SiriusXM’s Joe Thistel: The 2018 Masters will be a battle of youth vs wisdom

Jordan Spieth

Jordan Spieth chips onto the 18th green during the final round of the Houston Open at the Golf Club of Houston on April 1, 2018 in Humble, Texas. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Getty Images)

With the PGA Tour season already well underway, the unofficial tee-off for many golf enthusiasts really doesn’t occur until this Thursday at Augusta when Sergio Garcia steps in to defend his 2017 MASTERS title; a championship that finally got a “major monkey” off of the Spaniard’s back.  When that first group goes off early in the Georgia sunshine, so does an adrenaline rush for countless millions watching, listening and squirming with every swing. Most sports have a must-see event each year that causes both rabid and casual fans to scramble for the proper formula to win their office pool. NFL has its Super Bowl, the NCAA has March Madness and the PGA has The MASTERS.

In recent years, it’s been incredible to watch just how the PGA TOUR has become a young man’s game as routine drives sail past 300 yards and hitting the gym has turned into as much a part of the repertoire as hitting the driving range. The best player in the world right now is Justin Thomas with five tournament wins in the past year and a bit, while former number one Jordan Spieth looks to be rounding back into shape based on recent play. Both are 24 years old. Multiple tour winner Jon Rahm is 23, and there are dozens of kids on the tour that are knocking on the door each week.  Former amateur phenom Beau Hossler at 23 was one playoff hole away from winning this past weekend in Houston. But is it fair to say that the PGA TOUR has morphed into a game of youth?  Not so fast, junior.

The winner over Hossler on Sunday was veteran PGA pro Ian Poulter. The flashy brit is now 42 years old and hasn’t been in the winner’s circle in eight years, which is a long time between trophies. Poulter’s recent nifty play is just one example of an avalanche of fine play from some of the more vintage swingers on tour. The aforementioned Garcia will be 38 in defense of his title.  39 year old Bubba Watson has already won twice this year. Olympic Gold Medalist Justin Rose won at the HSBC Championships in January at 37. And what about Phil Mickelson? Lefty just recently won the Mexican Championship at the ripe old age of 47. And we haven’t even mentioned Henrik Stenson (41) or Tiger Woods (42), both playing well and legitimate challengers this weekend to compete for the famed Green Jacket.

There’s a bunch of tweeners in there to consider as well; guys like Dustin Johnson, Rory McElroy, Rickie Fowler and Jason Day. You can’t call them kids anymore, but they sure don’t fall into the old category either. So, as they say, the field is wide open with young guys, old guys and in-betweens all in the hunt. Anybody’s game.

Many MASTERS pools give you a choice of six players to add to your roster. You could go chalk with guys like Thomas, Rory, D.J., Rahm, Fowler and Spieth. You’d not be unwise to do so. Or you could gamble on veteran savvy, experience and guile and write down the names of Woods, Mickelson, Garcia, Stenson, Watson and Poulter. There’s an old adage that says ‘age and treachery will defeat youth and exuberance every time’ so you just never know. This year 40 may be a lousy number on the back nine but it’s doing pretty well on a birth certificate.

Oh, and one last thought. Jack Nicklaus won 18 majors in his remarkable career with his last coming at the 1986 MASTERS. The Golden Bear was 46. Just saying.

Get the complete MASTERS schedule for PGA TOUR Radio here.

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