The Chase for the Green Jacket

The+Chase+for+the+Green+Jacket

Paul Smyth, Maroon-News Staff

The first major of the year kicks off this week with a plethora of exciting headlines for all fans of the game of golf. The best golfers in the world will battle for a chance at winning the Green Jacket at Augusta National in Augusta, Georgia, beginning this Thursday. Defending champion Bubba Watson, who has vaulted himself to be the No. 3 golfer in the world, will look to add his third Green Jacket. World No. 1 Rory McIlroy will attempt to add his first Green Jacket, his fifth major title and the career grand slam all before the age of 26. But possibly the most exciting headline heading into the Masters is the return of 14-time major champion Tiger Woods. Woods will be returning to the game after a two-month leave of absence following his withdrawal from the Farmers Insurance Open in early February. Woods has dropped outside the world top-100 rankings for the first time since 1996.

Many believe that McIlroy has the game to be the greatest of all-time when his career is finally over, but he still has plenty of work left to elevate him to that status. Before he claimed his first major victory at the U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club in 2011, McIlroy held a four shot lead heading into the final round of the Masters earlier that season. The 22 year-old McIlroy seemed firmly in control before triple-bogeying the tenth hole en route to a final round 80. The experience may have been the most valuable one that the young superstar could have had, as now the world’s best player seems to finish golf tournaments with ease. Look for McIlroy to be the favorite going into this season’s first major.

There is no arguing how valuable Woods is to the game of golf. Just the presence of Woods at a golf tournament will excite the average golf fan and drive up the TV ratings. But after a two-month hiatus from the game to get his game back to tournament form, and coming off of a few withdrawals from pain in his surgically repaired back, what are the expectations this time around for a man that has won four Green Jackets in his career? Many believe that Woods’ greatest accomplishment would be making the 36-hole cut and getting to the weekend. Before his withdrawal at Torrey Pines, Woods missed the cut at the Phoenix Waste Management Open when he shot a second round 82. To believe that Woods can compete to win the Masters in 2015 is extremely far-fetched, but this is a man that only enter’s tournaments that he believes he can win. At the age of 40, Woods has potentially ten years of competitive golf remaining to reach Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major titles. The sooner that he can return to competitive form, the sooner that he will be able to compete at the level that he was once capable of doing.

My pick to win the Masters is 21-year old Jordan Spieth. Spieth has been terrific so far this season picking up a win at the Valspar Championship, while adding two runner-up finishes to his totals. The young American played in the final group of the 2014 Masters before finishing three shots back of the eventual champion Watson. Spieth was a member of the 2014 Ryder Cup team who fell to the Europeans this past summer at Gleneagles in Scotland. The young kid from Dallas, Texas, is one of the most electrifying players on the PGA tour right now as he has risen to the No. 4 ranked player in the world with his recent play. Anticipate Spieth and McIlroy, who are the inevitable future of golf, to compete against each other for major titles for years to come.

The 2015 Masters Tournament features one of the best fields of the year with an astounding number of players who can win this golf tournament. The No. 2 ranked player in the world Henrik Stenson has been a ball-striking machine of late and if he can get his putter hot, he can add his first major title to his impressive repertoire. Americans Jimmy Walker and Patrick Reed, who both have played fantastic golf early in the season, will also look to add their first major. The long hitting J.B. Holmes, who shot an eight-under 64 on Sunday this past weekend to win the Shell Houston Open, may be an underrated contender to add his first Green Jacket. Whoever wins the 2015 Masters will bring home the hallowed Green Jacket and add a career changing win to their resume this Sunday.