Masters signals start of spring

Published 3:55 am Sunday, April 11, 2010

The calendar says it has been spring for a few weeks now, but according to many sports fans, the season of change began just three days ago.

That’s when the 2010 Masters began, which signals the unofficial start of spring for those who follow the calendar according to sports.

There’s just something about seeing the azaleas in bloom on the pristine patch of land in Georgia that makes The Masters more than just a golf tournament.

There is an aura and ambiance to the whole tournament that makes it one of the most special events on not only the PGA Tour, but the entire sports world.

Natchez Mayor Jake Middleton can attest to that. Last year, Middleton received the gift of a lifetime from his wife, tickets to the tournament.

Middleton said that just walking the Augusta National grounds was a special treat, never mind seeing the top golfers in the world perform.

Now I’m not a big golf fan. I only occasionally watch regular golf tournaments, but I always watch the majors, and you can rest assured I will be glued to the television all afternoon to see the final round of this year’s Masters.

There are so many plot lines that make today’s final round one of the most anticipated in not just Master’s history, but perhaps in the history of major tournament golf.

Of course, everything starts with Tiger Woods.

Woods, in his first tournament back since a car crash and an embarrassing sex scandal sent his pristine image crashing down, sits in third place just four shots off the lead.

Tiger is well-capable of making a charge, but has never won a major when trailing at the beginning of the final round.

Is this the time for him to finally break that streak and pick up the most improbable and dramatic victory of his career?

Then there is Phil Mickelson. Lefty, as he is known by his fans, had a spectacular third round, charging up the leaderboard on the strength of consecutive eagles.

Mickelson holed an 8-foot eagle putt on No. 13 and then holed a chip for another eagle on No. 14. He almost holed out another chip for eagle on 15, but settled for a birdie, making up five shots in just three holes and vaulting him into the lead at that point.

Phil is in great position to win his third green jacket and perhaps finally break out of Tiger’s long shadow.

But the man they are all chasing is Lee Westwood, or as my wife calls him, the dowdy American guy (which shows you how much she follows golf, Westwood is British).

He put together a solid 68 in his third round to take a one-shot lead into today’s final round.

Westwood has never won a major, but has come so close in the last couple of years, finishing one shot out of a playoff in the 2008 U.S. Open and one shot out of a playoff in last year’s British Open.

Will this be the year Westwood finally breaks through and gets that elusive major?

Only time will tell, but I can tell you one thing. I can’t wait to find out.

Jeff Edwards is the sports editor for The Democrat. He can be reached at sports@natchezdemocrat.com, or by phone at 601-445-3632.