It's happening! It is all happening.
So often in golf the scenarios we want most never come to fruition. It's such a game of chance, luck, variance, and everything in between that the outcome is rarely predictable. This is why it's been so hard to develop modern rivalries and see the best guys go head-to-head at the biggest events.
But now we'll get a our first taste of what is hopefully many more major championship weekend tee times with Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth. We've been positioning that rivalry for almost a year now, when Spieth came on the scene at Augusta in 2015 and looked like a legit challenger to Rory's throne atop the world rankings. McIlroy is older and more accomplished, but Spieth joined the battle in a big way over the intervening year and we started 2016 expecting a clash. Rory had a "lost" year, as he put it, missing a title defense at The Open because he ripped up his ankle and finishedgood the year without a major and no longer No. 1.
In limited 2016 events, Spieth and McIlroy have not been in the hunt at the same event. But now, at the biggest most hyped one of the year, they will go out together anchoring the tee sheet at 2:50 p.m. ET. This seems too good to be true. It's not Sunday at a major, but this happens so rarely. Tiger never had a rival, but at least Phil was there to push him at times and draw a widespread audience on his own. Yet the two never were in contention or exchanging blows late at the same major championship. We thought Rory and Jordan might have their clashes over the next couple decades, but you could never count on it. Now we have a very realistic chance of getting it in the very first major since this was positioned as a hopefully rivalry.
There are obviously 55 other players in the field playing ahead of Spieth and McIlroy, but all the hype, ink, and oxygen will be devoted to that power duo. The fact is, this is the smallest margin the leader has had over the field at the 36-hole mark in the last 20 years at the Masters. Spieth himself said he thought someone could easily come from outside the top 25 to lead by a couple shots. The conditions are supposed to be tough again, with the wind whipping the players all day. The greens continue to dry out and run fast so an under-par round could yield a huge move up the board.
The tee times are trimmed from threesomes to twosomes now that the cut has been made. Everyone will be off No. 1 rolling throughout the day from just before 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. ET. Fortunately for us golf nerds, the cut left us an odd-numbered field and that means the glorious return of Jeff Knox. If you do not know who that is -- GET TO KNOW HIM NOW, because he is a legend. Knox is the non-competing marker, a guy the green jackets at Augusta call in to play with the odd man out who is supposed to play by himself in the first tee time. The catch is that Knox is not some hack -- he routinely takes money off these guys, who often walk away asking for advice and course knowledge. He's beaten McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, and now he'll play with two-time green jacket winner Bubba Watson. It's not an option to decline the marker, who Augusta wants there to keep a general pace of play and help keep score. Just dig a little deeper on Knox here. He'll be the superstar in the morning half of the round.
Here's the full tee sheet for Saturday's round... buckle up:
|9:50 a.m.||Bubba Watson|
|10:00 a.m.||Justin Thomas||Kevin Kisner|
|10:10 a.m.||Louis Oosthuizen||Patrick Reed|
|10:20 a.m.||Victor Dubuisson||Webb Simpson|
|10:30 a.m.||Bill Haas||Larry Mize|
|10:40 a.m.||Anirban Lahiri||Martin Kaymer|
|10:50 a.m.||Charley Hoffman||Adam Scott|
|11:00 a.m.||Matt Kuchar||Thongchai Jaidee|
|11:10 a.m.||Henrik Stenson||Hunter Mahan|
|11:20 a.m.||Romain Langasque||Harris English|
|11:30 a.m.||Rafael Cabrera Bello||Ian Poulter|
|11:50 a.m.||Matthew Fitzpatrick||Keegan Bradley|
|12:00 p.m.||Cameron Smith||Billy Horschel|
|12:10 p.m.||Justin Rose||Jamie Donaldson|
|12:20 p.m.||Emiliano Grillo||Kevin Na|
|12:30 p.m.||Lee Westwood||Paul Casey|
|12:40 p.m.||Angel Cabrera||Kevin Streelman|
|12:50 p.m.||Davis Love III||Jimmy Walker|
|1:00 p.m.||Chris Wood||Brooks Koepka|
|1:10 p.m.||J.B. Holmes||Bernd Wiesberger|
|1:30 p.m.||Bernhard Langer||Jason Day|
|1:40 p.m.||Troy Merritt||Smylie Kaufman|
|1:50 p.m.||Dustin Johnson||Daniel Berger|
|2:00 p.m.||Shane Lowry||Bryson DeChambeau|
|2:10 p.m.||Sergio Garcia||Danny Willett|
|2:20 p.m.||Hideki Matsuyama||Kiradech Aphibarnrat|
|2:30 p.m.||Brandt Snedeker||Soren Kjeldsen|
|2:40 p.m.||Danny Lee||Scott Piercy|
|2:50 p.m.||Jordan Spieth||Rory McIlroy|