Paul McGinley might be 55, but he still gets that teenage frisson of excitement about the technicolour golfing dream they call the Masters.
Like the rest of world golf, the Dubliner wants to watch the Masters the way we watched those David Attenborough documentaries and see Tiger Woods, the ultimate predator, stalking his prey in the grasslands of Augusta National.
Like fellow analyst Brandel Chamblee and Rich Lerner, the host of Golf Channel’s ‘Live from the Masters’, McGinley has question marks over many of the game’s superstars.
No one throws up more doubts than Woods bar one key fact – the great ones never forget how to win.
“I remember having a debate with Ivan Lendl, a great friend of mine, going into that Masters in 2019,” McGinley recalled.
“I was somewhat dismissive of Tiger’s chances, and he made a great point. He said, ‘Great, great champions never forget where the finishing line is or how to get there.’
“I think Tiger proved that. He proved a lot of people wrong. You can never discount him.”
If McGinley was sceptical about Woods in 2019 when he had a Tour Championship win and a string of solid performances behind him, he’s even more dubious this year.
“I think it’s a massive ask, even at Augusta National and even for Tiger Woods to have a realistic chance of winning because he’s coming from a long way further back,” he said.
But is it as big a stretch to hope Rory McIlroy can complete the career grand slam, or might Shane Lowry pip him to the post?
“I think there are two things that really make me buoyant about Rory McIlroy,” McGinley said.
“One is the improvement in his putting that we’ve seen since he started working with Brad Faxon.
“The second thing is the fact he’s got Bob Rotella in his corner. With the challenges that Rory has, particularly in trying to become only the sixth player in the history of the game to win all four majors, you can’t do it on your own.
“You need some help. Some guidance. And I think Rotella is a great addition to that team.”
For McGinley, McIlroy’s biggest problem is his iron play.
As Bernhard Langer told the Dubliner (18th on his Masters debut in 2002), you win the Masters with iron play, not putting.
McGinley pointed out that three of the last seven Masters champions have led strokes gained approach with another two winners in the top five, adding: “With the style of play he has, he comes very much from the inside, which is great in terms of flash speed at the bottom and getting massive distance off the tee.
“But we all know one of the great strengths of Tiger’s game is his quietness through the ball and how he’s able to play three-quarter shots and control distance.
“That’s a part of the game I still feel Rory hasn’t mastered.”
If McIlroy is approximately 114th for his strokes gained approach this year, what about Lowry, who is 14th, a proven major winner with excellent form (second in the Honda) and two top 25s in his last two Masters?
“He’s really close to winning again,” McGinley said. “He’s playing as well as he has done throughout any stage of his career. Can he do it? Of course, he can. Absolutely. He’s proved he’s a guy for a big occasion. If there’s a weakness in Shane’s game, it’s his putting. So will I dismiss him? Absolutely not.”
McGinley’s number one wish is to see Woods contend.
“That doesn’t mean Tiger has to win this time,” he explained.
“I just want to see the reaction of the other players with a Tiger Woods in contention again, particularly around Augusta National.”