Breaking Down The Masters Ten Questions at a Time

JJ GallantCorrespondent IApril 7, 2009

AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 10:   A Masters flag blows in the wind on the second hole during the third round of the Masters at the Augusta National Golf Club on April 10, 2004 in Augusta, Georgia.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Ahhhh The Masters is upon us.  It's that first major of the year.  It's the event that gets the average golfer cleaning out his golf bag and replacing last years spikes.  Trips to knetgolf.com to find some cheap balls, and to clubfinders.com to replace that hybrid you wrapped around a tree last year in the peak of fall's frustrations (or for some of us winter's woes).  

There are many questions surrounding this years Masters golf tournament in Augusta, GA.  I have selected ten questions that are on my mind, and will break each of them down for you.

Is this the MOST anticipated major?

One could argue that this may be the most anticipated major of all time.  All eyes will be focused on whom else, Tiger Woods. I would say most people are expecting Tiger to win this event, myself included.  

I think what he did at Arnie's place two weeks ago was one incredible set up for what should prove to be a fantastic Masters, and an even more fantastic Tiger hunt for the rest of the field. This years field is stellar and as usual it is filled with the world's very best.

Overall, I think that The Masters is definitely the most anticipated major every year.  Let's face it, it is the premier major of the year. It's the one that occurs when many areas of the country are starting to see daffodils pop up, and warmth is starting to thaw out winters gripping chill.  

Not everyone lives in Southern Cali, or Florida where golf can be enjoyed all winter long. The Masters fits the mood of golf for the average Joe looking to hit the range and get the rusty hinges working again. With the stoic history and scenic backdrop of springtime in Augusta, Georgia this is most certainly the most anticipated major on the PGA Tour each year.

How many strokes will Tiger win by?

Notice how the question was not, "Will Tiger win?"

I have a strong feeling that Tiger Woods is going to absolutely dominate this years Masters event. I think the entire PGA and worldwide scene is still in absolute awe of how this man has roared back to his old self. He gradually improved each week and won at Bay Hill to top it all off.  

This week at The Masters I expect Tigers' foot to stay on the gas pedal starting on Thursday. That foot will only be coming off, to kick the persons ass out of his way that is a notch above him on the leader board. It would not surprise me to see Tiger win this year by a margin of at least three strokes come Sunday.

What about Sergio Garcia? Will he contend for his first major?

Not this week he won't.

Will a European win the Masters this year?

In my opinion, no. We haven't seen a Masters champion from over the pond since Jose Maria Olazabal in 1999. I would watch for some strong efforts from the Euros however.  I think that of all the European players, Paul Casey is looking the strongest to contend.  I know he just won last week at the Shell Houston Open, but he is my Euro to watch this week.

I also expect Rory McIlroy to make things very interesting. After all he did grace the cover of SI's Masters Preview edition this week. By the way, have you seen how far that 19-year-old crushes the ball?! Very Tigeresque circa 1997.  

Luke Donald could possibly make a run this weekend. He has been playing strong, and I feel he has been saving himself a bit for this tournament after tweaking his wrist in the Accenture Match Play Championship vs. Ernie Els.

As far as some other Euro guys go...Two weeks ago I would have had Alvaro Quiros on the list, but he is looking very iffy right now. I think Henrik Stenson is a quality Euro candidate as is fellow Swede Robert Karlsson, and I really think that if Lee Westwood can hook together four consistent rounds, he should also be there.

The pony-tailed Spaniard, Miguel Angel Jimenez, always seems to do something respectable in Augusta. Oh, did I mention that Paddy Harrington is going for his third consecutive major?

What's wrong with Vijay Singh?

There would hardly be a better story than that of Vijay miraculously bouncing back this week to win The Masters. I cannot envision this happening and the reasons why are unfortunate. Vijay is truly one of golfs all time greats. This year, a bad back and not fully recovered knee have greatly hindered Vijay's typical vigorous training. Few players hit more golf balls per week than Vijay Singh.  

Sadly, his 46-year-old body cannot run his normal regimen this year, and his lack of practice is showing right now on the course. Vijay's history at The Masters is a great one, and I will miss seeing him there on the weekend this year. My guess is that he does not make the cut.

Is Anthony Kim the top young gun to watch this week?

Under normal circumstances I would answer yes to this question.  I am still not 100 percent sold that Anthony Kim's shoulder is back to full health.  I know he has been dismissing it  Lately, but his T58 at the WGC CA Championship tells me something is not quite right. Hopefully some time off has helped him heal, but I am a wait-and-see kind of guy.  

The top five young guns to watch this weekend will be Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Nick Watney, Hunter Mahan, and the promising Argentinian Andres Romero who placed T8 here last year.  Don't misread me, I love Anthony Kim, I am just skeptical that his shoulder issue may be larger than he is letting on to.

What's up with Retief Goosen?

A great comeback season is what's up.  I am not sure if he could be in a better position to win The Masters than he is right now.  Goosen is on top of his game right now, and is one of the best golfers in the world.  This guy always shows up at majors, especially at majors held in Augusta, GA.  I think that if Tiger does not win in a landslide, that Goosen is the next best candidate in all of the field to win.  Goosen could possibly make it back to back Masters victories for South Africa here in 2009.  Goosens' record here at Augusta is phenomenal.  He has done everything here, except win.

So who's flying under the radar here?

Three guys come to mind when I think of super-studs who are not really being talked about.  First and foremost is a man who has not proven himself at Augusta.  That being said, he may well be on pace for another career best year at age 49.  Without a doubt Kenny Perry is being overlooked this week.  He should not be.  He has proven this year that he is something very special.  Watch for him this week.

Jim Furyk is another man who has gone relatively unmentioned, yet is more than capable of winning a major at Augusta National.  After placing third in the CA Championship, he had a disappointing finish at the Transitions Championship and then followed that up with a missed cut at Arnie's place.  Over the years Furyk has fared well at Augusta.  I am sure he is more than motivated to wear that green jacket before his career is over.  For Jim, the sooner the better.

Another guy who is simply having a phenomenal year, and is off to his best start ever is Sean O' Hair. What better for O' Hair than to exact his revenge on Tiger after he crumbled at Bay Hill two short weeks ago. Keep in mind, O'Hair is a guy who shows up at big tournaments. They don't get any bigger than this one my friends.  

In the unlikely event that there is a four way playoff, who would you want to see in it?

Obviously my dream would be Tiger Woods, Bobby Jones, Arnold Palmer, and Jack Nicklaus.  But since we are dealing with reality here, I would absolutely love to see a four way playoff between Tiger Woods, Nick Watney, Sean O' Hair and Dustin Johnson.  Four young guns shooting it out to decide who will don the green jacket in 2009 greatly appeals to me.

So what's the story behind the green jacket?

The green jacket was first presented to The Masters Champion in 1949, but that was not the birth of the oddly colored vestment. The green jacket tradition was born unto Augusta National Golf Club in 1937.

Members in attendance of the tournament were all wearing these green jackets to make them "stand out" from the crowd watching the event, in order that they may be able to answer any questions about the club to any onlookers.

The official color of the jacket is "Masters Green" and the very first jackets were produced by the Brooks Uniform Company in New York City.

Just in case you were wondering who won that Masters event in 1949...

It was one of the best that ever lived, Sam Snead.