Commentary By Ed Veit
At the end of the second Sunday in April, Phil Mickelson should be assisting Lee Westwood in trying on his first green jacket.
The ending won't be as emotional as Mickelson's 2010 win in front of his cancer-stricken wife, nor will Lee's win attract the tears of Tiger Woods' record-setting 1997 first win in front of his father. But Westwood's win will be satisfying for a solid golfer. He finished second in 2009 and 2010. Other front-line contenders include Ian Poulter and Martin Kaymer; Mickelson is still a threat.
Woods still has star power and will be looking for his fifth Masters win. He will attract the largest gallery, but this crowd will last until they moan at an errant drive or two and several rimmed-out short putts during some crucial moments of the tournament. If Woods is to win a tournament this year, look for him to crash through in the BMW Classic at Cog Hill on Sept. 15-18 in Lemont, Ill. Woods won two of the last four outings in Lemont.
An easy prediction for the Masters -- some aging golfer will stage a first-round miracle and then fade from the leader board. Fifty-year-old Freddie Couples did it last year with a 66 in the first round. Couples will be a year older, but he still possesses a swing that is the envy of all golfers -- he could do it again. But, look for 1998 winner Mark O'Meara or 2000 winner Vijay Singh to contend after the first round.
Augusta National is pure horticultural beauty from Amen Corner to the Eisenhower Tree. It is nearly impossible to lose a ball unless it finds water and the real match begins once the player hits the green. At the Masters, putting is the whole game. The three days of practice rounds probably attract more than 600,000 spectators, but no one will ever know. The Augusta National leaders keep crowd sizes and financial statistics secret.
Tickets for the actual rounds are impossible to obtain, but tickets for practice rounds are given out by lottery and are inexpensive -- about $35. If you have never been to the Masters and you're an avid golfer, the practice rounds belong on your bucket list.
Posted April 6, 2011