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IS MASTERS AS INTERESTING WITHOUT TIGER?
Bob Gillespie: Yes, though Woods hasn’t won there in nearly a decade, he’s contended almost every year. The drama that surrounds his every move will be missing, but 18 holes into the competition, another story line (or several) will arise.
Bob Spear: No. Fans might love him or hate him, but they can’t ignore him. He is the one player that even those who do not follow golf closely know and always ask: What did Tiger shoot?
Josh Kendall: Yes. The Honda Classics of the world might need Woods to bring eyeballs and interest, but the Masters does not. The only entity in golf that rivals Tiger in “added story lines” is Augusta National itself, which automatically makes every golfer who steps on it more interesting.
WILL TIGER WIN ANOTHER MAJOR?
Kendall: Yes, the 38-year-old has too much talent and too much willpower to be shut out, however it’s almost impossible to imagine Woods catching Nicklaus’ 18 majors. Nicklaus didn’t miss a major for which he was eligible until he was 58.
Spear: Yes. One, possibly two. But Nicklaus’ record is safe.
Gillespie: Yes, and likely it will come at Augusta or at one of his favorite venues – Pebble Beach or St. Andrews. Will he catch Nicklaus? Odds and his health say no.
WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH PHIL?
Gillespie: Well, he’s 43; he battles arthritis and an occasionally balky back and his own wild-and-crazy approach to golf. That said, he’s won three Masters and, with Tiger out, will be on the short list to win a fourth – which would match Woods’ total.
Spear: It’s Masters time, and his game comes alive with spring in the air at Augusta National. Is it the pollen or Magnolia Lane? The biggest surprise will be if he is not on the leader board this week.
Kendall: He was coming off his first winless season on Tour when he won his first Masters in 2004.
CAN ADAM SCOTT REPEAT?
Gillespie: Not unless he can fix that putting stroke. He managed to throw away a title at Bay Hill a couple of weeks ago.
Spear: Yes; he has the game to win again. But the odds say otherwise. How many have earned back-to-back Masters titles? Only Nicklaus, Faldo and Woods.
Kendall: Sure. There’s no better player in the field. Scott has talked this week of his determination to keep his green jacket for the return trip home.
WHO’S GOLF’S NEXT DOMINANT PLAYER?
Kendall: Dustin Johnson has shown the talent but not the finishing acumen. My pick is McIlroy, who famously had his own finishing issues here in 2011 but then rebounded to win the U.S. Open.
Gillespie: Rory has the game, but does he have the want-to, the Tiger-like laser focus? McIlroy seems to enjoy life beyond the fairways, so forget about him.
Spear: McIlroy looks like the game’s guiding light into the future with Jordan Spieth close behind.
WHO’S YOUR PICK?
Gillespie: Out of the blue: Patrick Reed, former Augusta State player and one of the hottest (and most confident) players going. Reed tells us he’s one of the top five players in the world; with Tiger out, that leaves three others to beat.
Spear: McIlroy, Grame McDowell, Mickelson, Justin Rose and Scott in that order.
Kendall: Jason Day. He’s played in three Masters, and he’s finished in the top three two of those years. Last year, he was third.