour debut next week. How about him showing up in that green jacket?
At only 25 it seems that Rickie Fowler has been around a long time. But he wasn’t happy with his performance and when his long time mentor passed away a few years ago he lost a valuable resource. But last year he hooked up with Butch Harmon and just recently the swing changes have taken hold and are having a very positive effect. His 67 on Saturday has him two off the lead and he and Miguel will do well being paired with each other. Fowler as Masters Champ would give Harmon yet another major winner but how is that Sunday Orange he wears going to look with a green jacket? Pretty good from Rickie’s point of view.
2:30 pm Matt Kuchar & Jonas Blixt. Kuchar may be in the best form of all these contenders having had leads in his past two outings. But at the same time he did let them slip away. The good thing is Kuch is one back of the lead and would technically be a come from behind winner. Kuchar at his best is a very steady player and that should help today as the pressure builds on the back nine.
Jonas Blixt is a wild card here. Not widely known in the U.S by the masses, but still with two PGA Tour wins and a T4 finish at last year’s PGA Championship this 29 year old can flat out play. And much like Fowler and Jordan Spieth he has no fear and will hit any shot no matter the risk. If he putts like he did on Saturday…watch out.
2:40 pm Jordan Spieth & Bubba Watson. Spieth continues to amaze all of us with his maturity and his golf game. I keep expecting a stumble but he never does. He plays with the reckless abandon of youth but possesses the maturity of an experienced veteran. Spieth is on the verge of history here, big time history. He would become the youngest Masters winner at 20. And he would be the youngest, male, major winner in modern history. Sorry historians, Johnny McDermott at the 1911 U.S. Open isn’t modern. A Spieth win at Augusta National would cap his meteoric rise that was unfathomable a year ago.
Bubba Watson showed a crack in his armor yesterday and it started with his distance control and effected his putting. He made it through the first two rounds without a three-putt but had two on Saturday. He also failed to capitalize on the two back nine par fives and managed only pars. For a long hitter like Bubba that’s a mortal sin. But Bubba has professed a new “stress free, hyper-free” attitude and it has worked so far. But if there is any day that will stress a golfer it is Sunday at the Masters. He’ll need to be mentally strong today if he wants to win his second Masters.
With Tiger on the couch and Phil long gone (thanks Lefty) we couldn’t wish for a more interesting leaderboard. It’s filled with great stories, great characters and great golfers. It’s Sunday at The Masters and it’s the way it should be.