In the words of my esteemed colleague Jim Nantz … hello, friends. Welcome to the Masters.
Arguably the biggest golf event of the year gets underway today, as the 2021 Masters kick off at Augusta National this morning. We’ll dive into who’s got a real shot to win the green jacket this year, and that’s just scraping the surface of all the coverage we’ll have over the coming days. You better believe we’ll give you everything you need to know.
We’ll also touch on Sean Miller’s firing at Arizona (and who might replace him), yesterday’s Champions League action and an update on Tiger Woods’ February car crash.
The golf is underway so what do you say we get right to it this morning, huh?
📰 What you need to know
1. The 2021 Masters is here. Here’s who actually has a shot at winning 🏌
It’s a beautiful day for some golf at Augusta National, ain’t it? Well, perhaps not in the forecast-sense, but we’ve still got 88 golfers vying for the right to don the green jacket this Sunday. Of course, not all of them have a realistic shot of doing so. By the end of today’s opening round, we’ll have a relatively good idea of which players have a chance and which have already played themselves out of contention.
With that in mind, our ever-brilliant golf guru Kyle Porter is here to help proactively narrow down the list of legitimate contenders before we even get started. Here’s a handful of guys he thinks can actually win it:
- Jordan Spieth (10-1): Spieth has been red-hot since February, and he’s coming off a win last weekend — his first in four years. He’s already proven himself at Augusta National and things are trending in his direction right now
- Dustin Johnson (9-1): No surprise here, right? He’s the reigning Masters champ, who has five straight top 10s and the scoring record at the event. He tends to thrive at Augusta National. Putting could be an issue if the greens are super-fast, but otherwise he’s the favorite for a reason
- Justin Thomas (10-1): He’s got success at Augusta National and if his approach game is on this week, then there’s reason to believe that his issues putting may not even matter
- Bryson DeChambeau (11-1): He’s become the center of attention thanks to his undeniable love for completely smashing balls as hard as he can, and that might help give him a real shot if he plays the course like a par 67 or 68. But he’ll also have to find enough finesse in and around the greens if he wants to squeeze those beefy arms into the green jacket
- Rory McIlroy (14-1): Today’s opening round may not be as important for anyone as it is for Rory. He’s got his share of issues, but he’s a different beast with some confidence behind him. There’s a reason he’s got more top 10s in the last decade than anyone else in the field
You can check out the rest of Porter’s list here, and it includes some longer shots — as high as 33-1. If you’re interested in diving even deeper, Porter has also ranked the ENTIRE field (sorry Ian Woosnam, you’re Mr. Irrelevant this year.)
It’s worth noting that Porter believes Augusta National could play as difficult as ever this year, which should give the world’s most talented players (especially those strong with irons) an advantage this week. The course is looking firm and fast due to how dry it is, and that could make for a very fierce tournament.
One thing that may help even the playing field a bit? Rain is expected on three of the four tournament days, which would slow things down. Either way, we’ve got an elite field and one of the most thrilling weekends of golf waiting for us in the coming days, so let’s enjoy the ride. You can find the full schedule here and follow along with our golf crew’s live blog here. The only thing we’re missing is Tiger.
2. Who is going to replace Sean Miller at Arizona? 🏀
Sean Miller was axed as the head coach of the Arizona Wildcats on Wednesday as the school awaits NCAA punishment following nine charges of misconduct (five of which are Level I allegations, the most serious in nature.) Those charges come as the result of an FBI wiretap investigation that found Miller discussed payments for prospects, his staff accepted bribes and steered recruits toward financial advisers.
Despite an outstanding run with the school (302-109 record and three Elite Eights in 12 seasons), it’s not a shock that Miller is out of a job following the scandal — the only question is why it took so long. And even though the program’s reputation has been tarnished as result of the investigation, it remains a very appealing coaching destination.
So, who could be in line to replace Miller and get Arizona back on the right track? Our college hoops insiders Matt Norlander and Gary Parrish highlight a few possibilities:
- Tommy Lloyd, Gonzaga assistant: Lloyd has spent two decades on Mark Few’s staff at Gonzaga and has played a key role in recruitment efforts while the Zags were rising to national prominence. At 46, he’s ready for a shot to run his own program and that opportunity may not come at Gonzaga for a while longer
- Damon Stoudemire, Pacific head coach: Stoudemire is a legendary member of the Arizona family and he’s got five years of coaching experience at Pacific. The 71-77 overall record doesn’t stand out, but he won WCC Coach of the Year last season after a 20-win campaign
- Luke Walton, Kings coach: Walton is another member of the Arizona family and he’s got five years of NBA head coaching experience, though not much success outside of an interim stint with the Warriors. In three seasons with the Lakers and one season with the Kings he’s yet to register a winning record, and the Arizona job could offer a fresh start in a place where he has established goodwill
There are several other guys listed, so check out the additional options here.
It’s not exactly an ideal situation to take over a program embroiled in controversy and attempt to pick up the pieces, but it’s also not an impossible task either. Here’s a reminder that Scott Drew took over Baylor after Dave Bliss was fired following a catastrophic scandal that appeared to leave the program in ruins…and now they’re national champions.
3. Champions League recap: Bayern can’t contain PSG ⚽
The first legs of Champions League quarterfinal matchups are in the books, as Wednesday brought our initial look at the remaining two matchups. PSG took down Bayern Munich in Germany and Chelsea frustrated Porto in Seville, so here’s what you need to know from those results:
- PSG continue to live in Bizarro World: Going against usual trends, PSG is struggling in Ligue 1 but finding results in Europe. With their impressive 3-2 victory yesterday, they’ve now won back-to-back road games at Barcelona and Bayern. Kylian Mbappe scored twice to help push the Parisians to victory
- Time to move on from Sule: Bayern defender Niklas Sule is having a world of trouble trying to handle the speed of Neymar, Mbappe and Angel Di Maria. He looked horrible on the two goals that were scored in the 42 minutes he played
- Chelsea a near lock to advance: The Blues got a 2-0 win on the road, which sets them up very nicely to advance to the semis next week. With how well their defense has been playing, they should be confident about their chances of pushing through
That’ll do it for UCL action this week, but the quarterfinal matchups will pick back up early next week and the second legs know how to bring drama … especially this late in the tournament. Check out the schedule here, bookmark the necessary dates and times and remember: All Champions League matches can be streamed on Paramount+.
4. Details of Tiger Woods’ crash emerge 🏌
It’s been a while since we’ve gotten any updates on Tiger Woods’ February car wreck, but yesterday brought some new information courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office. We’ve got a better idea of what happened in the events leading up to that crash, so here’s the latest:
- It’s believed Woods was driving 84-87 mph in a 45 mph zone when he first lost control of the vehicle and 75 mph when his it finally crashed into a tree
- He may have hit the gas instead of the brake when his car first started veering off the road
- Woods will not be charged with a crime, as speeding and “inability to negotiate the curve of the roadway” were determined to be the sole reason for the crash
- Woods has no recollection of the crash, but there’s no indication that he was behaving or operating the vehicle erratically
Woods has been resting in Florida for most of the past month, but we don’t have many details into how the recovery and rehab is going. At this point, we just have to be glad he’s alive — especially considering how fast he was traveling at impact — and hope that he gets back to full strength.
📝 Odds & Ends
📺 What to watch today
🏒 Bruins vs. Capitals, 7 p.m. | WSH -120 | TV: ESPN+
🏀 Suns vs. Clippers, 10 p.m. | LAC -5 | TV: TNT
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