It seems like every year around this time I’m telling anyone who will listen to me, “Man, this year’s Masters could be the best one ever.” Well, this time I’m serious. 2018’s iteration of golf’s best event boasts an absurd amount of intriguing storylines. Let’s delve into them, shall we?
Tiger’s Back (for real this time)
At the start of the year, Tiger had every excuse to avoid high expectations going into Augusta National. His last top ten was in 2015, his health situation couldn’t be trusted, and he was facing a whole new crop of young stars. However, against all odds, Tiger has once again asserted himself as one of the best players in the world. He will go into the year’s first major as one of the top favorites, and there is no reason why he won’t be near the top of the leaderboard come Sunday.
Rory’s Search for the Slam
This year, Rory will make his fourth attempt to complete the career grand slam at Augusta. While he stumbled at the WGC-Match Play, losing in the group stage, Rory will still bring in a truckload of momentum after a scintillating performance down the stretch at the Bay Hill Invitational. His final round 64 at Arnie’s place reminded the golf world what he’s capable of doing when his game is firing on all cylinders. Rory’s game has always set up well for Augusta on the paper, but the course has consistently beguiled the Northern Irishman. This year, expect Rory to finally contend at the sole major that has eluded his grasp.
Phil Aging Like Fine Wine
One of the most jaw-dropping stats at the start of 2018 was Phil Mickelson’s five-year winless drought on the PGA Tour. Despite playing consistently solid golf over that stretch, he never managed to put four complete rounds together. But at this year’s WGC-Mexico Championship, Phil got back in the winner’s circle after defeating Justin Thomas in a sudden-death playoff. Boasting a closet with three jackets, Mickelson’s track record at Augusta is glittering. Even at age 47, there is no evidence that Phil is slowing down anytime soon.
2018’s most peculiar storyline in professional golf has been Jordan Spieth’s rocky play thus far. With more missed cuts than top tens this year, the alarm bells have to be ringing at Chateau Spieth. Astoundingly, the primary culprit in his struggles has been his usually rock-solid putter. Spieth ranks 169th on tour this year in strokes-gained: putting, as opposed to his 8th place ranking in strokes-gained: tee-to-green. However, despite Spieth’s shoddy work on the greens this year, I am still quite bullish on his chances at the Masters. In his four appearances at Augusta his finishes are T2-1-T2-11. Spieth reads those greens like Mozart read sheet music, so expect his rough putting stretch to end at the year’s first major.
Two in a Row for JT?
After setting fire to the PGA Tour in 2017 with five wins including the PGA Championship, Justin Thomas rolls into Augusta hoping for a second consecutive major victory. This season has been more of the same for JT, as he has snagged two victories to go along with no missed cuts in 10 tournaments. This will be Thomas’ third appearance at Augusta, so look for his experience there to finally catch up with his supreme talent.