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Masters field filled with drama

The Masters is on my bucket list of sporting events I want to attend.

In normal years, next to the Super Bowl, it is typically the most expensive sports resale ticket in the United States.

The actual ticket costs $115 and is sold by lottery and to lifetime patrol holders.

The 2021 Masters will be unique in that the 2020 Masters was won just five months ago in dominating fashion by Dustin Johnson, the top-ranked player in the world.

Johnson is the clear favorite. However, after disappointing performances in his last three tournaments, including a 48th place finish at the Players, I have my doubts about him winning back-to-back championships.

Unlike the other majors, the Masters invites a limited number of players (90) with no qualifying tournament or alternates. Of the 90 players, past champions have lifetime exemptions, and 10-12 of those past champions have no realistic chance of winning another title and the half-dozen amateurs in the field truly have no chance to win (Tiger Woods only finished 41st as an amateur).

Because of the limited field, some big-name players who have had disappointing years will not make the tournament, including the very popular Rickie Fowler.

Even before his traffic accident, it was looking unlikely that Woods, the 2018 winner and five-time champion, would play this year due to his back injury.

Four-time major winner Brooks Koepka will probably miss the tournament recovering from a knee injury. The story going into the 2020 Masters was Bryson DeChambeau who had gained 40 pounds of muscle during the COVID break and was leading the PGA Tour in driving distance by a significant margin.

DeChambeau had just won the U.S. Open by six strokes, and everyone feared he would turn the Masters into a Par-3 course, but his long drives found trees more often than the center of fairways, and he finished a disappointing 34th.

Since the Masters, DeChambeau has won Bay Hill and finished third in the Players. He has the most scientific/analytic approach to the game and perhaps has learned from his mistakes in November and found the secret formula to win the Masters.

If he is in the lead after Thursday, I would expect him to win. Jordan Spieth is also one of the top five favorites. For a five-year period he seemed to have a Tiger/Jack mastery at Augusta (finishing first, second, second, and third), but in 2020 his world ranking fell to 82 and he appeared to lose his game.

Another perennial favorite at Augusta is Rory McIlroy, who has won every major except the Masters but has finished in the top 10 at Augusta in six of the last seven years.

Similar to Spieth, McIlroy’s putting has been awful at times and he didn’t make the cut at the Genesis or the Players and does not appear to be playing at the level needed to win the green jacket.

At 47, Lee Westwood presents a very interesting story line. The former No. 1 golfer in the world has finished in the top 10 of 19 majors without ever winning a major (the most ever) and has finished second twice at the Masters.

After falling out of the top 50 in the world for the last four years, he has experienced a career renaissance with his fiance as his caddie.

In 1984, a 46-year-old Jack Nicklaus won the Masters in epic fashion, and Westwood’s experience and relaxed style could mirror that victory.

I predict on Sunday that the final group will be the No. 2 and No. 3 golfers in the world, Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm, who both have played well at the Masters and have been playing great this spring.

Only one player has won both the Players and Masters in the same year, Tiger in 2001.

Look for the green jacket to stay in Palm Beach County as last year’s champion Dustin Johnson (Palm Beach Gardens) slips it on Justin Thomas (Jupiter).

Kaufman is an Altoona native, attorney and traveling sports fan. He hosts a radio show called “Ira on Sports” in West Palm Beach, Florida, and is available on SoundCloud and iTunes under Ira on Sports.

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