Fantasy Island The Masters

By Rex HoggardApril 7, 2009, 4:00 pm
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There are almost as many storylines as there are contenders heading into the seasons first mens major. Tiger Woods returns to the Grand Slam arena for the first time since Torrey Pines, Phil Mickelson has given the golf world a glimpse of what could be on Sunday, and Padraig Harrington ' in case anyone noticed ' is eyeing his third consecutive major.
 
For the Masters edition of Fantasy Island, we will keep things simple, with each of our experts making a win, place and show pick, with only our winners earnings being applied to the season-long race.
 


 
Win: Tim Clark. Check the card the last two trips around Augusta National, the additional length may seem to favor the bombers but its been the plodders who have ruled. Last year Trevor Immelman was 1, 2 and 4 ' fairways hit, greens in regulation and putting. In 2007, Zach Johnson had a similar card, going 2nd, 4th and 10th. Clark ranks 8th in driving accuracy; 6th in GIR, 18th in putts per GIR and his runner-up finish in 2006 proved he can play the place.
 
Place: Tiger Woods. Because hes Tiger Woods and because since the 1997 clinic hes finished outside the top 5 just four times. The comeback is over, the only question is whether Woods can solve the mysteries of the overhauled Augusta National? Since the 2002 changes, Woods is 2-for-7 at the Masters. Thats a career for most players, for Woods its a curiosity.
 
Show: Mathew Goggin. Every year we pick an Australian and every we are disappointed. Geoff Ogilvy seems to have the game for Augusta National but expectations may have gotten the best of him. Goggin is playing well and could dive in under the radar to become the first player since Fuzzy Zoeller to win his first Masters.
 
Lagniappe (A little something extra): Bookmakers in the United Kingdom come up with the best side-action, so why not apply that ingenuity to the years first major?
 
Low Singh: Vijay, he is struggling right now, but Augusta seems to bring out the best in him.
 
Low Johnson: Would have considered Dustin before last weeks DUI. But then Zach is hardly a stretch. He was solid at Bay Hill and has a little history in Georgia.
 
Low Hansen: Normally we have two or three too pick from, but this year Soren is it.
 
In addition to my picks, the GolfChannel.com staff will be offering up their picks. A player can be picked to win a maximum of five times. We will be keeping a running tally of the monies earned each week. The participants include: Jay Coffin, Editorial Director; Mercer Baggs, Editorial Manager; Brian Koressel, Senior Producer; Dena Davis, Assistant Editor; Erik Peterson, Travel Editor; Jerry Foltz, special contributor.
 
STAFF PICKS:


NamePlayer PickReasonMoney
Rex HoggardWinner:
Tim Clark
Check the card the last two trips around Augusta National, the additional length may seem to favor the bombers but its been the plodders like Tim Clark, who have ruled. $1,719,550
Contender:
Tiger Woods
Because hes Tiger Woods and because since the 1997 clinic hes finished outside the top 5 just four times.
Dark Horse:
Mathew Goggin
Goggin is playing well and could dive in under the radar to become the first player since Fuzzy Zoeller to win his first Masters.
Jay CoffinWinner:
Tiger Woods
Havent picked him to win in each of his three starts so now is a good time use him at a place where hes a dead solid lock to at least finish in the top 10.$3,362,752
Contender:
Padraig Harrington
Has anyone gone for three consecutive majors with less fanfare? That plays to Harringtons advantage at a place where hes played well the past two years (T-7, T-5).
Dark Horse:
Nick Watney
Hes played so well that maybe he shouldnt be considered a darkhorse. But he did tie for 11th last year and has been a stud during the first quarter of the season this year.
Mercer BaggsWinner:
Tiger Woods
Id love to go against the grain and take someone else. But cant go against Tiger this week.$2,927,785
Contender:
Ian Poulter
Hell probably play well early and then sneak in a top-10 finish.

Dark Horse:
Andres Romero
This guy always seems to show up near the top of a leaderboard in a major.
Erik PetersonWinner:
Tiger Woods
Tiger is putting with confidence heading into Augusta. Scary.$2,415,517
Contender:
Phil Mickelson
Hes had an up-and-down season so far, but has rallied when it counts.

Dark Horse:
Danny Lee
With the teen phenom hype deflected by Ishikawa, cool-as-ice Lee will hearken back to Bobby Jones.
Brian KoresselWinner:
Geoff Ogilvy
In his return, Greg Norman garners the spotlight on the eve of the Masters and then fellow Aussie Ogilvy steals the spotlight from Tiger and Phil come Sunday evening.$3,037,258
Contender:
Lee Westwood
Flying in under the radar somewhat, look for the Englishman to be high on the leaderboard at the end of the tournament.
Dark Horse:
Nick Watney
A darkhorse probably only in the eyes of the general golfing public, Watney has quietly put together a very solid start to 2009.
Dena DavisWinner:
Tiger Woods
Pick a reason, any reason to take the man. This is like a choose-your-own-adventure book and any script ends with Woods winning his fifth green jacket.$2,330,559
Contender:
Zach Johnson
The surprise '07 Masters winner will contend again, and it shouldn't be a surprise this time. He's a great putter and he goes into Augusta with a win and five top-20s under his belt this season.
Dark Horse:
Stewart Cink
Stewie's a darkhorse simply due to his quiet '09 season. But you have to love that the Georgia local hasn't finished out of the top-20 in the last five Masters, including a T3 last year.
Jerry FoltzWinner:
Geoff Ogilvy
My pick to win for the second week in a row ' and despite the stumble on Sunday in Houston ' I still think he's the only one other than Tiger that makes sense.$1,771,979
Contender:
Kenny Perry
Why not? He hits a draw, has a tendency to get hot with the putter, and it's even a major he's going to play.
Dark Horse:
Tim Clark
I guess Phil and Tiger would be rejected as long-shots by my editorial review board at Golfchannel.com, so I'll go with Tim Clark. Regardless of the stats that my friend Rex Hoggard offers, I still think he's a long-shot.

 

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    Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

    Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

    Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

    So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

    How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

    1. Stay healthy

    So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

    Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

    Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

    2. Figure out his driver

    Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.


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    That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

    In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

    Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

    Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

    That won’t be the case at Augusta.

    3. Clean up his iron play

    As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

    At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

    Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

    That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

    Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

    4. Get into contention somewhere

    As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

    In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

    “I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

    Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

    And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

    “It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

    Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.

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    Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

    Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

    The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

    According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

    Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

    The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

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    Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

    Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

    “Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

    Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

    Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

    With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.


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    Thomas was asked about that.

    “I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

    “I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

    Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

    “It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

    “I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

    Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

    “That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

    Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

    “Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

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    Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

    McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

    “Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

    The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.


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    The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

    “He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”