Who has three green jackets, a winning smile, and one big thumb? This guy. (Image: debby19/Flickr)

Let’s hop right to it. The 2010 Masters was unforgettable. Here are few thoughts about some of the bigger names:

Phil Mickelson: I like Phil. I’m not as big a Mickelson fan as most golfers, but I generally like him. With the struggles with breast cancer his wife, Amy, has faced in the last year, it was hard not to cheer for Mickelson down the stretch. It seems like just a few years ago when we were wondering if Phil could ever win the big one. On Sunday, he won his third green jacket and fourth major title. If he never does anything else (unlikely), the guy will go down as one of the greatest.

Tiger Woods: I say this in the loosest of terms: Tiger’s game reminded me a bit of anyone who has taken a bit of time off from playing. After a few months off, I’m just as likely to make a birdie as I am a double bogey. Did you see the pop up shots? Wow. After all that, though, he finishes in 4th place. Pretty amazing. I love his post-round answer to the question, “Did you expect to win?”–to which he replied, “Well, I entered the tournament.” It will be interesting to see when Woods plays next and if his extended time off will continue to affect his play. I think he’ll be back for The Players next month.

Fred Couples: What did I tell you? Okay. So I got my facts wrong—Couples is already on the Senior Tour (Thanks Mike). Does anyone really watch the Champions Tour? But watching Freddy play so well out there this week was like a blast from the past. It felt like 1995. If only he could’ve made a few of those short putts, Couples could have been right there at the end.

Lee Westwood: I’ve gone on and on about Lee Westwood on this blog. I love his game. I love his swing. Westwood is in his prime and has to win a major in the next two years or it’s a freaking shame.

Anthony Kim: I think Kim is ready to win a major now. Incredible 65 on Sunday. He definitely has the game, and I think he’s putting everything else together. He’s the kind of player that’s fun to watch.

Next major: U.S. Open on June 17-20 at Pebble Beach. Can Phil go back to back?

Augusta National is open for business.

The 2010 Masters commences on Thursday—and with TW back in the picture, the event promises to quite a spectacle.

Woods got his first press conference out of the way on Monday. He seemed relaxed—much more so than during his five-minute interviews a few weeks ago.

You’ve no doubt read all the details of the press conference, so I won’t rehash that here. But what should we expect from Tiger in this year’s Masters? Can he really win it after 5 months away from the game?

Could Couples recapture the magic? (Image:scubaeddie32/Flickr)

Yes. To say that Tiger can’t win this tournament just because he’s been off the Tour since November is a bit naïve. This might be one of the few times in my life I would take my chances on the field versus Tiger, but that doesn’t mean he can’t walk out there and capture his fifth Masters crown.

A lot of big names have been playing well recently. Els, Kim, Villegas, Furyk…and what about Freddy Couples? Could the old-timer (he’ll be eligible for the Senior Tour next year. How hard is that to believe?) replicate his 1992 Masters win?

Doubtful. But he’s been playing well, and he’s a name to watch. If Couples somehow manages to be in contention on Sunday, watch out.

My pick it to win it all? Not Woods. But I do think he’ll post a respectable top 20. I’ll take Camilo Villegas. He’s due. That’s my amateur golf prognosticator reasoning. If you want something more in-depth, you’re on the wrong site.

Watch out for Camilo.

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Perry just missed becoming the oldest player to win a major. (Image: Fiveholer/Flickr)

Angel Cabrera played asleep during most of the final round on Sunday. At one point, he was the only player in the top 13 who was over par. But he showed up when it mattered most.

Cabrera was +2 after 10 holes, seemingly out of  the tournament, with Woods and Mickelson on fire and his playing partner Kenny Perry holding steady at even on the day.

But Cabrera birdied three holes down the stretch while Perry bogied 17 and 18 to allow Angel and Chad Campbell back into the tournament, all three pairing up for a sudden death playoff.

After Campbell missed a three footer on the first playoff hole, Perry and Cabrera moved on to the 7th hole–the second hole in the sudden death matchup. Perry missed his approach shot badly right and couldn’t get up and down. Cabrera made a solid two putt to win his second major.

There’s your brief recap. Congratulations to Angel Cabrera.

But, me, I’m a bit disappointed. Tiger and Phil were on fire through 16. This was setting up to be one of the most memorable final rounds in Masters history. Unfortunately, Woods faded on 17 and 18 and Mickelson lost confidence in his flat blade, missing a few short birdie putts.  When was the last time you saw Tiger hit dead center into a tree like he did on 18?

It’s been awhile since the golf world has seen a Tiger-Phil showdown like that one. With the television coverage and the crowd noise, you would’ve thought Woods and Mickelson were in the final group. The Perry and Cabrera pairing seemed to have the gallery energy of a Hooters event (no offense to Hooters players, of course.)

So the ending was a bit anticlimactic. But, still, you can’t complain about a sudden death playoff in a major. Golf at its finest.

The first major of 2009 was a good one. On to Bethpage Black in June.

For a little more information about Bethpage Black–and the last Open played there in 2002–read my post on the subject.

masters-iphone1For all of you iPhone users:

A really cool Masters app is now available in the App Store. You can watch live video from Amen Corner and holes 15 and 16. The app also has a live leaderboard, hole flyover videos, player tracking, and a bunch of other stuff.

One of the coolest sports apps I’ve seen. You can’t beat live video.

Thanks to Michael Finney for the tip.

Augusta National Hole #1, Tea Olive (Image: Brerwolfe/Flickr)

Augusta National Hole #1, Tea Olive (Image: Brerwolfe/Flickr)

It’s Masters Week. One of the greatest annual sporting events is upon us again.

Tiger Woods will tee it up at 1:53 ET on Thursday, firing for his 15th major—just five away from Jack Nicklaus’ record. After his showing at Bay Hill, there is no reason to believe Woods isn’t as strong as ever. New knee. Same incredible swing. No one would be surprised if Tiger wins.

Here’s a few of Tiger’s stats for you to marinate on:

  • Woods has a 30.6% winning percentage in majors. That’s 14 wins in 46 starts. Thirty percent is a good batting average, but a golf tournament winning percentage? Incredible.
  • In the last four seasons, Tiger has played in 14 majors and won six. In that period, only twice did he finish outside the top four.
  • Tiger has won 66 tour events, 16 short of Sam Snead’s record.

Need we say more here?

Enough about Tiger though; of course he’s the favorite. Who else could give him a run?

  • Phil Mickelson: Standard answer here. But Mick has won twice already this season. Problem is, Phil fades when Tiger plays well. Coincidence?
  • Steve Stricker: One of Game Under Repair’s all time faves, Strick has three top 4 finishes this year. He’s rolling, but he needs to finish.
  • Sergio Garcia: A few months ago, I picked Sergio to win The Masters this year. So, though he’s sucking as of late, I’ll still include him here. Four more tries to win a major before he turns 30.
  • Camilo Villegas: He conquered the big stage at the Tour Championship last year. Let’s see how he does in the biggest tournament so far in 2009.
  • Rory McIlroy: He’s 19. He doesn’t know any better. Why not?
  • Lee Westwood: I just love his swing, and I want to see it on TV this weekend. That’s why he’s on this list.
  • Brandt Snedeker: Nashville guy. I’m biased.

Ian Woosnam, Chez Reavie, and Briny Baird kick off The 2009 Masters Thursday morning at 8:00 a.m. ET.

Check back for Game Under Repair’s cutting insight all week.

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Image: C Fredrickson Photography/Flickr

In other news, Nebraska is expected to play in the national title game, even though they didn’t win their conference title.

If you don’t get that joke, don’t worry. It’s for college football geeks like me.

Word is, if Sergio wins this week’s WGC at Doral, and Tiger Woods finishes 27th or worse, the 29-year-old Spaniard will eclipse Woods for the number one spot in the world. This without ever having won a major, and this with Tiger having won four of the last six stroke play events in which he has participated.

In other words, the world golf rankings are a bit silly.

If the above scenario plays out and Garcia does take over the number one spot, we’ll still know who the best player in the world is. We don’t need a computer formula to tell us.

I think I’m one of the few American golfers who actually likes Sergio. A few months ago, I even picked him to win this year’s Masters. But it’s ridiculous to say he is the number one player in the world. Ask any professional in the world who they would rather play against: Tiger or Sergio? Should this even be up for discussion?

As I said, the golf rankings are a bit silly. If Garcia does climb to the top, hopefully he’ll enjoy his brief stay.

So Game Under Repair returns from the holiday break. Refreshed, renewed, ready to rock in 2009. I’ve got to admit…a little distracted by other sports over the holidays, mainly the NFL. My Atlanta Falcons made quite a run this year. Tough loss in the playoffs on Saturday, but with Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, and Coach Smith, the future is bright. But that’s neither here nor there.

Amazingly, the 2009 Tour Season begins on Thursday. Rookies and vets alike will tee it up in Hawaii at the Mercedez Benz Championship. What will the year hold?

For starters, the Great One will return at some point this year. El Tigre has yet to mention when he might come back, but I can’t imagine he’ll miss the Masters. If I had to guess, I’d say Tiger will be ready by March. He’ll play at Bay Hill, possibly the Match Play, though that would be  a tough tournament to make a return.

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Methinks Sergio will win that elusive first major in 2009--likely in April. (Image: gallow_chris/Flickr)

Other than that, we’ve got a great 2009 to look forward to. Will Mickelson return to his major form? Will Kim, Villegas, or Garcia pick up that first major? How will Tiger fare after the knee surgery? Will the FedEx Cup be interesting at all this year? Will John Daly make a cut–in Europe? Will Vijay Singh smile? Great stuff.

On a personal note, my game is probably a disaster right now.  Golf-wise, December was a dreadful month here in Nashville. It rained all month. In fact, it’s raining at this moment. So the trend continues in January. I hope to pick up a new hybrid and a three wood before spring. I’m still hoping to qualify for the State Am this year. But I’ve yet to get in the needed 20 rounds to re-establish my handicap.

This year should be a good one. Look for more Chip Shots columns, though probably not weekly since the season is cranking back up. If I establish a new schedule, I’ll let you know. Also, look for a customized design to the site sometime this year. I’m going to hire a graphic designer to put a little more of a golf touch to my blog. Nothing too fancy, but something a little more unique than the current WordPress template.

Well that’ll do it for the first post of 2009. Sorry for the hiatus. But golf is almost back. So expect more soon.