But the big back-story to this, the 82nd staging of the season-opening Major, must be the resurgence of two former champions. Both forty-somethings, Phil Mickelson and his archrival over two halcyon decades, the fully-fit again and reinvigorated Tiger Woods. And the more recent renaissance of Rory McIlroy who goes into this month’s Masters not only in search of a first Green Jacket but also the coveted career, Grand Slam.
That would enable the Irishman to join the elite and exclusive club currently comprising five members, Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods. Each of who has won all four Majors, at least once.
Interestingly, Mickelson would also join that gilt-edged group was he able to go one better than the half-dozen runners-up finishes he has endured in his home US Open at Shinnecock Hills in June. It will be his 26th attempt at winning what, for most US professionals in the jewel in their crown, much more of which in the June edition of HK Golfer.
Woods is 1-up on Lefty in the Green Jacket stakes, four to three. But the prospect of the pair of them slugging it out through Amen Corner come Sunday afternoon would, without question, send the TV ratings through the roof and into the stratosphere. They were up a reported 181% as Woods went head-to-head with eventual winner Paul Casey at the recent Valspar Championship.
Woods has been managing his rehabilitation with unprecedented care, and, a humbler man than ever before. 12th in the Honda Classic and runner-up to Casey in the Valspar points to a man who, for the first time in many years, justifies his status as the second favourite to win a fifth Masters title. It was a feat only ever exceeded by Jack Nicklaus, the Golden Bear, going winning his sixth Green Jacket in his 46th year back in 1986.
Intriguingly, was Mickelson to make it a fourth Masters win - and, take note of a possible omen, he only dons the Green Jacket in even-numbered years - at 47-years-old - five-years-older than Woods - he would surpass Nicklaus as the oldest player ever to win a Major title.
And Lefty comes into Augusta on a run of fine form. Three top six finished topped-off with a barnstorming victory in the WGC-Mexico Championship. Clear evidence of a man not only in the way of his life but belying his years, and, at odds of 20/1, he’s well worth a punt.
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