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Sunday, April 11, 2010

And Then There Were Two

It's a tradition like no other... most of the time, the winner of the Masters comes from the final group.

You've heard of the "announcer curse," where a TV announcer makes a remark like "He's been sinking these all week"... at which point the ball sails past the hole without so much as a glimpse of the edge? In the last couple of weeks I've instituted a sort of "blogger curse" -- I've sunk Karen Stupples, Ernie Els, Charl Schwartzel, and Ian Poulter by picking each of them to win.

For this reason I am refraining from picking a Masters winner -- I want to see a well-fought finish between Westwood and Mickelson. This is the best leaderboard of 2010 so far, and I want to enjoy it as long as possible. I'll just make a few observations of things I've found interesting so far.

I hope this doesn't count in the curse, but I do think the Masters tradition will hold and the winner will come from the last group. Barring a complete collapse by both players, the next closest (Choi and Woods) are 4 back, which means they will probably need to shoot 8 or 9 under to win. That's certainly not impossible -- remember the Woods and Mickelson heroics of a mere year ago -- but it's a lot to ask.

I picked Poulter based on the idea that the course would be set up more difficult for Saturday; that wasn't the case. Apparently Billy Payne's remark earlier in the week that they intended to bring back the roars wasn't just rhetoric; they're setting up the course so good shots (not perfect shots, just good shots) are rewarded. That's a fine line, but I'd have to say they succeeded. I didn't get to see the entire round, but I saw enough to know the greens were holding shots that would have taken hard bounces in past years. I approve of this approach -- I just didn't expect it.

And that will make it just that much harder for the pursuers to catch the two leaders.

Westwood and Mickelson both seem to be in a good place mentally, and ready to go for it on Sunday. Personally, I'm pulling for both of them -- Mickelson's family problems and his drought in the majors make him a sentimental favorite, but Westwood's comeback after losing his game a decade ago resonates with me as well. Either would be a great champion.

This is shaping up to be one of the best Masters in recent history. I can't wait!

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