AUGUSTA – The great sporting events of the Spring are unfolding across these formerly United States of America. March Madness went out like a lion and the NCAA Final Four is in the record books. Opening Days of Major League Baseball have been staged and the Boston Red Sox, their pitching ace and fans are thinking about hitting the panic button.
The NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs face-off tonight and the NBA Playoffs tip-off this weekend. The Frozen Four and the Boston Marathon will be staged as well, both hidden gems on the list of the Greatest Sporting Events in the USA.
For golf, its single greatest event – The Masters – gets underway tomorrow, April 11th. The first “Major” of the season is always great to watch, as the Dogwood and Azaleas in Georgia seem a full month ahead in beauty. But, a renaissance in golf viewership – surely started by the great Tiger Woods – is now being enhanced by “fan engaging” software brought to you by Draft Kings and Fan Duel, amongst others.
Of all the sports, maybe GOLF and the PGA Tour have the most to gain as a generation of new fans grows up with the ability to put something on the players and increase that rooting interest in a way that fuels engagement for sports that don’t have a “home” team to “root for” with the millennial fan.
Even those who can’t tell Hogan’s Bridge from Hogan’s Heroes can lay $5 on Rickie Fowler and five guys from Isleworth to be engaged for the weekend.
So let’s tee-it-up:
First, the facts.
Only 87 players will tee-off for the 2019 Masters and, of those, there are probably 25-30 who have a legitimate chance of winning the tournament. At Augusta National, you need to be long and accurate, and that eliminates most of the older generation/former winners who enjoy the ambiance and tradition unlike any other.
This year, the weather forecast will also play a major role in deciding who wins the coveted “Green Jacket” on Sunday.
- This year, Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy is favored to win. He’s No. 1 in the world and has won every Major EXCEPT The Masters with a best finish of fourth in 2015. He is primed for the W.
- The likes of Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, Jordan Speith, Justin Thomas, Ricky Fowler, Brooks Koepk and yes – Tiger Woods – all merit consideration as the next tier of potential champions.
- Europeans such as Jon Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood, Henrik Stenson and former Masters champion Sergio Garcia should all be on your lists. Rose at the top of that list.
- Italy’s Francisco Molinari and England’s Paul Casey join Rose as those to be highly considered.
- Lastly, horse-for-the-course types such as Adam Scott, Bubba Watson, Jason Day, Phil Mickelson, Louis Oosthuizen, Ian Poulter and last year’s champion Patrick Reed round-out a list of 21 players to be considered most likely to take home the Green Jacket.
Rose, Molinari and Oosthuizen. Casey added in a few Exactas!
- By Terry Lyons