The Masters is Back: Who to Watch and Why

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By Berry Aldridge, Sports Editor

Golf fans are rejoicing worldwide this week as Masters week is finally upon us. The prestigious tournament, hosted at Augusta National every year since 1934, is widely recognized as the biggest tournament of every year and its prize, the coveted green jacket, is legendary to all associated with the game of Golf.

The thing about the Masters that makes it so special is that is the first of four “Majors” for the Professional Golf Association Tour each year. Being the first, it adds a feeling of re-birth for those scorned last year, and re-establishment for those few who were lucky enough to accomplish greatness in years past.

This years field of players is filled with both salty veterans hoping to bask in the limelight a while longer, new-comers hoping to create a name for themselves, and past-winners hoping to revamp their spiraling career (looking at you Mr. Woods).  Here are a few players to pay attention to this week.

Rory McIlroy:  Rory is the only Golfer in recent memory with comparable skill sets to Tiger Woods in his Prime. That being said, he is no 90s Tiger yet. However, that skill set of monstrous drives and impossible putting makes Rory a contender anytime he shows up. He has the raw ability to win any tournament he shows up to and he has been playing good golf so far this year. Also, if Rory wins, he will be the reigning champion of all four PGA Tour majors AT ONCE, a truly incredible feat. It seems Rory has been resting most of this spring, only playing in three tournaments. Perhaps the hiatus with bring with is a rejuvenated Rory.

Bubba Watson:  Can Bubba repeat? Most would assume no, being that it has rarely been done in the storied history of the tournament and Bubba isn’t what most avid fans would call a blue-chip Golfer. He wins here and there but he is mostly known for his unique devil-may-care style of play, which is very different than the stereotypical calm, reserved clones on the course. His style can either be crucial, or disastrous at Augusta with its many doglegs and tricky bunker locations. Watson hasn’t finished lower than 14th yet this year, and his most recent finish was 3rd at the WGC-Cadillac Championship.

Jordan Spieth:  The up and coming Spieth steamrolled onto the scene last year during this exact week when he went into a playoff with eventual winner Watson and had it not been for one of the most miraculous shots in Golf history by Watson with his second shot on No. 10, Spieth would have won the 2014 Masters at the ripe age of 20. Roughly 360 days of thinking about how close he was could have one of two effects on Jordan. He could maintain the resolve and determination he has had ever since, or he could press too hard and crumble. Both options seem equally likely to me, however Spieth is fresh off a win at the Valspar Championship and second place finishes at the Texas Open and Houston Open, so it appears he is learning to play with the expectation of winning, something he will need in Augusta.

Patrick Reed: Ahh, the sleeper. There isn’t much to be said about why exactly Patrick Reed should or even could win the 2015 Masters. Well, perhaps nothing that Golf “experts” would want to admit. What they don’t want to admit is that Reed might be just arrogantly confident enough to give some of these more prolific players a real run for their money. Also, Reed went toe-to-toe with favorite Jordan Spieth last month and their rivalry has run on and off the course with Spieth making snide remarks about Reed. Its also worth mentioning that Reed played his college Golf at Augusta State University, now known as Georgia Regents University and played the course three times as an amateur. Given his reputation, in college he might have played a few unauthorized holes here and there as well.