"Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel"

My new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" is the follow-up to "Illegal Procedure" and "Roughing the Passer" and is now available in print and in e-formats at amazon.com, smashwords.com and iBooks. Follow me on twitter @kevinkrest.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

MASTERS PREVIEW

With Tiger Woods' announcement that he would play in the 2015 Masters tournament, the great event took on even more of a buzz than usual. Despite being off the tour for much of last season and almost all of the current one, his presence will be widely publicized, despite the fact that he has almost no chance to contend. Unless Woods has sharpened his short game from the disaster we witnessed in January and February, I think it will be difficult for him to even make the cut. But Augusta is a unique place that requires a lot of experience, generally producing an inordinate number of players who have won multiple Masters titles. So I won't necessarily count him out if Tiger can somehow reconnect with the feel for the course necessary to contend. I give some other players a much better chance.

THE OBVIOUS

Jordan Spieth: He lacks experience at Augusta, but he played well enough to win before settling for a second place finish behind Bubba Watson last year. Spieth probably should have won last week at Houston, but J.B. Holmes played an incredible front nine to force a three player playoff with Spieth and Johnson Wagner. Jordan caught a bad break in the playoff when a camera clicked on his backswing, causing him to mishit a chip shot that could have kept him in the tournament. Spieth is now up to fourth in the world rankings and is clearly the best young American hope for dominance on tour. He'll win some majors before it's all said and done, and he might just start this week.

Rory McIlroy: The Irish superstar can complete the career grand slam with a Masters victory. He's been in position a couple of times at Augusta, but ended up shooting himself out of contention. Rory has everything needed to win, including great length and accuracy of the tee. I've always been a little concerned about his consistency and ability to grind out a round. There's always one round where things aren't going to well during the Masters and the players need to keep it together and post a decent score. If Rory can keep from having that one bad round, I look for him to be near the top of the leaderboard come late Sunday afternoon.

Henrik Stenson: The Swede is coming off three consecutive top five finishes and seems poised to capture his first major. He dominated the Tour Championship in 2014 and played very well in the majors, with top fives in the US Open and the PGA Championship. He's a great frontrunner and doesn't tend to beat himself. 

Phil Mickelson: Even at age 44, Phil can still be dangerous at Augusta. His three Masters wins and five overall majors put him near the top of his generation in accomplishments. Does he still have a major or two left? History would say no, given the difficulty of winning a major after the age of 40. But he already has two of them since turning 39, as well as a second place finish in a U.S. Open. Phil played well in Houston last week, imploding on Saturday or he probably would have been in the hunt to the end. He's a fan favorite and it would be great to see his name on the leaderboard on Sunday.

Bubba Watson: Another fan favorite, two time and defending champion Watson has finished in the top ten in three of the four tournaments he's played in 2015. There's no question he can play Augusta, with his quirky swing, power and creativity reminding many of a latter day Arnold Palmer. But Bubba hasn't played in over a month and I'm wondering if rust is an issue.If he's sharp, he could very make it three green jackets.

Jason Day: Day is ranked fifth in the world and is highly regarded among his peers and others that cover the sport. He has three top fives this year, including a win at the Farmers Insurance Open which is coincidentally the last time we saw Tiger Woods in competition. I like Jason Day and give him a good chance to be in the hunt come Sunday. However, his lack of wins leads me to question whether he can close out a major, especially at Augusta.

Adam Scott: With 25 career wins, Scott is always a threat when he's playing well. His victory at the 2013 Masters was his major breakthrough. He's only played three tournaments this season and hasn't looked impressive. But Augusta is the unofficial start of the REAL golf season and a lot of players plan their practice time and playing schedule to peak for this event. It also doesn't hurt Scott to have Steve Williams, a  guy that's familiar with majors and Augusta, on the bag. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Aussie contend again this week.

LOOKING FOR A BREAKTHROUGH

Sergio Garcia: In 1999, when Sergio challenged Tiger in the PGA Championship at the age of 19, it would have been impossible to believe that he could have played at a high level for almost sixteen more years and not have a major title. He has Ryder Cup success and a Players win to his credit. So the question is, will he ever grab a major? A couple of years ago, Garcia commented that he wasn't capable of winning a major. I think that was clearly spoken out of frustration after an Augusta meltdown. But time's running out on the popular Spaniard and he has only a single top ten in six events in 2015. I know if he has a chance on Sunday, I'll be rooting for him.

Jimmy Walker: If Walker was better known, I would have put him in the Obvious category. He already has two victories and couple of more top tens this year and is a very steady player who broke  through after turning 34. He has five wins in the last three years and has a good enough game to contend at Augusta.

Patrick Reed: Reed is ranked fifteenth in the world and began the year with a win in the Tournament of Champions. He's added a couple of more top tens without missing a cut in eight events. This guy could definitely make some noise this weekend.

Matt Kuchar: Kuchar is one of my all-time favorites. With his accurate driving and easy going demeanor, he may be able to withstand the pressure if he gets in contention. He's been there before but hasn't finished the job. He has a couple of top fives, but hasn't shown the consistency he's exhibited over the past couple of years.

DARKHORSES

Dustin Johnson: DJ has risen to number 7 in the World Golf Rankings, but his short game, the weakness of his otherwise strong ability, will be sorely tested at Augusta. It has improved, but the pressure the fast greens and tight chipping areas place on players might be too much for him, no matter how long he's hitting it.

Ricky Fowler: The popular Oklahoma State grad has gone more than two years without a win, but he  always seems to be around the top of the leaderboards in the majors. He had top fives in all four of the big events last year, with second place finishes in the US Open and The Open Championship (British Open). Maybe it's his time despite having no top tens in 2015.

Keegan Bradley: The former PGA champ has a couple of top fives in 2015, but hasn't won a golf tournament since 2012. He seems to be adjusting nicely to the shorter putter and grabbed a fifth place finish last week at Houston. His accuracy and length off the tee, much like Matt Kuchar, could eventually translate to success at Augusta.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel" and my first, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel", available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and Smashwords.