Apr 7

2009 Masters Tournament Preview

Posted By:Josh Morse - Kearney, NE  Tags:

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•Site: Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, GA
•Length: 7,435 yards (Par: 36-36–72)
•Purse: To be determined ($7.5 million in 2008)
•Field: 96 players (five amateurs)
•Defending champion: Trevor Immelman
•TV: 3-6 p.m. Thursday-Friday, ESPN. 2:30-6 p.m. Saturday, CBS. 1:30-6 p.m. Sunday, CBS.

Zach Johnson and Trevor Immelman shouldn’t take this personally. Their Masters championships in 2007 and 2008, respectively, were great underdog stories. Johnson became the first golfer from the Heartland to win the Masters since Tom Watson in 1981, and he did it by showing Midwestern grit to rise from the Hooters Tour. Immelman, the South African, overcame a benign tumor on his diaphragm which held him out of the first eight weeks of PGA Tour action in ’08.Plus, both Johnson and Immelman held off Tiger Woods on Sunday to cement their legacy as fearless dragon-slayers for a day.

All of that said, nobody wants to see another Johnson or Immelman win the 2009 Masters, which begins Thursday in Augusta, Ga. This Masters, more than any other in recent memory, will be about watching the stars of the sport battle to reclaim the green jacket.

Woods is back after missing eight months recovering from ACL surgery, and he has already picked up a victory, winning the Bay Hill Invitational last week in shocking fashion. Phil Mickelson has already won two events this season and looks poised to end his major drought, which began with his late collapse at the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot. And then there’s the Irish grinder Padraig Harrington, who dominated the sport in Woods’ absence last year with wins in the British Open and the PGA Championship.

So, all you underdogs out there, please just stay out of the way and let the big dogs eat.

Tiger Woods

•World ranking: 1
•Major championships: 14
•Masters titles: 1997, 2001, ’02, ’05
•Last tournament win: 2009 Bay Hill Invitational
•The skinny: The last time Woods played in a major, he improbably built upon his own legend by winning the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines while playing with a torn ACL. Woods knocked off the intrepid Rocco Mediate in an 18-hole Monday playoff that had to go to a 19th hole to be settled, and somehow, Woods’ knee held up for 91 holes in five days. But you already knew that.
What does Woods have in store for this week’s Masters? Well, we can only assume he expects to win it and take one step closer to eclipsing Jack Nicklaus’ 18 major titles. Word is that Woods’ game is far more equipped for a green jacket than it’s been in a while, now that he can put all of his weight on his left leg.
Phil Mickelson
•World ranking: 2
•Major championships: 3
•Masters titles: 2004, ’06
•Last tournament win: 2009 World Golf Championship – CA Championship
•The skinny: The last few years, Lefty has been brutal off the tee. At the U.S. Open last year, Mickelson was so concerned about the accuracy of his driving that he elected to use a 3-wood instead of a driver. Even with that caution, Mickelson still couldn’t stay on the fairway. Now, finally, it seems all of his hard work with new swing coach Butch Harmon is paying off, and Mickelson appears to have the confidence to swing away once again.
Padraig Harrington
•World ranking: 5
•Major championships: 3
•Masters top finish: T-5th (2002, ’08)
•Last tournament win: 2008 PGA Championship
•The skinny: Harrington, a native of Dublin, Ireland, is looking to become just the fourth player (joining Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan and Woods) to win three major championships in a row after bringing home the British and the PGA in Tiger’s absence. Harrington has never jumped out as a threat to win the Masters because he is not known for his length off the tee, but nobody can ignore his presence now.
Geoff Ogilvy
•World ranking: 4
•Major championships: 1
•Masters top finish: T-16th (2006)
•Last tournament win: 2009 World Golf Championships – Accenture Match Play Championship
•The skinny: The Australians are certainly due to win a Masters — they have never brought home a green jacket — and Ogilvy has begun 2009 on a hot streak, winning the Mercedes-Benz Championship and the Accenture Match Play Championship already. Ogilvy won the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot with some help from Mickelson.
Camilo Villegas
•World ranking: 8
•Major championship top finish: T-4th (2008 PGA)
•Masters top finish: Has not made cut in two tries
•Last tournament win: 2008 The Tour Championship
•The skinny: Certainly, Villegas would like to forget his first two Masters experiences, but surely there was something to be learned for the talented Colombian. Villegas ended last season playing his best golf of his career, winning the BMW Championship and The Tour Championship in back-to-back weeks, finishing second in the FedEx Cup standings.

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