Augusta, Ga. — Tiger Woods is the favorite here this week. You know it, I wrote it in today’s Times Free Press, and everyone here at this hallowed ground believes it.
But who can beat him? It’s a good question that has but a few answers.
First, Tiger can give it away, and we may be as surprised Sunday as we were last year, when Zach Johnson outlasted Woods and the field to become the lowest-ranked Masters champ in the last 20 years. Johnson was 56th in the world last year when he emerged, and barring a miracle, he’ll be placing the green jacket on someone else’s shoulders Sunday rather than looking for someone to thank after winning it again.
And if Tiger’s not going to give it away who will take it from him?
Here’s my list of players that have the best shot:
Ernie Els. The long South African looks to be fully recovered from the array of injuries that sidetracked him the last couple of years. He’s played well so far this year, and he has three major titles. Now if Tiger’s in contention late and Ernie’s trying to keep up, that’s going to spell trouble. Let’s just say that Els has not been at his best when paired with Woods.
But for the good news, Els visited the Masters earlier this year and walked the grounds with a local caddie and came away feeling good about his preparation. “I’ve made a lot of notes this time around,” he said, “so at least I’ve got a much better idea — more than any other year — where some of the putts are really going to go.”
Justin Rose. He finished a career-best fifth here last year, and his poise was apparent with a top-12 showing in each major championship in 2007.
He’ll need the weather to stay clear — and the grounds to stay dry — to be able to contend with the longer hitters, but his preparation has been first-rate. He spent 2 1/2 hours on the greens Tuesday — the greens on the front nine.
Adam Scott. He’s got so much game. So much. He’s going to win a major at some point, and that point will come soon. Will it be this week? Maybe.
And one more, and this one’s a wildcard, Charles Howell III. He’s a homegrown Augusta boy that will have a huge following. In year’s past he’s faded in the limelight, but if he’s ready, this is the tournament he wants more than all the others.
But, then again, I guess that’s true for all the players this week.
Check back Thursday around noon for another blogging update from Augusta.
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...