With two days of practice rounds in the books the talk around the media room, practice tee, course and clubhouse is this the most anticipated Masters Tournament anyone can remember.
I’ve spoken to Augusta National members, much respected print journalists and numerous players and they all say the same thing - this year it feels different...
Sure a four time champion who hasn’t played the last couple of years can really move the needle on the excitement-ometer.
Although he’s certainly added exponentially to the atmosphere over the last couple of days, it’s the form of the rest of the favorites that has almost everyone salivating for Thursday’s scorecards.
My observations so far:
• Tiger looks loose, relaxed and ready to compete. His practice round stroll in while getting some work done suggests a very chilled, yet focused mind that knows his game is where he wants it at this stage of the week. The tweaks to his driver and 3 wood shafts since Bay Hill have tightened up his misses & he feels like it’s a touch easier to draw the ball than earlier in the year. His practice 9 with Phil, Freddy and Thomas Pieters today was an exhibition... By the way, Phil and Tiger haven’t played a practice rd for 20 yrs!! Why this week? Ryder Cup talk apparently.
• DJ is focused. Since winning in Hawaii in early Jan he’s been waiting for this week and his game has reflected as much.. He looks dialed in and that tee ball of his just hurts.
• Jordan picked up a little confidence last week in Houston but is still a bit out of sorts. He’s got the best record here in the last 4 yrs. ( 2,1,2,Tied 11th) and maybe he finds the touch for short putts in his practice. He’s definitely putting in time on that..Augusta is a place where the field make a high % of putts inside 7ft. The bent grass surfaces are like billiard tables. But lag putting is key to success and so far this year he’s been particularly poor at that.
• Rory is also looking pretty relaxed joking around with the media in his press conference today. I’m concerned the forecast which is calling for cool, windy and showery is not up his ally. He prefers to attack Augusta and with the breezes expected to be up he may need to retreat more than he naturally likes. His putter from short range will be key.
• Sergio served his favorite Spanish Rice tonight and at the Champions Dinner and I’m certain he’ll be happy to have that final commitment/honour of the defending champ behind him although you’d never know it. He’s about as happy and content as I’ve ever seen him - quite a different place in his life than 12 months ago.
Final practice rounds in the morning and the Par 3 Tournament tomorrow afternoon.