Part of the fun of a major championship like The Masters is watching the pairings over the first two rounds, as each tournament uses different factors in determining which golfers they group together. The pairings have been released for the first two rounds at Augusta National, and based on what I’ve seen so far, they are sure to be some fireworks.
One of the more interesting pairings, at least in my opinion, is that of 14 year old Tianlang Guan, 19 year old Italian Matteo Manassero and 61 year old Ben Crenshaw. They’ll be going off at 12:24 p.m. Thursday and 9:06 a.m. Friday. Guan will become the youngest player to ever compete in the Masters and will be taking that honor from Manassero, who made his first trip down Magnolia Lane when he was 16. Crenshaw is clearly the elder statesmen in the group, having won his first Masters title well before either of his playing partners was born. Having the ability to lean on Manassero and Crenshaw could prove invaluable for Guan.
Defending champion Bubba Watson will be playing alongside Ian Poulter and amateur Steven Fox. The group will get their event underway at 10:34 a.m. Thursday and 1:30 p.m. Friday. Watson is clearly the name to watch here, as he tries to become the fourth golfer to win back-to-back major championships. He’s gotten surprisingly little love this week from the experts. His average finish in his eight starts is 21st, with his best result coming last year when he finished in seventh. Fox is the U.S. Amateur champion and will be looking to use this event as springboard to his pro career.
Phil Mickelson, who’s won the green jacket three times will be playing with the 2010 British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen and 2010 PGA Championship winner Martin Kaymer. You’ll be able to see them get going at 1:30 p.m. Thursday and 10:23 a.m. Friday. Mickelson is the one to watch here, as he is always a fan favorite and loves this track. Kaymer hasn’t done much since his brief stint as number one in the world back in 2011. Oosthuizen has only played five PGA Tour events this year, but has finished in the top 25 in three of those.
The number two golfer in the world, Rory McIlroy will be playing with Fredrik Jacobson, who qualified at the last possible minute, and Keegan Bradley, one of the new generation of American golfers. They’ll tee off at 1:41 p.m. Thursday and 10:34 a.m. Friday. McIlroy may have finally found his game after his offseason equipment change and the subsequent damage to his psyche. Bradley finished 27th in his first go-round at Augusta last year and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the top 20 based on how he’s played so far this year. Jacobson, the flamboyant Swede, has finished in the top 25 in five of his six starts in 2013. His best finish at Augusta came in 2004 when he tied for 17th. He’ll be around over the weekend but won’t be much of a factor.
In case you weren’t aware, some guy named Tiger Woods is also playing this week. He’ll tee off at 10:45 a.m. Thursday and 1:41 p.m. on Friday with Luke Donald and Scott Piercy. Woods is seeking his fifth green jacket and Donald was previously ranked number one in the world. Piercy has to feel the like the odd man out in this group. He has two career wins and has never played in The Masters before. I’ll be keeping an eye on him to see if he keeps his composure or if he lets the spotlight of playing with Woods and Donald fluster him early.