The broadcast of the final round of every golf fan’s favorite tournament is a few hours away, as I write. Rory McIlroy starts off with a four-stroke lead. He has been exposed to fourth-round pressure at the top before (PGA, 2010). If he can cruise home with a 2-under 70, he will be awfully tough to catch.
Tiger? A 70 from McIlroy means Tiger needs to shoot 63 to tie. That party is over.
Playing with McIlroy, though is Angel Cabrera. This guy is an old pro, and sneaky good. He knows how to win, and he knows how to take advantage of an opponent’s slip-ups. A little stress could be added to McIlroy’s game by knowing that he is playing with the guy who can best pounce on his mistakes.
Some observers say the guard is changing, but I think it has already changed. The old leaders face too much pressure from younger players who are too good. That’s the way it is in sports. What better venue to see that happening than in the first major tournament of the year?
Remember the Big Five? (actually, Tiger and the Next Best Four). Phil is a footnote this week. Ernie Els tees off four hours before the leaders today and will be finished by the time they start. Vijay Singh is watching on TV, if at all, as is Retief Goosen. And Jim Furyk. Steady player, but never one of the guys you had to beat.
As for Tiger, I would not be surprised if he never wins another major. That edge he had is gone.
Not that he has forgotten how to play. Friday’s 66 was an amazing display of iron play. He was sticking shot after shot so close to the pin that I could have converted the birdie putts. It’s just that he can’t expect to do that every day. No one can.
What won all those majors for him was his putting. Saturday, he missed putts of two, four, and six feet. His legendary ability to convert every must-make putt he faced is history. That’s enough to stick him in with the Rest of the Pack. And yet his focus is on changing his swing. Go figure.
It’s time for a new set of heros to emerge, and quite frankly, it’s more than overdue.
The weather forecast for Augusta today is sunny and 88 degrees. It will be time well spent to watch the final today. While you’re waiting for it to start,