There is simply no greater spectacle in golf.

Every aspect of the Masters is that of holy tradition–from the breathtaking walk down Magnolia Lane to the history of the Founder’s Circle, through the course past Sarazen Bridge and Amen Corner, all leading up to the Green Jacket presentation in Butler cabin, the perfect grand finale. And when they eventually make a big motion picture about my life, I want Jim Nantz as the voice-over part, because few others can captivate an audience the way he does. The manner in which he describes the scenery and history of the Masters is enough to spread goosebumps throughout the nation.

Golf is in for another beautiful weekend at Augusta National, and the field may be stronger than ever. Without a dominant golfer, there are plenty more storylines, and the door is open for first-timers to make a name for themselves.

No Number 5

Fans across the country will certainly enjoy another weekend at Augusta, but for the third time in the last four years, it will be a another weekend without Tiger Woods. The four-time Masters champion will once again sit out due to an ailing back injury, and he will be missed.

Say what you want about his character or off-the-course issues, but for golf purposes, the mere presence of Woods draws viewers and enhances the tournament. The ratings for the 2014 Masters–the first time Woods was absent from the tournament–were the lowest they had been since the 1993 Masters. It’s hard to put into words what makes Tiger such a spectacle–some will say his greatness and passion for the game, whereas others will argue that golf needs a dominate face for the sport.

Simply put, Woods is the icon that he is in the golf world because he’s Tiger.

Rules officials: Figure it out

A word to rules officials at Augusta National: Be prepared, because all eyes will be watching.

Over the past weekend, there was an incident that set golf officiating back to square one. On Saturday, LPGA golfer Lexi Thompson had marked her ball, picked it up and placed it an inch from its initial position.

No big deal, right?

Then, out of the blue the NEXT DAY, Thompson was approached by rules official Sue Witters on the 13th hole that she has been assessed a 4-stroke penalty–2 for the infraction, and 2 for an incorrectly filled out scorecard for the previous day. And the icing on the cake? It was brought to the attention of the rules experts through an email. By a fan.

Mike Golic of ESPN’s “Mike and Mike” had this to say about the matter:

“This is a joke. This is an absolute freaking joke.”

Let us count the ways in which this situation is absurd.

  1. In no way, shape or form, can a fan ever be allowed to dictate the outcome of a sporting event. It simply cannot happen. The rules committee loses all credibility because instead of admitting a mistake in ruling, they’ve unwittingly set a precedent that gives fans influence on the game, and it opens the door for the crazies on the comment section to say they will now be calling in every missed call. Heck, I’d like to call in the fact that Justice Winslow touched the ball in the national championship game, can we still get that changed?
  2. Enough of this “waiting to tell the players that they’ve committed an infraction”–golf is the slowest sporting event out there, and the officials walk with players from hole to hole. If they cannot see replays and inform the players of their penalties in a timely manner, the issue must be let go. It’s completely unjustifiable to allow a whole day to pass before informing the players of their errors. “I’m sorry, you made a mistake that you didn’t know about, filled out your scorecard, but that was wrong, so here’s two more strokes!” A similar situation occurred in the 2013 Masters, when Tiger dropped too far from his original spot on the 15th, and was not informed of his punishment until the next morning.

Nobody’s perfect, but for the sake of the sport, golf had better hope the Augusta officials are pretty darn close.

Contenders

Dustin Johnson – He’s the odds-on favorite to win the Masters, and rightfully so–he enters the weekend with three wins thus far in 2017, and boasts the number one ranking in the world. He’s playing the best golf of his life; look for him to be in contention on Sunday.

Phil Mickelson – Yes, Lefty is still a contender. Though he hasn’t yet won on the PGA tour this year, Mickelson has finished in the top ten three times in 2017. And as a three-time Masters champion you’d better believe he’s hungry to join Woods, Nicklaus, and Palmer as the only four-time winners.

Sergio Garcia – This is my sleeper pick in the contenders category. Garcia has 30-1 odds to win the Masters, but after winning his first start on the European tour in Dubai, he said “I think that when things are going well off the golf course it’s much easier to feel comfortable on a golf course, because there’s no worries.” Throw the odds out the window–when Garcia is playing worry-free, anything can happen.

Jordan Spieth – Spieth belongs in this category because he’s proved he doesn’t belong anywhere else. He’s only played in three Masters, but has finished T2, 1, T2–that’s what we call a contender. Spieth will look to cast off the memories of the 12th hole debacle as he goes for his second Green Jacket.

Jason Day – In early March, Jason’s mother Dening Day underwent surgery to remove part of her lung infected with cancer, and Day withdrew from the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play to be with her. According to golfchannel.com, Dening became a widow when Jason was 13 and worked “two jobs to send her son to a sports-specific school when he was a teenager.” Athletes are at their best when they’re playing for the ones they love–watch out for the Aussie.

Winner – Jason Day