Which would be the best final pairing at the Masters

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Through two rounds of the 75th Masters Tournament, youth and experience crowd the top of the leaderboard. Rex Hoggard and Randall Mell weigh in with which final pairing they would most like to see on Sunday.

By REX HOGGARD

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Golf is at its best when Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are at there best, but given the sentimental and synergy value of a Fred Couples-Rory McIlroy two-ball out last on Sunday it’s impossible to imagine a better final pairing.

On Friday, Woods rocked the pines with his closing loop of 31, but imagine a best-case scenario of dueling generations, with Couples at 51 vying for a second green jacket and McIlroy at 21 closing on his first.

Twenty-five years ago, Jack Nicklaus became the “Golden” standard of the ageless champion with a classic closing charge. A Couples’ victory would somehow be bigger than that. It would be more than just a second green jacket. He would become the oldest major champion by more than three years.

That McIlroy would be the primary antagonist only sweetens the pot. If the Northern Irishman ended Europe’s 12-year title drought at Augusta National he would become the second-youngest Masters champion behind Woods, who was eight months younger when he won in 1997.

Of all the compelling pairings that could anchor Sunday’s show, this one would transcend slumps and scandals (Woods), sentimentality and second-consecutive victories (Mickelson). This one would be historic.

By RANDALL MELL

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Rory vs. Tiger.

The most compelling final-round pairing at the Masters come Sunday would match the youth movement’s leading man in Rory McIlroy against Tiger Woods. It would be terrific theater, almost Shakespearean in dramatic scripting, a pairing matching the future against the foundering champion fighting to reclaim his throne.

It doesn’t matter if you look at it as McIlroy, 21, having to go through Woods, 35, to officially establish a new order in the game, or if you look at it as Woods having to prove to the new generation that he’s ready to resume his reign.

McIlroy, in so many ways, embodies the next generation’s fearless assault on the sport's established order. While his statements about Woods get sensationalized, his attitude comes through loud and clear. He’s not backing down, to anyone, even a man many already view as the greatest player who ever lived. He’s not going to be beaten by reputation or aura.

McIlroy basically said last year that the European Ryder Cup team wanted a go at Woods, and that’s what would be so compelling about the pairing. He’d get a go at Woods in golf’s greastest theater. Give me a front row seat for that.