Veteran golf journalists Bob Spear and Bob Gillespie, who are covering the Masters for The State this year, make their picks for the Masters winner:
He led both the PGA Tour and the European Tour in earnings in 2011, has notched a PGA victory this year, has an excellent short game, putts well and is ranked the No. 1 golfer in the world. What’s not to like about his chances in the 76th Masters?
Nothing, but Luke Donald has been lost in the Rory-Tiger media frenzy.
The knock: he hasn’t won a major championship.
That ends Sunday afternoon.
Donald is not the longest hitter, but he scores and he finishes and he is confident. I love his attitude: “Having closed out some tournaments pretty well, I know if I get in or around the lead, then we’re going to have a pretty good chance.”
He joined the wild chase to the championship in the 2011 Masters before finishing tied for fourth. He climbs to the top this year.
When we left Augusta National a year ago, Rory McIlroy had just made left-of-Butler-Cabin hash of the 10th hole, a hacker’s triple-bogey 7 that sent the then-21-year-old staggering to a closing 80.
The experience left him scarred — for two months, that is, until he dismantled Congressional Country Club to win the U.S. Open by a Tiger Woods-like margin; so much for scars.
The kid from Northern Ireland seemingly contends every time he plays. In his first 13 majors, he has a win and three third-place finishes, which is better than Woods in his first 13 majors (thanks for that neat factoid to Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee, who believes McIlroy is the equal of Tiger ’97 — and I agree).
Yes, Woods should be a factor again; ditto Phil Mickelson. But this week is about unfinished business. Write off last year’s collapse to first-time-contender nerves. It says here McIlroy learned well from that experience — and will complete the job this time around.