Tiger Woods? Fred Couples? LIV Golf? Will the 2024 Masters offer clarity?

Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods hits a tee shot on Monday on the 12th hole at Augusta National.

Getty Images

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Eyes were looking up. 

Most seem covered too, which is good. We need those for this website. 

They were pointed toward the sun, which was partially blocked by the moon for about a three-hour stretch Monday, with the maximum coverage going down at just after 3 in the afternoon local time here. Eyes even did so on Masters Monday, and they weren’t at the strokes. Not even Augusta National can control Mother Nature’s rare eclipses, though they kindly handed out cool viewing glasses to some folks. 

There’s maybe some symbolism here. 

Eyes are looking up. But what about things

How are they looking in the golf landscape? It’s divided-golf season three, and the Masters is serving as a barometer in a way. In 2022, LIV Golf, the upstart, was two months away from kicking off a feud with the PGA Tour, the established brand, but there was talk. Tension. Then, Phil Mickelson, a three-time green jacket winner, missed the event, after comments involving the league. Last year, there was curiosity. There was commingling of PGA Tour stars and LIV stars, and there were some double-takes. Ooh, look, there’s Rory McIlroy talking to Brooks Koepka — or more accurately, there’s the PGA Tour’s Rory McIlroy talking to LIV Golf’s Brooks Koepka. Ooh, look there’s a logo from the Fireballs, one of the LIV Golf teams. Weird, right? Maybe, maybe not. 

And this year at ANGC? After 10 months of bargaining on a proposed funding deal between the Tour and the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, the backer of LIV?

Is it acceptance? Frustration? Is it nothing at all? What will Augusta chairman Fred Ridley say on the matter in his annual state of the union comments? Will he push for a deal? Or won’t he? Will LIVers have a path to future Masters tournaments? Or won’t they? Will what he and Augusta National say influence others?

All good questions, and as we scene-set for the Masters that starts Thursday, we’ll begin there. It’ll be one of the items to watch this week. As of now, the pros on each side are coming together just at the majors, and there are but only four of those.  

So maybe those patron eyes were looking … higher. Maybe the golf gods — the ones who speed up your swing and speed up the arrival of the beverage cart — have an idea how this will all shake out. 

With that, here are a couple other things we’ll all be looking at this week. 

The Tiger Woods question 

Tiger Woods is back. (We think. Nothing’s official official until Thursday.) It’ll be his first play since pulling out of the Genesis Invitational in February with an ailment. 

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But, as has been well-documented, a lot of things ail Woods. Last week, analyst and longtime friend Notah Begay said this on a conference call previewing the Masters:

“He’s trying to formulate a strategy and approach that he can work within given the constraints that he’s presented with. And he’s got some constraints. He’s got zero mobility in that left ankle and really has low-back challenges now, which he knew he was going to have.”

The Rory McIlroy question 

Is this as Masters-focused as he’s been? Is this the year he wins the career grand slam?

He’s dialed back his PGA Tour leadership role. He’s done a pit stop with Butch Harmon. He’s preaching patience. Shoot, he’s even skipping the Par-3 Contest, according to Golfweek.

Last week, on a teleconference previewing ESPN’s coverage of the Masters, analyst Curtis Strange said this, after speaking with renowned sports psychologist Bob Rotella about McIlroy:

“Bob said the main thing for Rory next week is to stay calm and cool. He had this phrase: Mind has to be stronger than the swing. And I think in Rory’s case, that’s exactly right because he does have some baggage coming into here because he knows he could have won here a couple of times, but he knows he has the game as well. 

“So do what you know how to do. Play your own game. Play smart. Play a little more conservative golf here around at Augusta, they’re talking about. Then on Sunday afternoon, if the chips fall, he’ll be in contention.”

The Scottie Scheffler question 

Does Scottie Scheffler win this for a second time? 

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Maybe easily, considering the poorer form of other stars this year?

Last week, Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee thought to be a possibility, tweeting this:

“This will do one of two things in my opinion. It will either make this year’s Masters… wide open or an absolute cake walk for Scottie Scheffler.”

The Brooks Koepka question 

Koepka’s finished runner-up here twice, including last year. He’s won three PGAs, including one a month after the 2023 Masters. He’s won two U.S. Opens. 

Is this the year?

What does he think? Last week, ahead of his event for LIV, he said this:

“I always thought I was going to win. Like I said I said, I can run down those numbers. Statistically, it’s your best chance to win a major.”

There you go. 

The Fred Couples question 

Fred Couples, the ’92 winner, is back. But how many more does the sublime-swinging 64-year-old have left in him? 

It was Couples who was wondering about his future a few weeks ago. Forever he’s been fighting back concerns.

“I have some hand-picked ones,” Couples said. “I’ll play in Newport because I can get around there, I’ll play here, I might go up to Pebble and play. But I’m not going to travel around and play — I’ve actually felt OK in Hawaii and in Naples, but I just, I can’t — I’m so afraid to hurt myself by practicing for a couple hours and I don’t feel well. 

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“When I was 35, it took me a long time to figure out: OK, what do I have to do so when I’m 36 that I can get through these 18 tournaments? Now that I’m 64, my goal is to not come play a golf tournament and feel bad and finish 45th. That’s not much fun. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with it, but I’m past that. 

“So I’ll play a handful of tournaments and play with my buddies and enjoy golf.”

The newcomer question  

Want to understand the gravity of the Masters? Want to see some of the greatest pros in the world look bug-eyed? 

Find a newbie. 

Thing is, though, first-timers don’t win at Augusta National; only Fuzzy Zoeller has. It takes a while to learn the joint.

Thing is, though, this year’s group is electric. Ludvig Aberg, a superstar in the making. Wyndham Clark, last year’s U.S. Open winner — who said he would never play Augusta until he earned his spot. Nick Dunlap, who turned pro after winning in January. Nicolai Hojgaard, a Ryder Cupper. Eric Cole, a rookie at the age of 35. Jake Knapp, owner of one of the smoothest moves you’ll see. Akshay Bhatia, last week’s winner on the PGA Tour who also once played in the Drive, Chip and Putt event here. Matthieu Pavon. Matthieu Pavon? He was a winner at the Farmers Insurance earlier this year, but his story is something and we’ll have more on these pages in the coming days. 

The Jasper Stubbs question

How does real-life Augusta compare to video-game Augusta National? Amateur Jasper Stubbs, the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, is a wizard at the latter, and this story is a fun read

The food question 

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How will Jon Rahm’s Champions Dinner taste? (It’s here where we must tell you to click over to the profile of the meal’s chef, Jose Andres, wonderfully woven by GOLF’s James Colgan.) 

Also how will Rahm’s speech go? He’s noted that’s made him more nervous than anything else in his title reign.

But most importantly, how are the sandwiches this year? (The author has already had the club as of this writing.)  

A few other questions 

Does the Masters pair Patrick Cantlay with Koepka after Koepka’s slow-play comments from a year ago?

Does the Masters pair Koepka with Gary Woodland after the club-information incident?

How will Rickie Fowler fare in his first Masters since 2020? And what about Camilo Villegas, who’s playing in his first Masters since 2015? And what about Will Zalatoris, who WD’d before the start of last year’s first round due to injury? And Danny Willett, who underwent shoulder surgery following the BMW PGA Championship in September? 

And what about Stewart Hagestad? The amateur is impressively making his third Masters appearance. 

And what about Christo Lamprecht? He’s 6-foot-8, you know. 

And what about Mickelson? He tied for second last year. 

And what about Joaquin Niemann? The LIVer received a special invite after strong showings — outside of LIV.  

How will Adam Schenk look come Tuesday? His Purdue Boilermakers played for the men’s basketball championship on Monday night.   

The answers 

Those come Thursday through Sunday. 

Nick Piastowski

Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor

Nick Piastowski is a Senior Editor at Golf.com and Golf Magazine. In his role, he is responsible for editing, writing and developing stories across the golf space. And when he’s not writing about ways to hit the golf ball farther and straighter, the Milwaukee native is probably playing the game, hitting the ball left, right and short, and drinking a cold beer to wash away his score. You can reach out to him about any of these topics — his stories, his game or his beers — at nick.piastowski@golf.com.

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