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April 6, 2014 | by  | in Opinion Sports |
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Sports Banter with Sammy P

The Masters
Even those who don’t follow golf closely can appreciate the Masters. Played on the same course every year, the tournament represents the best in golf: a pristine course, the first major championship of the year, and that legendary green jacket. Like any year, this week’s contest marks some classic battles and a thousand reasons for sports fans to look forward to those magical four days at Augusta.

Firstly, let’s talk Tiger. His record is exquisite. 14 majors, 106 professional wins, and a total of 677 weeks as world number one. The pressure that Woods is under every time he takes to the course is tenfold to anyone else. His on-course opponents are at times hostile – Sergio García is unsympathetic and slightly racist, Adam Scott is intimidatingly competitive, especially with his douchebag caddy Steve Williams, and Phil Mickelson enjoys playing the ‘good guy’ card, happily capitalising on Tiger’s moral mishaps of recent times. Furthermore, factions within the golfing community have taken an aggressive stand against Tiger in the last four years or so, and the media have been putting the golfing icon under growing pressure ever since that infamous car crash in 2009. Like any major in recent years, this week stands as a golden but pressure-cooker opportunity for Tiger to return to former glory and win back the respect of those less-sympathetic characters in the golfing world.

Then we have the Australian duo. Adam Scott is the current Masters Champion and the first-ever Aussie to earn the green jacket. He joins his fellow countryman Jason Day in the top four of the world golf rankings as of today. However, Adam Scott is seemingly a master in choking, and Day stands as the only other Australian who has a credible chance of claiming the title, meaning that the chances of two straight Australian winners are severely weakened.

Any professional golf tournament is incredibly hard to predict, but let me tell you where the smart money is. In recent memory, the English contestants haven’t had much to celebrate; in the past 21 years, only one Englishman has won a major (Justin Rose won the US Open in Pennsylvania last year). Compare that to the USA with 29 champions in the past two decades, South Africa with five, Australia with four, and Northern Ireland with three. Even New Zealand, Fiji and Zimbabwe have the same major record as England since 1993 (with Michael Campbell, Vijay Singh and Nick Price winning major championships). However, the English contingent at this year’s Masters Tournament are a collective Lion waiting to roar. Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose and Lee Westwood share 84 professional wins and have all finished at least third in major championships in their careers, representing a worthy competitiveness and a collective ability to challenge the world’s best. The law of averages tells us that the ages from 30 to 35 are the most successful years for a professional golfer, but Poulter, Donald, Westwood and Rose range between the ages of 33 and 40, symbolising a healthy balance between hardened experience and physical peak-fitness. Nick Faldo remains the only Englishman to ever win at the Augusta National Golf Club, but the four English lynchpins at the Masters this weekend have a genuine chance of reviving England’s golfing mojo.

The Masters, Live on SS4, from 7 am onwards from Friday to Monday. My top 3 contenders: Lee Westwood, Justin Rose, Matt Kuchar. Ollie Ritchie’s top 4 picks: Adam Scott, Zach Johnson, Jason Day, Hideki Matsuyama.

*We received late news that Tiger Woods was forced to pull out of The Masters due to a back injury. Pity that

Top 5 sports scandals
5: Oscar Pistorius: The South African sprint runner with synthetic legs won the adoration of the world when he competed in the 2012 Summer Olympics, before crashing into controversy for shooting and killing his wife, Reeva Steenkamp. But hey, we should give him a break – Pistorius isn’t the first man to get legless before blowing his load, mistaking his wife for someone else.

4: Caster Semenya: Is it a girl? Is it a boy? Well, apparently it’s a bit of both. I’m not really sure how that works, but the gender-test results of the former 800-metre world champion and Olympic silver medallist certainly made for some interesting headlines.

3: 2000 Spanish Paralympic basketball team: There was no doubt that the Spanish team were by far the best side in the intellectual-disability basketball competition at the 2000 Paralympics. However, the fact that ten out of the 12 competitors in the Spanish team were in no way disabled does considerably undermine their victory. Apparently, Spain just ‘wanted to win something’.

2: Tiger Woods: Usually, an extramarital affair with one person is enough to land a professional athlete in a PR nightmare and media frenzy. The fact that Tiger Woods did it with 12 different mistresses simultaneously must be some sort of record. As a result, Woods lost his wife, his touch on the golf course, a handful of multi-million dollar sponsorship deals, and the respect of thousands.

1: The Hand of God: Great players get away with seemingly illegal behaviour – you make your own luck. Is Richie on his feet? Probably not. Does Nadal keep within time restrictions? No. So it’s no surprise that Diego Maradona got away with a retrospectively blatant handball to give Argentina the edge over England in the 1986 FIFA World Cup quarterfinals.

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