Unpredictable Masters: Questions as numerous as raindrops
With the 81st Masters Tournament two days away, some storylines are unfolding:
The No. 1 jinx
Can World No. 1 Dustin Johnson become the first player since Tiger Woods in 2005 to win the Masters as the top-ranked player?
Some No. 1 players have come into the Masters lacking form, but not Johnson.
He is the hottest player on the planet, having won his past three starts.
The last players to enter the Masters riding three-tournament victory streaks were Hubert Green (1976), Ben Hogan (1940) and Jimmy Demaret (also 1940).
Demaret is the only one who made it four in a row.
“I’m hitting it good and feel confident about my game,” Johnson said Monday.
It looks like another windy start to the Masters. Heavy winds whipped around Augusta National’s pines for the first three rounds last year, including gusts of 35 mph one day.
This week, gusts are predicted between 30 to 35 mph for Thursday and 25 to 30 on Friday before calming down on the weekend.
The windy conditions always affect the scoring. After 54 holes last year, the leading score was 4-under 140 compared with 130 in 2015, when it was calm.
“Weather has pretty much everything to do with how the tournament goes,” said J.B. Holmes, who finished tied for fourth last year. “If it’s sunny and not blowing, the scores are going to be low. If it’s windy, the scores are going to be a lot higher.”
The winds will calm to 6 to 12 mph on Saturday, but switch in direction to the unfavorable northwest. It’s the toughest scoring wind because three of the four par-5s (Nos. 8, 13 and 15) are against the wind.
Can Jordan Spieth pick up the green jacket he left behind last year?
Spieth, who won the Masters in 2015, blew a five-shot lead last year and lost by three after a second-nine 41.
Spieth, who will meet with the media today, has grown weary of questions about his meltdown as the Masters has approached.
In late March, he said “no matter what happens at this year’s Masters, whether I can win the green jacket or I miss the cut or finish 30th, it will be nice having this Masters go by.”
Can a rookie win?
No one has done it since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979 and only two others ( Horton Smith in the inaugural Masters in 1934 and Gene Sarazen in 1935) were first-time winners.
Spieth almost did it in 2014 before being overtaken by Bubba Watson.
Jon Rahm could join the first-timers club. Rahm, who has only played in 22 PGA Tour events, already has a victory and five top-five finishes this season and is ranked No. 12 in the world.
“I think he can win,” Jim Furyk said. “I think because of television, you probably know a little bit about the tournament, the style, the pin placements than you did 50 years ago. But it’s still a place where the more knowledge you have, the more experience you have, the more comfortable you’ll be.
“But if you find a guy whose game really matches up in style and the course suits him and his eye, yeah, I could see it happening. It will be a special person.”
Five of the past eight Masters champions have been in their 30s, but that could change this year with a winner in his early to mid-20s taking the green jacket.
Spieth has already won once this season and good friend 23-year-old Justin Thomas has three victories. Hideki Matsuyama, 25, has two wins and 27-year-old Harris English and 28-year-old Rickie Fowler each have won.
Four of those players are ranked in the top 10 in the world. Matsuyama is fourth, Spieth is sixth, Thomas is seventh and Fowler is eighth.