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Sunday, April 10, 2011

So Is It a One-Horse Race?

What a difference a day makes. Suddenly the talk has changed from "This is a wide-open championship" to "Are we witnessing a changing of the guard?" The bunched-up leaderboard is still bunched up... as long as you don't count the leader!

Here's where we stand entering the final round:
  • -12 (1st), Rory McIlroy
  • -8 (T2), Jason Day, Angel Cabrera, K.J. Choi, Charl Schwartzel
  • -7 (T6), Luke Donald, Adam Scott
  • -6 (8), Bo Van Pelt
  • -5 (T9), Tiger Woods, Fred Couples, Geoff Ogilvy, Ross Fisher, Bubba Watson
Phil was the favorite a few days ago, now he's a longer shot than Tiger.

On the bright side, Ian Poulter may yet be vindicated!

Is it a one-horse race after all, just with a different horse than we expected? That all depends on Rory. If he comes back to the field (which is quite possible, you know -- just ask Greg Norman), there are at least six players capable of winning this thing. (One of whom is my pick, Luke Donald. Just so you remember...)

And that's not such a far-fetched possibility. Should Rory come out and shoot 2-over on the front 9 and one or two or the T2 players shoot 2-under, we've got a three-way tie entering Amen Corner. In that case even Phil, languishing back at -3, could get 3-under on the front, shoot a 31 on the back, and post an early -11 that Rory would have to stare at for the last 90 minutes of his round. Playing beside Cabrera, who's coming off a 67, life could get very difficult.

Or Rory could post a fairly pedestrian 70 of his own (moving the lead to -14), forcing someone to shoot at least a 66 in hopes of a playoff. If the chase pack doesn't step up, the powers-that-be at Augusta might have Rory's green jacket ready and waiting for him before he even plays 17.

Or Luke could shoot that 64 and take the lead at -15. Smiley Faces What will you do then, Rory? Huh?

So, although I'm not ready to say it's Rory's tournament to win or lose, it's also clear that Rory can make things very hard for his pursuers... or very easy.

Let the race begin!

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