Halfway home at Augusta: Can an Angel win?

April 11, 2009 | Drew Forrester

Tiger Woods can’t putt the greens at Augusta anymore, Anthony Kim couldn’t miss a putt on Friday and Chad Campbell and Kenny Perry are co-leaders at The Masters through 36 holes.

It’s been a strange couple of days in the Georgia pines thus far.

With good, spring’ish weather on the horizon for the weekend, it’s fair to assume scoring won’t be a problem for the game’s greatest players, although the pin placements and heightened tension that comes with contending for a green jacket will slightly decrease the birdie and eagle totals over the next two days.

Right now – with the leaders at 9-under par – I’m guessing something like -13 is going to win the tournament.  

That leaves Tiger out, running his winless green-streak to four years, the longest of his professional career (he won in ’97, ’01, ’02 and ’05).

I know, Tiger’s NEVER out of it.  This year, though, I think he is, stationed at -2 through two rounds and unable to hole a bucket-full of putts on the puzzling Augusta greens.  Golf’s a game of “shoulda, coulda, woulda”.  Woods would EASILY be in the lead right now if his hole-able putts would have gone in Thursday and Friday.  But, they didn’t.  And that’s why he’s not going to win.  If my -13 score holds up, Woods would have to craft rounds of 66-67 to claim his 5th green jacket.  He’s obviously exceedingly capable of doing that, but I don’t think he’s going to wake up today and suddenly start making every putt he looks at in round 3.  Tiger’s stuck on 14 major titles until the big boys reconvene in 10 weeks at Bethpage for the U.S. Open.

One guy who suddenly started making every putt he looked at is American Anthony Kim, who made 11 birdies in Friday’s second round to move from out-of-contention and going-home-early to in-contention and ready to charge.  Kim’s 11-birdie effort yielded “only” a round of 65, but he’s back in the tournament at -4.  

Also back in the tournament – quietly – is the major-less Sergio Garcia, who put together a tidy little 67 on Friday to also creep up the leaderboard at -4.  

My pre-tournament pick, Tim Clark, looked as if his par-3 win would again culminate in a losing effort in the real tournament when he shot 40 on the outward nine Friday afternoon, but the South African got it back with an eagle and four birdies coming in to shoot 71 and post -5 for two rounds, leaving him very much a factor heading into the weekend.

Todd Hamilton is -6.  That’s all I’m going to say about him.  He can’t win.

Angel Cabrera is, for my money, right now, the man to watch over the weekend.  The ’07 U.S. Open champ is one of those guys that you’re never really aware of until he birdies 3 out of 6 holes and is suddenly “three shots back” and lurking.  He’s strong enough to reach the par 5’s and goes about his business in sort of an unassuming way that might sit well with the Gods of Augusta.  Not that I’d ever bet on golf, but I’d put some of Ethan’s college money on Cabrera right now.

Chad Campbell and Kenny Perry are interesting possibilities this weekend.  Neither has won a major title, although Perry has been one of the TOUR’s best players over the last two years.  Campbell is a guy who generally either makes a lot of birdies and contends or shoots 72 and makes a check.  He’s had two chances to run away and hide this week.  On Thursday, he stood on the 17th tee at -9, three shots clear of the field, but went bogey-bogey to finish at 65 and give everyone else hope.  Friday, he moved out to -11 before stumbling on the back nine and posting 9-under par to share the halfway lead with Perry.  Campbell has contended at Augusta before, so seeing his name on top of the leaderboard isn’t necessarily a shock.  

Seeing Campbell’s name on top of the leaderboard Sunday at 7pm would be a shock, though.  I don’t see him winning.

Perry, like Campbell, isn’t a “what’s he doing there?” story at Augusta.  He’s a Ryder Cupper and a supreme ball striker. Experience and shot-making skills can take you far…but I don’t see him putting on the jacket come Sunday evening either.  

I’d like to see Tim Clark win.  He’d be the first guy to ever double-dip (Par-3 and Masters) and Damon Hack of SI.Com would have to mention me in his Monday blog since I picked Clark last Wednesday when Hack spent some time with me on The Comcast Morning Show.  

My call – now – is Angel Cabrera.  He’ll play solid again today and post a -10 or -11 score after three rounds and play in the final group on Sunday.  I think Garcia will make a charge today and work his way into one of the final two groups on Sunday. Watch out for a guy like Stephen Ames (-3) to come from off the pace to post something solid today like 67 and get in position to think Sunday green.  Anthony Kim and Rory Sabbatini are both easily within striking distance if they shoot a low number today.  

The guy I continue to dismiss, Todd Hamilton, will probably win by three shots.  It always works that way.

In the end, with the weather cooperating and the tournament committee evidently no longer hell-bent on seeing plod-and-par golf be the staple of their event, birdies are going to be the story of the weekend at Augusta. 

The old adage – “The Masters doesn’t begin until the back nine on Sunday” – is going to play out this year and no matter who wears the jacket on Sunday, that’s going to make for a great weekend of golf.