By Ann Liguori
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WFAN) — With the Masters set to begin on Thursday, the shaky weather forecast is a concern.
Augusta National closed the course on Monday afternoon after thunderstorms blanketed the area and multiple tornadoes did damage throughout the metro Augusta area.
Tuesday’s forecast looks much better — mostly sunny and warm with a high of 86, and winds at 10-15 mph. But more rain and thunderstorms are in the forecast for Wednesday’s practice round, with winds increasing to 10-20 mph. As for the opening round on Thursday, there is a 30 percent chance of early morning showers and the wind is expected to gust 30-35 mph. There is no rain in the forecast for Friday, Saturday or Sunday at this point, but the story will continue to be the wind, with gusts on Friday predicted to hover in the 25-30 mph range.
Needless to say, wind will dry up the course and make conditions hard and quick, adding to Augusta National’s difficulty. Weekend forecasts call for cooler temperatures, sunny and pleasant conditions, and the windy conditions are predicted to calm down to 6-12 mph on Saturday and 5-10 mph on Sunday.
Another major story line is that Tiger Woods will be on the premises but won’t be playing. The four-time Masters champion was expected to attend the Champions Dinner at Augusta National on Tuesday evening.
Tiger wrote on his website this past Friday that he continues to rehab his back and is not ready to play. He missed last year’s Masters as well due to back issues. In fact, Tiger is now set to miss three of the last four Masters. His last win at Augusta happened back in 2005.
“Unfortunately, I won’t be competing in this year’s Masters,” Tiger posted on his website. “I did about everything I could to play, but my back rehabilitation didn’t allow me the time to get tournament ready. I’m especially upset because it’s a special anniversary for me that’s filled with a lot of great memories. I can’t believe it’s been 20 years since I won my first green jacket.”
Tiger’s new book, “The 1997 Masters: My Story,” reflects on him winning by 12 shots in his first major as a professional, shooting 70-66-65-69 on his way to setting 20 tournament records.
Jordan Spieth, who won his green jacket in 2015 and is a favorite again this week, is tired of talking about whether he’s over the meltdown he suffered last year when his five-shot lead entering the final round evaporated during a three-hole, 45-minute disaster.
After birdying holes 6, 7, 8 and 9, Spieth bogeyed 10 and 11 and bottomed out with a quadruple bogey on the par-3, 12th. Even though Spieth managed to birdie holes 13 and 15, he bogeyed 17. Danny Willett was in the clubhouse with a lead at 5-under and ended up winning his first major title. Spieth finished tied for second with Lee Westwood.
Dustin Johnson, the top-ranked player in the world, is the clear favorite to win this week. The 32-year-old is coming into the Masters off three straight wins — the Genesis Open in February, the Mexico Championships two weeks later and The WGC Match Play in early March. Can he win his first Masters? If he navigates Augusta National with his typical long, accurate tee shots and his much-improved short game and putter, and doesn’t over-think things, the sky’s the limit for him. Johnson is my pick this year.
Rory McIlroy will complete a career grand slam with a win this week. He has said that he “wouldn’t feel fulfilled, if he doesn’t win a Masters.” Last year, McIlroy played in the final group with Spieth on Sunday, but ended up tied for 10th. He has his own demons to erase from memory. In 2011, his four-shot lead was derailed with a triple bogey on 10.
There are so many stories as any number of players can win this week. Jason Day, who is under emotional duress due to his mother’s bout with lung cancer, is looking for his first green jacket. Henrik Stenson, last year’s British Open champ, is always a threat. Phil Mickelson, with his expertise and magical touch, is playing for his fourth Masters title. Matt Kuchar, who took bronze at the Rio Summer Games, is due to win here, while young guns like Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm are poised to make more noise.
The story angles are endless, but one thing’s for certain: whoever plays the most mistake-free golf and can maintain his nerves and composure will find himself at the top of the leaderboard come Sunday evening.
Please follow Ann on Twitter at @AnnLiguori