There surely was never a day at The Masters like Saturday, which started not with a tee shot but a rules controversy. There’s really nothing I can add to the vast body of punditry that’s already been generated over Dropgate. Golf’s cognoscente spent the morning scrutinizing every millisecond of the drop, and thumbing through rulebooks and rulings. The consensus at one point leaned toward disqualification for Tiger. Then came the rumor—started by several players—that Tiger would receive a two shot penalty, but no disqualification. That turned out to be true, and the discussion turned to whether Tiger got special treatment in not being disqualified.
I predict that some years from now, this will be seen as a watershed moment in golf’s relationship with big media.
From the beginning, I was convinced that the World Number One would not be disqualified. My reasoning, however, was faulty. I thought that rules officials would sidestep the entire controversy by saying the drop was “close enough.” Instead, I think the rules officials took the worst possible option. He got the penalty, but then was excused from the consequences of signing an incorrect scorecard. If Tiger happens to win this one, all hell will break loose.
Could Tiger win? Absolutely. He finished the day just four shots off the lead, close enough for him to come in low and then watch the wreckage behind him.
It won’t be easy, though. There are a lot of fine players in and around the lead. Odds are not good that they all would crash and burn simultaneously.
At the top of the heap are Brandt Snedeker and Angel Cabrera. Snedeker is one of the hottest players in golf right now. He’s the reigning FedEx Cup Champion, and started the year with three top three finishes in four starts. He won his fifth start and rose to number four in the World Golf Rankings. No one would be surprised to see him win a Green Jacket.
Angel Cabrera is a fascinating character. Both of his PGA TOUR wins are majors, and the same Masters and US Open count as two of his five European Tour wins. In other words, he has three non-major wins on the big tours.
Adam Scott, just a shot behind the leaders, was my my fantasy pick to win the tournament. He was runner up at the Masters two years ago and last summer stumbled to finish second at the Open Championship. If there’s anything to be learned from failure, he could be ready for a win.
Marc Leishman and Jason Day are two shots back. Along with Scott, they give Australia the best chance it has ever had to win the Masters.
All told, there are thirteen within give shots of the lead, including Woods. The numbers alone should guarantee an exciting Sunday finish. With the wild swings Augusta is capable of delivering, any one of those could pull it off.