Each week for the remainder of the golf season we will be rolling out a mailbag, with any and all questions invited from readers and fans around the world. Have a good question you want answered? Hit me up on Twitter at @shanebacon and we will try to get to it in the coming weeks. Here we go ...
Bacon: It's tough for me to narrow all the great things about the Masters down to one thing, so I've decided to give you my top five favorite traditions at Augusta National.
5.) The respect of the approach shots -- If someone took Phil Mickelson out to a spot on a par-5 and told him to hit a 6-iron somewhere in the vicinity of the flagstick, he would normally take dead aim and probably be pretty close to his target when the shot concluded.
At Augusta, these guys are so knowledgable about the golf course that they tend to "good-miss" golf shots in spots far from where the pin sits. This is all because the players, and caddies, know that if you miss the shot on the other side of the flag you are making a bogey, or worse.
I love watching guys wisely bail on Nos. 13 and 15, or go for the fat part of the green on No. 12, simply knowing that if they do gamble and mess up even a couple of yards their scorecard could be in shambles.
4.) The Par-3 Tournament -- I just think that on the eve of the biggest event of the year, it's absolutely amazing to see these guys spend a couple of hours out on a completely different golf course simply having some fun with the people they love.
It's a beautiful start to an amazing golf tournament and allows us to see guys play golf on television that we won't see play for the rest of the year.
Also, how can you not watch all those kids in the Masters' bibs?! It's amazing.
3.) The Crow's Nest -- This isn't just one of my favorite traditions at Augusta National, it's one of my favorite traditions in all of sports, with the amateurs staying in this legendary loft where some of the most famous golfers in the world have slept.
I love that Augusta invites so many amateurs from around the world to experience this great tournament and the Crow's Nest seems like one of the coolest, and most legendary, places in all of golf.
2.) The Crystal Goblets -- I love the crystal vase awarded to the low round of the day, and the crystal bowl if you happen to make a hole-in-one at the Masters, but there is something about the crystal goblets for the eagle that has always intrigued me. I love the idea of playing a horrible first round and going out on Friday with one goal in mind, and that would be these goblets.
Jack Nicklaus has the most eagles ever at the Masters with 24 so I'm assuming his Thanksgiving dinner is full of crystal water glasses for the guests.
1.) The Opening Tee Shot -- Speaking of Jack, how can you not put this as number one? Jack, Gary Player and Arnold Palmer all starting the Masters with an opening tee shot is just the coolest and it allows grandfathers, dads and kids to all get a glimpse at legends that they might never get a chance to see again.
The only time I got to witness these three go after it I was in such a loopy daze after that I had to go settle my stomach down with a couple of pimento cheese sandwiches. Those always do the trick.
@shanebacon If you were a first time player would you consider using one of Augusta's caddies rather than your regular loop?— Irwin Rosenrosen (@RealRosenRosen) April 1, 2014
Bacon: Well, it's really a two-part question. If I'm a professional, there is no chance I'm not going with my usual caddie. These guys are so good at their jobs it's unbelievable, and Augusta, St. Andrews or Joe's Pitch and Putt, they'll figure out what they need to figure out and be totally fine.
If I'm an amateur, I'm taking an Augusta caddie without a doubt in my mind. So many of these amateurs bring their dads out or a buddy, who know basically nothing about Augusta and are only there to mule the golf bag around.
I want an Augusta caddie if I'm an amateur and I would probably ask the club for the best one available to make sure I had the best chance at making the cut.
@shanebacon Would you rather see an under 25 guy win their first green jacket or an old vet like Couples or T Watson shocking the field?— Brandon Feldt (@TheRealBFeldt) April 3, 2014
Bacon: Wow, what a great question.
Here are the guys under 25 with a legit shot at winning the Masters — Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama, Victor Dubuisson, Patrick Reed, Harris English, and Jordan Spieth. There are a few other people in the field under 25, but I'm not including them because I don't think they have a serious shot at winning this major championship (and also, Jason Day is 26 so he's out).
For me, I'm going Fred Couples of Tom Watson. I think Watson's run at the British Open was one of the best golf events I've ever watched, seeing a guy basically look at age in the face and tell it he wasn't ready, and while he should have won that event, it was just great seeing it all go down.
When Couples gets in the hunt at Augusta it makes the entire event more fun, so I think I'm going older guys over younger guys by a small margin.
My hope is that an older guy likes Couples and a younger guy like Rory or Jordan could sneak into a weekend final group and give us some serious generational fireworks. That would be so sweet.
Bacon: It's an interesting question because some of the biggest names in the game have really, really been struggling.
My pick? Bubba Watson. The former champion might have withdrawn from the Arnold Palmer Invitational after a brutal opening 83, but if you take his words at face value it was just an allergy attack that forced him to struggle not just with his health but with keeping his focus on the golf course.
Before that Bubba went T-2 in Phoenix, won the Northern Trust, T-9 at the Accenture and T-2 at Doral. That is a pretty polished resume heading into a place he's comfortable playing and even if you point to that nasty round at Bay Hill, I'm sure Watson has forgot about it at this point and is primed and ready to keep his great year going at the Augusta.
@shanebacon Will Stricker ever win a Major? His timing window seems to be closing.— Scott Herbst (@herbst20) April 2, 2014
Bacon: I was on the radio with the fine folks of The Fan in Green Bay on Wednesday and they asked this same question.
Here is basically what I told them about their Wisconsin guy; Stricker has decided, as a lot of men do, that family is more important than anything else and he has taken the appropriate steps to do so. That means scaling back his schedule, focusing on time with his family and some of his other interests and realizing that his life has been pretty darn special and he's enjoy the benefits of it as his nears 50.
Does he still want to win? Yes, of course, if he didn't he would just retire completely from the game, but the passion might not be what it once was and that is absolutely fine.
We have athletes like Kobe Bryant and Tiger Woods that see their sport and nothing else, and then we have guys like Shaquille O'Neal and Steve Stricker who understand life has other parts to it and your profession is simply just your profession.
Stricker is 47, meaning if he won a major he would be the second oldest ever to do so, and if he happened to win this Masters he would be the oldest champion ever, so Father Time is against him, but the guy definitely still has the talent to compete at that level and if he never wins another PGA Tour event, or no major, I think he will be completely fine with the career was able to put together.
And as for your question, no, I don't see him winning a major at this point in his career.
@shanebacon if you could inhabit a pro golfer ( dead or alive) who would it be and why— Shosh Agus-Kleinman (@ShoshEAK) April 3, 2014
Bacon: Fred Couples, no doubt in my mind. Adam Scott is a close second, followed by Arnold Palmer. No. 4,924 on the list is Colin Montgomerie.
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