No planned protests outside the gates from representatives of the womens movement. (My take on all of this, by the way, is that Augusta National should offer a membership to Annika Sorenstam and consider itself lucky if she accepts.)
No overwhelming favorite, at the moment, to win the 2005 Masters either.
Tiger Woods, who most people still believe is the best player alive despite his No. 2 status in the world rankings, is the betting favorite but will arrive at the Masters with eight straight rounds in the 70s in his last two tournaments.
World No. 1 Vijay Singh will arrive at the Masters having recently squandered victory opportunities at both The Honda Classic and the Bay Hill Invitational with bad execution and/or bad decision-making late in the final round.
Frankly, Im surprised Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els arent preferred more by both the experts and the bettors. Track record has always been important at Augusta National, a golf course that is more of an acquired taste than it is a quick study.
And the Masters track records of both Mickelson and Els are sparkling. Starting last year and going backward in time, Mickelson has finished first, third, third, third and tied for seventh in his last five Masters. Els, during that same span, has wound up second, tied sixth, tied fifth, tied sixth and second.
Woods, for his part, hasnt had a top 10 at Augusta since 2002. Singh hasnt turned in a top 5 since 2000.
Retief Goosens track record is not to be ignored, having come tied 13, tied 13 and second the last three Masters. And, I would argue David Toms, who missed the cut in 2004, deserves dispensation from the prognosticators. His wrist is completely healed, he is more experienced and he placed eighth at Augusta in 2003.
Us media types love to consider this question: What would be the best story at the Masters in 2005?
You can create all kinds of scenarios with this one. Like how about a playoff between the Big Four'Els, Woods, Singh and Mickelson? Or how about a playoff between Els and Mickelson? Or Mickelson and Woods?
Those are all dream scenarios for the most part.
I would be more intrigued and moved if Irelands Padraig Harrington, playing at the behest of his gravely ill father, were to triumph at Augusta. And I would certainly love to see the theater and hear the noises down in Amen Corner if John Daly was on the first page of the leaderboard late Sunday.
But I try not to be too greedy about these sorts of things. The official vehicle of the PGA Tour this wet and wild year to date has been an Ark. So I will be happy with almost any story at Augusta National if they complete the thing in four days with no weather delays.
Is that too much to ask?
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