Predicting the Masters winner and the Psychic Hope Palm Reader

(Augusta, GA) Who’s going to win the Masters? Why not inquire at the “Psychic Hope Palm Reader.”  So read the commercial sign seen off Howell Mill Road in Atlanta where we made our final fuel stop last night en route to Augusta. “Her guess is as good as anyone’s this week,” I said to my traveling companion and fellow golf writer as we noticed the fortune teller’s rickety building near our gas station. Yes, there are more educated and informed guesses based on past performances at the Masters or how someone is currently playing coming into this week; but it’s all conjecture and more often than not it means little.

There are countless examples of players arriving in Augusta with their games in tip top shape and being picked to be a contender for the green jacket. But lo and behold, dozens of them miss the cut each year. Likewise, there are players who drive up Magnolia Lane burdened with lack of confidence in their swings or in their putting, desperately seeking some remedy, some steadying clue before Thursday’s round. Yet every year we learn some of these players had found “something” during the week and “it clicked” as they climbed the leaderboard.

That was the case with Ben Crenshaw trying to find his swing early in the week of the 1995 Masters. Carrying the added grief of his recently deceased teacher and mentor Harvey Penick, ‘Gentle Ben’ was struggling mightily with his ball-striking. No one was picking Crenshaw to be a two-time Masters winner. Then during a practice session Crenshaw’s longtime caddie, Carl Jackson, made suggestions to him about his ball position—moving it slightly back—and making a fuller shoulder turn and presto “something” clicked. Crenshaw went on to his win his second Masters, commenting afterwards that Penick was “the fifteenth club in my bag.”

Predicting who might win the Masters is an annual diversion, nicely filling up space and conversation.  Too eagerly we all want to know the ending to the drama. Intuitively, we know it’ll turn it out well. But how? As the character in Shakespeare in Love says, “I don’t know. It’s a mystery.”

Might as well ask the Psychic Hope Palm Reader.


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