Its Masters Time


This is my final column before the Masters so Ill have to focus in on who I think will make a name for themselves from the European contingent. Im going to pick three names to watch at Augusta so here goes:
  • Padraig Harrington: Last years Open Champion is now a serious contender at every major. I like Paddy for the Masters - hes played the tournament eight times in the past and has two top 10 finishes. The WGC-CA Championship came at just the right time, as it proved to all those players in the top echelons of the game that Tiger is beatable at a time when some may have been wondering whether he wasnt. Paddy is a smart chap - hes a qualified accountant - and he knows he can down Tiger, as he did at Carnoustie, which is a tough thinking mans course. Augusta requires that same strategy and patience, and I think hes got it.
  • Lee Westwood: 2007 was a huge year for Lee, marking his return to the world stage as he won twice on the European Tour. Hes been to the states this season and played well, returned to defend in Spain last week and will now rest before heading to Augusta. I think the key for Westwood is that unlike recent years he knows next week if he finds his form hell be in the hunt on Sunday afternoon.
  • Henrik Stenson: 2008 marks the Swedes third appearance at Augusta National, he missed the cut in 2006 and finished T-17 last year. Hes at the top of the European Tour Order of Merit, despite having played only six tournaments on the tour since the beginning of November. Stenson's major time will come, and theres no reason I can see why it shouldnt be the 2008 Masters.
    One European wholl be playing but wont attract much attention at the bookies is Sandy Lyle. I recently sat down with Sandy for an interview which will air during our Live From the Masters show. We talked a lot about the 1988 tournament and his 7-iron from the bunker on 18. It was very interesting to hear his take on the happenings, we all have a picture in our mind of the shot, but of course being that we saw it through a television set at completely different angles than the player, his views and memories are quite different.
    He also talks about the struggles hes had to endure since his victory. Hard to believe he only captured four further wins after the Masters - he tells me why he thinks the problems occurred and why it took so long to fix. The Ryder Cup is also high on Lyles agenda, might he be the next European Ryder Cup captain?

    Dont Forget the Kraft Nabisco
    Having spent two years hosting GOLF CHANNEL UKs coverage of the LPGA Tour, I am a big fan of the ladies game and Im excited about this weeks first major. The Kraft Nabisco comes in for quite a bit of criticism though from the players - two pro-ams, and one of which is on another course, doesnt help the cause. I must add to it by saying Im very disappointed with the exemptions offered to players from the LET. Only the top two players from the LET qualify, compared to 70 from the LPGA, is that fair? Surely the balance of power is not that skewed.
    Despite the uphill battle the field does contain 20 Europeans, one of whom is my favorite, Ill tip Annika to do the business. I think shes ready to win a major once again (2006 US Womens Open was her last). Having won on tour this year and captured the Dubai Ladies Masters at the end of the 2007 LET schedule, I think the timing is perfect for Annika to resume her race with Tiger.

    Email your thoughts to Tom Abbott
    Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - The Masters
  • Full Coverage - Kraft Nabisco