2013 Masters Picks

The MastersThe 2013 Masters has a ton of intrigue and is ground zero in the battle to settle the question of who the greatest player of all time is.  Add in a wrinkle in the scheduling process and the winning picture becomes  clear.

Like it or not, this year’s tournament is about Tiger Woods and if he can he light the flame under the second stage of his career and rocket himself to the all time top.  TigerTrailing Jack Nicklaus by four in the majors race, Woods’ three wins in six starts this year is scary good and he is primed for a run.  His main competition on the world stage is Rory McIlroy, who’s game is in shambles due to the recent equipment change and some questionable (lack of) good practice habits.  Rory is not a serious contender this year.

PhilThree time champion Phil Mickelson seems to have the next best shot and usually prepares himself to peak at Augusta.  But this year, a scheduling anomaly will hurt Phil, who likes to play the week ahead of a major.  The Shell Houston Open would be an excellent tune up for Augusta, as the PGA Tour attempts to duplicate Augusta like conditions at the Redstone GC, but an additional tour stop has been inserted between Shell and Augusta.  The Valero Texas Open at the J.W. Marriott TPC course is a poor tune-up venue with it’s high winds and tight tee shots.  Phil is playing Shell but skipping Valero.

Next best opportunity comes from the duo of Louis Oosthuizen and Keegan Bradley.  Louis finished 2012 very strong with four top-five finishes in his last seven events.  He’s got the stones to win another major and performed beautifully last year in his runner-up finish to Bubba Watson.  With only two cuts made in four starts this season, I would like to see a little more momentum heading into Augusta.  Bradley hits a long high ball and is well suited for the venue.  He’s won a major, seems to have the desire, and doesn’t get intimated by anyone.  He’s got a chance.

Defending champion, Bubba Watson has been in decent form lately but feels like more of a one-and-done guy on the major circuit.  Can he rekindle the emotional flame?  I doubt it.

On Tiger’s chances, the only thing holding him back is an occasionally balky putter.  He is clearly hitting on all cylinders and likes to skip the week before a major, so the scheduling quirk plays to his advantage.  He is not, and will never be as dominant as he once was because of his age and his propensity to sustain injury.  I’m not convinced his mental foibles are 100% behind him but he seems to be more comfortable being himself again.

So here are your 2013 Masters Picks:

Champion:  Tiger Woods.  Yes he gets it done this year as all the stars are aligned, but Jack Nicklaus’ all time record of 18 majors is safe.  I know, doesn’t take much courage to make this pick 🙂

Runner-Up:  Louis Oosthuizen, for the second straight year.

Third:  Keegan Bradley.  Needs a little more seasoning but could be a threat.

Dark Horse:  Matt Kuchar.  Winner already at WGC Accenture and would be a great feel good story.

Who do you like?

The carnage of improvement

TitanicSometimes trying to improve my golf feels like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.  Today was one of those days.

I started off by filming my latest training drill (swinging a weighted club with my backside touching a lawn chair on the backswing and downswing to ensure proper spine angle retention.)  All positions looked good – check.  I then headed out to the driving range to film some live contact.  The bad news is that every shot was a push cut.  The good news is that the same miss indicates consistency and the repeatability should be easy to fix, right?  Wrong.  The film review showed the mistake was the same loss of spine angle I’ve been working all winter to fix.  How frustrating.   Throw in a throbbing right elbow (tendonitis) and you begin to see the ugliness of this picture.

Next, I moved to the short game area for some work on chipping and pitching technique.  Oddly enough, the pain in the elbow was actually worse on these short shots as I tried to keep my hands soft and feel the weight of the club head on the back swing.  It even hurt to putt.  😦

So, I’m not giving up by any stretch, but am starting to question what is reasonable with regard to improvement.  How much can a guy with a bad elbow and only enough time to hit balls and play on the weekend expect to improve?  Any thoughts on this or remedies for golfer’s elbow (I haven’t tried drinking baking soda dissolved in water yet but am close to trying anything), please send them along.  Thanks!

What can you learn from one round of golf?

Opened the 2013 golf season yesterday at the local muni and was reminded of several truths:

  • Don’t play on a sunny weekend day after 12:00 noon with hundreds of other cabin fever stricken hacks in the same vicinity.
  • Don’t expect miracles after working all winter indoors on your golf swing.  Nothing like real ball contact on a real golf course under game conditions.
  • In order to train it on the range and trust it on the course, you must first build the trust.
  • Don’t worry about your hands of stone on the greens.  Short game is the last thing to come around after a layoff.
  • Yes you can learn more about your golfing partner’s personality in one round than in ten years of socializing at dinner parties.
  • And finally, a bad day on the golf course is still better than a good day at work. 🙂

How was your opening round this year?

Rory McIlroy = Lack of Character!

RoryVery disappointed in Rory’s withdrawal shenanigans at The Honda Classic yesterday.  I’m not buying this toothache excuse one bit and this is looking more like someone with amazing talent and a poor work ethic, who is struggling mentally because of a bad decision to change equipment.  He’s exhibiting a lack of character more on the lines of what we would expect from a John Daly.

Being seven over-par after eight holes, Rory was clearly on his way to posting a round in the mid-80s.  Last year, Rory won the treasured Vardon Trophy over Tiger Woods by .03 strokes per round.  Posting a total hack-a-thon number could cripple an attempted repeat.  The embarrassment of the defending champ totally chopping and the unwillingness to admit he’s struggling with his new equipment forced the withdrawal.  Throw in last season’s run of bad play (attributed to an unwillingness to practice) and we’re getting a very unpleasant picture forming of our world’s number one player.

So breaking news Rory:  This is golf and we all hack once in a while.  Man up and post your score.  What do you think he should have done?