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Sunday, April 12, 2015

HEY -- It's a Competition After All!

Well, Rory McIlroy is unlikely to complete his Career Grand Slam this year, although I don't think anybody is really surprised by that. Something that monumental is difficult to accomplish, let alone on the first try. (In fact, I have a little sign on my desk that says "If at first you DO succeed, try to hide your astonishment.") But at least now the initial hype is past and Rory can get on with his game.

Rory McIlroy

And I doubt that Tiger Woods will shoot low enough to win today, but he too has silenced some of the hype that surrounded his return and can finally get on with his recovery. (I think Tiger has already realized that. GC reported that Tiger has headed out to the range after each round with just one club -- the driver. Nobody thought he could conquer the wedges; do YOU want to bet against him beating the Battle of the Big Stick?)

But they've still played well enough to be T5, and will play together today. As Jordan noted, there WILL be some noise coming from that gallery.

Unless Jordan Spieth stumbles, it's unlikely that anyone will catch him... but he showed us on Saturday that he's still human and still capable of the big mistake. (Granted, he bounced back pretty dramatically after making them.) But no one is betting on that.

And that means the winner will likely come from the last two groups, since they are the only ones within single digits of the lead. Would you take Spieth, Phil Mickelson, Charley Hoffman or Justin Rose? Let's take a quick look, starting with Rose.

The winner of the Masters most often comes from the final group, making Rose the most likely non-Spieth victor. And Justin has been playing well enough to catch Jordan -- or at least he would be if they were only playing the back 9. Most commentators think the pairing favors Spieth because Rose isn't seen as such an imposing threat. (Although if Spieth's game starts going south, I don't think that will matter.)

Ironically, although most players want to be in the last group with the leader, I think the Mickelson-Hoffman pairing has the best chance to get the job done if Spieth stumbles. When you play with the leader, the tendency is to get into a match play mindset -- something which most American players haven't been particularly good at recently. If Spieth and Rose should get caught up in it -- and both are pretty good at match play, you know -- it might open the door for these two.

Charley doesn't have much Masters experience, so being one group ahead is probably optimal for him. As for Phil... well, his tendency is to be heroic anyway so you don't want him overthinking things, which he probably would if he were in the final group. Playing one group ahead, Phil will likely try to set the pace and I think that gives him his best chance.  In fact, I think Phil has the best chance to be the non-Spieth winner of this major.

That is, if there IS a non-Spieth winner. I think Jordan will get it done.

But it ought to be one hell of a ride.

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