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John Feinstein - April 5, 2012

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The early players will have a huge advantage on Thursday if the expected rain arrives this afternoon. The course is playing very soft and while the Augusta National can make the greens firm and fast again the course will still play very long and short hitters will be negatively impacted by the weather.

When Tiger Woods won at Bay Hill, many people said that it would help his confidence going into The Masters. While that may be true, he is all about the Majors and people do not talk about his 72 PGA TOUR wins but they do talk about his 14 Major Championship wins.

When it comes to Masters favorites, you could throw Tiger, Phil, and Rory into a hat and pick one of them because they are so close to each other in terms of potential to win. While many people are talking about the possible Tiger vs. Rory rivalry, Phil Mickelson has been a bit under the radar and he seems to be enjoying himself this week and feeling relaxed as evidenced by his Tuesday News Conference.

Feinstein drew an analogy between Rory McIlroy and tennis legend Bjorn Borg when he first started his tennis career. Borg was praised for his talent and his personality and while those traits ultimately were debunked as Borg got older, McIlroy will continue to have those great traits well into the future.

He is paying attention to Zach Johnson this week with the weather conditions because when he won in 2007, Johnson did not try to hit any par 5 hole in two and excelled on those holes on his way to his first and currently only Major win. The lack of firmness at Augusta National keeps a large number of players out of contention and it forces a player like Zach to just be himself and he has proven that he can win just playing his own game.

The weather is always a factor and the course will get more firm and fast as the week goes on while the Augusta National will work to make the greens firm and fast today. Strategies will evolve as the week goes on and Feinstein found it very interesting when Phil Mickelson said that he figured out over the years that he did not have to go for the 15th hole in 2 shots….

When you go out to Amen Corner at Augusta National where you can see 11, 12, and 13, it is tradition that when players leave the 11th green the patrons will give them a standing ovation every time. You may not get to see it on television very often, but it is a very special moment and something that is very unique about The Masters.

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