Interesting start after the first round of the Masters. Many of the older guys – make that Mickelson, Woods and possibly Westwood – are very much in it. A couple of rising stars – McIllroy and Quiros – have raced off to a quick lead. The world’s number 1 – Martin Kaymer – may not make the cut.
So what’s ahead and who will win? Phil said an interesting thing on Wednesday: ‘You know you’re going to have a bad day striking the ball at least once during 4 days. In that round your short game is going to bail you out or kill you.’ This will be Rory’s challenge. When he’s on, he’s a phenom. But everyone has to mentally hang tough when the swing isn’t 100 percent. If he learns to do that, he could become one of the best ever. He’s not going to have 3 more days at Augusta like yesterday. His bad day Saturday last year at St. Andrews kept him from winning his first major.
Alvaro Quiros is typical of many of the young rising stars in that he hits the ball a mile. I don’t think he’s got enough tough competition under his belt to survive the stress at Augusta this year, particularly because of the pressure on the Spanish players to do something great for Seve.
Phil is a tweak away from winning another green jacket. He’s in the right mood to pull it off and that’s key for him. He’s not really under any pressure, unlike Tiger, and he can go at the next 3 rounds like an engaging chess match. He’s still the favorite in my book.
Tiger, well who really knows. I dont’ think he does himself. He’s waiting for it to come together and it may. I feel that he’s still pressing. If he can learn to take some of the pressure off himself and play for the love and enjoyment of the game, then a new ‘old’ Tiger might emerge. But Tiger is a very proud man and still doesn’t appear to find much in the game besides winning. He’s still tense in press conferences. He doesn’t easily laugh at himself. Phil is just the opposite and he’s winning.
My dark horse pick after day 1 is Matt Kuchar. He’s been up as an amateur and then down for quite awhile as a pro before turning it around. He’s dealt with adversity and survived nicely. He’s perfected his swing, won big last year and is off to a good start this year. He’s comfortable in his own skin and has no undo pressure on him at Augusta. Plus he looks to be enjoying himself. He also has the short game and putting skills that Augusta demands. He just may be heading for Butler Cabin on Sunday afternoon.