Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Masterful Tiger Set for the Ultimate Test; Though My Money Is on Woods to Win at Augusta, the Challenge of His Rivals Could Make This the Best Tournament Ever

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Masterful Tiger Set for the Ultimate Test; Though My Money Is on Woods to Win at Augusta, the Challenge of His Rivals Could Make This the Best Tournament Ever

Article excerpt

Byline: MATTHEW NORMAN

THE most lip-smacking, saliva gland-stimulating Masters in memory begins tomorrow in Georgia, and as we await the initial stream of gibberish from Peter Alliss some tantalising questions present themselves. Is it conceivable that Rory McIlroy -- less a baby in golfing terms, at just 19, than a foetus -- will become the youngest winner? Will the holder of that distinction, Tiger Woods, snaffle his 15th major? Might our own Paul Casey, fresh from his maiden pro victory on US soil, take his first? Or can Padraig Harrington win his third in a row and stand within June's US Open of achieving the socalled "Paddy Slam"? There are many others in the hunt for that monumentally hideous Green Jacket, of course, but it is this quartet that intrigues us on the eve of the most florally picturesque sporting event known to humanity.

Propriety demands that we start with Woods. Only he could be away on the sick for the better part of a year, thanks to that horrible knee injury, and cement his status as the planet's greatest sporting star. Now that his chum Roger Federer is unmistakably in terminal decline, any lingering dispute has evaporated.

There wasn't too much doubt before, in truth, because his achievement in winning the 2008 US Open, wincing in excruciation after every drive, beggared belief. Any hopes his old enemy Phil Mickelson and the rest may have had that he'd return diminished were battered a fortnight ago when he won the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

He did it from five shots off the lead, but the only flaw in his record remains that not one of his major victories has come when trailing after three rounds.

Perhaps this is the week for him to lay that curiously persistent ghost. If not, the formbook points towards Casey, whose victory in Texas on Sunday raised him to sixth in the rankings. It is 13 years since an Englishman, Nick Faldo, won the Masters, and interpret that as you please. The fear of 13 stems from the number of diners at the Last Supper, and tomorrow being the anniversary of that meal could be an omen that Casey will be crucified by those quick greens. …

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