Great golfers, like great magicians, work with a very definitive sort of grace. Everything seems smooth and easy, even when they’re standing awkwardly on a hill, or behind a tree, or in the sand. Yet, as anyone who has ever held a club can tell you, simply getting the ball off the ground is extremely difficult. And, unlike swinging a bat, even if you do make contact with the ball, it’s impossible to control. Still, when you watch Tiger or Rory take a swing, it’s like they picked up the ball with their hand and threw it exactly where they wanted when you weren’t looking – except you were. Coverage of the event is scheduled to begin this week and runs through the weekend. CBS will be providing live coverage of the final rounds in the 2012 Masters Tournament on Saturday, April 7th and Sunday, April 8th. The following golfers are who I believe to be the top 6 contenders complete with their appropriate magician counterpart(s).
The Unholy Three: Luke Donald, Justin Rose, Hunter Mahan
The Unholy Three is a magical cabaret trio made up of three magicians, David Lovering, Rob Zabrecky, and Fitzgerald who got their start in the famous Magic Castle in Hollywood and have been garnering praise ever since. Although each is capable of standing alone as a magician, they are most widely recognized when they perform together.
By the same token, although Donald, Rose and Mahan all stand an equally good chance at winning this weekend, the one thing that they lack individually is the star power of the three Magicians below. Collectively, however, they are the likely best hope of anyone from “the field”. Each is currently ranked in the top 15 (Mahan at 1, Rose at 7 and Donald at 14) and each has a tournament win to his credit this year (with Mahan winning last week’s Shell Houston Open.)
David Copperfield: Phil Mickelson
David Copperfield was, in his heyday, probably the most recognizable magician in the world. He’s quietly built himself a massive empire and, according to Forbes in 2009, earned upwards of $30 million. And yet we rarely hear anything about him nowadays. Why? Because he is steady and…(dare I say it) boring! You know exactly what you’re going to get from him.
Phil is this way as well. He rarely finishes outside of the top 25, but his win percentage is also very low. The elder statesmen of the group, Phil’s skills have not necessarily declined, but still seems to be down this year from the past (despite his #4 FedEx cup ranking.) Great players have it in them to, at any given time, ascend to a championship level (i.e. Tom Watson circa 2009 and his legendary run to contention, at age 59, at the Open Championship.) The one knock on Phil, however, is that his focus seems to occasionally deviate to events off the course.
Neil Patrick Harris: Rory McIlroy
Harris is widely recognized as one of the most versatile, and talented individuals on earth. Perhaps best known for his acting, he is also a regular at the aforementioned Magic Castle and typically performs some kind of magic trick on every talk-show he appears on. Widely beloved, he has a pristine reputation as being one of the classiest individuals in Hollywood.
This description also applies to McIlroy, who, although widely acknowledged as the best young golfer on the planet and a great guy, is associated just as much with something outside his sport (his girlfriend, WTA bombshell Caroline Wozniacki), as he is with the sport itself. And although McIlroy isn’t known as the golf-aholic Tiger was at the same age, his natural abilities have allowed him to remain in contention in every tournament that he’s played.
Ace Up His Sleeve: His consistency. McIlroy has played only three of the 10 big tournaments this season and yet he has three top 3 finishes and one win. That’s why, despite last competing almost a month ago, he is still ranked #3 in the FedEx Cup standings behind two players who have played in a combined 17 tournaments between them.
Rabbit In His Hat: Ability to stay under par. Of the 8 rounds that McIlroy has scored this season (the other tournament he played was match-play) he finished over par only once, his first round at Doral where he shot 73. Otherwise, he always managed to stay under par. Why is this so important? Because he’s always within striking distance of the lead. Sometimes, half the battle is being close in the end and letting everyone else fall out around you.
Guillotine: History. Everyone remembers last year’s Masters where he famously took a 4-shot lead into the final round only to spontaneously combust on live tv, ending with an 80 and tied for 15th.
Prognosis: Has the talent to match up with Tiger, but will traumatic memories resurface at the most inopportune time? I think he gives Tiger a run for his money only to (once again) fall tragically short at the end.
Siegfried and Roy: Tiger Woods
The obvious (and too easy to pass up) Tiger usage pun aside, it is particularly apt to compare these two famed magicians to Tiger her,e given their pioneering work in the field. Siegfried and Roy are sometimes credited with not just bringing magic to Vegas, but coming to define it as well. So too with Tiger Woods, who at one time so embodied the sport of golf that people talked about him being the most dominant athlete in any sport, at any time.
Ace Up His Sleeve: His caddy, Joe LaCava. He helped Tiger win his most significant tournament to date, two weeks ago at Bay Hill. If he is to have a shot, Tiger will need LaCava to be a steadying hand down the stretch, something that could be a bit of a wild card given that LaCava is not likely to have faced this kind of pressure and expectations before, even during his 20 year tenure with Freddy Couples.
Rabbit in His Hat: His lucky Red Shirt. Everyone knows about it and everyone used to know what it symbolized. It had been dusty and tarnished up until his win two weeks ago. Regardless, I can guarantee that whether or not it has any juice left in it, he’ll be wearing it on Sunday.
Guillotine: Nerves. Yes, Tiger has played in majors since his personal life meltdown in 2009. However, it has been awhile since he’s played in one with the type of expectations that will follow him here. It is widely understood that the sport needs Tiger, probably more than he needs the sport. And even though he’s walked up the 18th green with the lead on Sunday four times already, the cacophony surrounding him if he were to be in the same position this Sunday might drown out any muscle memory he had left from the occasion.
Prognosis: Call me influenced by hope, but TIGER IS BACK BABY! If for no other reason than I selfishly want, just one more time, to witness the greatness I did in 2008 when he bested Rocco Mediate on one knee in what was easily most exciting golf I’ve ever witnessed. I say he conjures up some his old (dare I say) “Magic” and beats McIlroy by two strokes coming down to the last few holes on the final day.
Harrison Goo is a contributor to CBS Local Digital Media and the founder of the sports blog SportsGooru.com. To contact him, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org & follow him on twitter at @sportsgooru.