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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    A Slice of bacon: The most Masterful time of the year

    Shane Baconstaff writer
    Shane Bacon
    staff writer

    As April begins, and the azalea bushes are in full bloom at Augusta National, it can only mean one thing – Masters week is upon us.

    For me, the first PGA Tour men’s golf major of the year gets me more excited than knocking back an entire bottle of Viagra with a Red Bull and then going to see “”Basic Instinct 2.””

    Everything from Gene Sarazen’s double-eagle on 15 in 1936 to Arnold Palmer’s four victories in seven years to Jack Nicklaus’ 40-foot birdie putt on 16 in 1975 to Nicklaus’ improbable run to victory at the age of 46 in 1986 with a 6-under-par 30 on the back nine to Tiger Woods’ 1997 overhaul of the golf course to 2006, where the changes on the golf course are the big story heading into the week adds to the spectacle that is the Masters.

    Can a Wildcat walk away this week wearing the Green Jacket? Will Tiger win his fifth title, one behind Nicklaus’ six and one ahead of Palmer’s four? Will a dark horse run away with the title like Canadian Mike Weir did in 2003?

    Here are my picks for the week, with some Wildcat golfers placed throughout the notables.

    Jim Furyk

    A two-time All-American at Arizona and member of the 1992 national championship team, the funky-swinging Furyk’s best finish in the Masters is fourth, which he did in both 1998 and 2003. The continued addition of length at Augusta National and the continued length of the long-hitters has almost left Furyk in the dust.

    Furyk is ranked No. 187 on tour in driving distance, something that can only be helped if Mother Nature shines down and rains a little during the week to keep the greens soft for his longer approach shots. You never can go against a man that putts well and hardly ever misses a fairway (second on tour in driving accuracy).

    My odds – 20-1

    Phil Mickelson

    The Sun Devil superstar notched his 30th PGA Tour victory last week at the BellSouth Classic, smoking the TPC Sugarloaf with a 13-shot victory. The 2004 Masters champion is always a favorite heading to Augusta, and with a commanding victory the week before, he should be near the top of everyone’s list.

    If Mickelson can stay within earshot of the leader board heading to Saturday, it should be interesting to see what Lefty could do with the added length of the course. Plus, Mickelson has finished in the top 10 the last seven years.

    My odds – 5-2

    Rory Sabbatini

    A two-time All-American at Arizona, the South Africa native might only have three PGA Tour victories, but one of those came at the Nissan Open this season, and Sabbatini is enjoying sitting atop the money list heading into the Masters.

    Sure, Sabbatini might have never made a cut at Augusta in three tries, but it wouldn’t make sense to pick against a guy that is playing as well as anyone on tour. He ranks sixth on tour in putting, fourth in scoring and the added distance shouldn’t hurt a guy averaging 291.9 yards off the tee.

    My odds – 35-1

    Tiger Woods

    Pick your poison – Woods has won the tournament four times. Woods is 10th on the driving distance chart and third in greens in regulation, which is pretty much saying that he hits balls more solid than Barry Bonds on a full injection day.

    Also, beware if Tiger shoots 70 in his first round. Three of his four victories have the former Stanford Cardinal opening the tournament with a 2-under-par 70, and the other year was 2005, when Tiger opened with a 74 (but followed it with 66-65, not shabby).

    Picking against Woods at Augusta would be like picking against Bjorn Borg at Wimbledon. He loves the feel of the course, he loves the competition, and he loves the look of green.

    My odds – 2-1

    There you have it. My odds on the favorite at a course that is known for Hootie, the Eisenhower Tree and the Crow’s Nest is the one and only Tiger Woods.

    I guess that would be like picking Duke to win this year’s Final Four, and you see how that worked out for everybody.


    Shane Bacon is a journalism senior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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