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The Masters is rich in subplots this year
They call the Masters “a tradition unlike any other.” And this year’s is a Masters unlike any other. The greatest golfer of all time looks poised to make a borderline-miraculous comeback, his longtime rival is mysteriously absent, and the current No. 1 player in the world is largely unrecognizable to casual fans.
Here’s what you need to know as the biggest golf tournament of the year tees off Thursday:
Tiger is (probably) back. When Tiger Woods mangled his right leg in a brutal car crash in February 2021, there was concern he might never walk properly again. Much less play competitive golf. Much, much less compete in the Masters less than 14 months later. But that’s exactly what the five-time green jacket winner intends to do after playing several practice rounds at Augusta and pronouncing his ball striking “just fine.” Woods classifies himself as a tee-time decision, but he said yesterday that “as of right now, I feel like I’m going to play.” If he does make his scheduled 10:34 a.m. ET start on Thursday, Tiger will be by far the biggest story of the tournament. If he somehow puts himself in contention — on the 25th anniversary of his revolutionary first Masters victory — Woods will add another incredible chapter to one of the most fascinating career arcs in the history of sports.
WATCH | What to know ahead of the 2022 Masters:
Phil Mickelson is nowhere to be seen (or heard). Tiger’s biggest rival for the better part of this century has been on a vague sabbatical since his attempt to join the controversial Super Golf League (aka the Saudi Golf League) went south. The proposed PGA Tour rival, backed by the bottomless pockets of the Saudi Arabian government, is attempting to lure the world’s best players with promises of bigger purses and a lighter schedule. Mickelson was the SGL’s most vocal supporter — too vocal, it turned out, when he dropped an astonishing quote on golf writer Alan Shipnuck back in February. Speaking about doing business with the Saudis, Mickelson said: “They’re scary m——f—ers to get involved with. We know they killed [Washington Post reporter Jamal] Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates.” The backlash was swift from golf fans and some anti-SGL players, who accused Mickelson of being selfish and greedy (among other things). The 51-year-old, who last year became the oldest major winner in golf history when he captured the PGA Championship, soon announced he was stepping away from the game. Both the PGA Tour and the Masters, which controls its own invitations, insist they didn’t ask Mickelson to stay away. But there’s speculation that the hiatus might not have been entirely his choice.
The best player in the world is… Scottie Scheffler? The 25-year-old American ascended to No. 1 in the world rankings a couple of weeks ago after winning the World Match Play for his third victory of the year already. Scheffler, who also won the prestigious Arnold Palmer Invitational last month, has yet to win a major and isn’t exactly a household name. But avid golf fans have had him on their radar for a while, and he’s got the sort of game — power off the tee, great touch on the greens — to contend at Augusta.
The competition looks as tough as ever. Top contenders who have won a major but are still looking for their first green jacket include world No. 2 Jon Rahm of Spain, American Justin Thomas and Northern Irishman Rory McIlory. Mulleted Australian Cameron Smith is coming in hot after cashing the richest winner’s cheque in golf history at last month’s Players’ Championship. Defending champion Hideki Matsuyama has been bothered by a bad neck, but his taste in food remains impeccable. The Japanese star put together a mouth-watering menu for this year’s traditional champions dinner that featured assorted sushi, sashimi and nigiri as appetizers, followed by a main course with both miso glazed black cod and A5 Wagyu beef ribeye.
Three Canadians are in the field. World No. 32 Corey Conners has the best odds of becoming the first Canuck since Mike Weir in 2003 to slip on the green jacket. Conners, who tees off at 12:13 p.m. ET on Thursday, is listed at about 60/1 to win the tournament after finishing tied for eighth last year. No. 58 Mackenzie Hughes is about 125/1. The 51-year-old Weir is about 275/1. Read more about the Masters here.
WATCH | Canadian duo Weir, Hughes win Par-3 contest at Masters:
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