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Arnold Palmer (BRIAN SNYDER)
Arnold Palmer (BRIAN SNYDER)

Seven in the morning: Masters edition

Will the Masters follow the script? Add to ...

In the dark you could feel the anticipation buidling. The gates at Augusta National don't open until 7 a.m., but the crowd was gathering before that, huddled in the dark morning chill. Proud fathers and sons; businessmen and their key clients. old buddies doing the once-in-a-lifetime thing. But this wasn't the 500 level at Rogers Centre; or the parking lot at a Bills game. The crowd bantered politely with the police officers who were holding them back with nothing more than a raised eyebrow and a "Not yet." They milled about smiling. There was no stomping of feet; no tribal rituals. And then the time came and off they went, the largest pack of unlikely power walkers you're ever going to see.

There is no running, understand, at Augusta National.

And so we're off, wiggling our hips madly, eager to get into position.

1. If wishes and buts were candy and nuts, the 75th Masters would go something like this:

The days before the tournament and even the early rounds of the tournament are in some ways the best, because anything is still possible. It is nearly unfathomable that this Masters will deliver a moment as riveting as the 1986 tournament, won by Jack Nicklaus at age 46 in what some call golf's greatest single moment. We'll see if we get anything anything even close to that; but don't blame me if Zach Johnson wins by two shots and you're asleep on your couch Sunday. Here is a script for a memorable week from the Wall Street Journal:

Round One:

Jhonattan Vegas, the charismatic 26-year-old Tour rookie from Venezuela, shoots a seven-under-par 65 to grab the first round lead, in part by hitting every par-five green in two shots. He's goaded on by his playing partners, Gary Woodland of the U.S. and Spain's Alvaro Quiros, who together comprise arguably the longest-hitting threesome in Masters history. Phil Mickelson shoots a credible 70, but a trio of young long-bombing Americans, Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson and Nick Watney, each score two strokes better.....

Final Round

The final round is yours to imagine, but I'd suggest the ultimate winner should shoot 32 or better on the back nine Sunday-and that someone else should shoot 30. I'd also suggest, for a lesson to the youngsters, that McIlory fall apart. His aggressive approach shots should start missing by a few critical feet, rolling into various creeks and rough patches.....

And the winner is.....

Hey, I'm not going to ruin that.

2. Ian Poulter playing with Tiger in the final group on Sunday...that would be memorable

It's interesting what passes for interesting in he world of sports. Just being normal -- so occassionally funny, depressed, angry, confused, hungover and smitten -- can make you seem like the most interesting person in the world compared with the cardboard personalities more common across the sports landscape. Ian Poulter seems to understand this. He made all kinds of waves when he said Tiger Woods wouldn't finish in the top-five here, which is basically what just about anyone else might say, except they're not Ian Poulter. As a group the European's who have surged to the top of the World Golf Rankings seem to get this more than their US counterparts as they say things on Twitter that we all say to our buddies, except they're saying it about famous people and they themselves are famous. It's called entertainment : ... golf may never have seen a group of players as verbose, Internet-extroverted and media savvy as the handful of Europeans charging into the top of the world rankings. While their growing eminence may or may not presage a new era of European dominance, their swelling popularity reveals the power of their thumb-twitching pastime - and how eager golf fans are for vivid personalities.

Is it any surprise that Poulter, McIlroy and contemporaries Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Graeme McDowell are fashionable picks to win the 2011 Masters that begins Thursday?

To be fair, their appeal originates from more than just the use of social media. The group has also set trends in golf apparel (is there an all-orange Rickie Fowler outfit without Poulter's all-pink duds several years earlier?). They willingly engage fans at tournaments, and generally, charm reporters with insightful interviews.

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