Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) – The first major of the year is upon us
and there are plenty of questions about a couple of formers champions, while
most eyes will be on a player looking for his first green jacket.
There are several hot players entering the 79th Masters, none of whom have won
a major before. They are all hoping to change that this week.
World No. 1 Rory McIlroy heads to Augusta as owner of the Open Championship
and PGA Championship titles. He would complete the career grand slam with a
Bubba Watson won his second Masters title in three years last year. Other than
those two wins, Watson’s best finish was a tie for 20th in his first
appearance in 2008.
Watson already has three top-3 finishes in the 2014-15 season and has finished
inside the top-15 in all five of his starts. Returning as the defending
champion for a second time, Watson will know what the demands of his time will
be like when he is off the course.
There is also no pressure on Watson this week. Jimmy Walker and Jordan Spieth
are two of the hottest golfers entering the Masters and neither has won a
major. They are facing more pressure than Watson.
Walker tied for eighth in his first Masters last year, and finished in the
top-10 at three of the four majors in 2014. Walker is the only player with two
PGA Tour wins this season.
Spieth led through seven holes of the final round last year, but went bogey-
bogey, while Watson went birdie-birdie. The 4-shot swing dropped Spieth from
two ahead to two behind and he went on to share second place, three strokes
While Walker and Spieth have a certain amount of pressure in looking for their
first major championship victory, McIlroy is also looking for his first
Masters victory. If he is successful, the Ulsterman will complete the career
grand slam and win his third consecutive major championship. No pressure
The 25-year-old missed the cut in his first PGA Tour start of the year after
winning and finishing second in two European Tour events in early 2015.
McIlroy has since shared ninth and 11th in his other PGA Tour starts.
McIlory’s game hasn’t looked as sharp as it did when he won three straight
starts, including the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and the two majors, last
year. However, he has shot par or better in seven consecutive rounds, and 15
of his 18 rounds worldwide this year.
He is by no means struggling, but two former champions — Phil Mickelson and
Tiger Woods — are scuffling with their games.
Mickelson, who got off to a hot start at the Houston Open, is coming off a
season in which he had just two top-10 finishes, one on the European Tour and
one on the PGA Tour. So far in 2015, Mickelson’s best finish was a tie for
17th at The Honda Classic. He also missed back-to-back cuts for the first time
Woods has started just two events in 2015 and didn’t finish either. He missed
the cut after shooting 82 in the second round in Phoenix, then withdrew during
the first round of the Farmers Insurance Open.
The four-time Masters champion again struggled with his back in San Diego,
while also struggling mightily with his chipping in both events.
Woods missed most of last season after having back surgery. He did not play
the Masters for the first time as a professional, and he also missed the U.S.
Open for the second time in four years.
Woods’ last top-10 finish in an official PGA Tour start was at The Barclays in
As Mickelson and Woods battle to find their games and try to win another
Masters title, one former champion is playing his final Masters tournament.
Two-time champion Ben Crenshaw has announced this will be his last Masters
start. He will have longtime caddie Carl Jackson on the bag for him.
Crenshaw won his second Masters title in 1995 just days after his longtime
coach Harvey Penick passed away. After sinking the winning putt, Crenshaw
broke down in tears and it was Jackson that held him from collapsing to the
Suffice it to say, there will be more tears when the 1984 and 1995 champion
walks off the 18th green for the final time.
Crenshaw also stands as the last Texan to win the Masters. Spieth and Walker
are among the Texans hoping to change that note this week.