From one sports phenomenon to another, we transition from March Madness to The Masters. The quest for the green jacket tees off in 24 hours.
Congrats to our Bracket Challenge winner, Greg D. What’s Greg doing after winning the title? He’s going to Disney World! And he’s taking his granddaughter. That’s a pro move, Greg.
Thanks to everyone who played The Sportsletter’s Bracket Challenge for the last three weeks. That’s a wrap for March Madness. We’ll have more exciting group competitions coming soon, so stay tuned.
The Sportsletter Team
THE MASTERS ️
Live From Augusta
Things to Watch Before Round 1 at The Masters
From one spectacle to another, the sports calendar shifts from Madness to Silence… Augusta Silence, that is. The next big-ticket item on the agenda is The Masters, and it’s already here. Players from all over the world drove up Magnolia Lane this morning for practice rounds and the Champions Dinner, served by last year’s winner, Dustin Johnson. DJ cooked up pigs in a blanket and filet mignon. That’s a nice start to the week.
The azaleas are blooming among the Georgia pines, the patrons are back and “A Tradition Unlike Any Other” returns to the forefront. The 85th Masters at Augusta National is ready for play. Quiet please…
Multiple Green-Jacket Winners
There will be no Tiger Woods at Augusta National after his horrific car accident last month. The five-time champion would’ve been the most decorated participant in the field, but that honor now belongs to Phil Mickelson (3). A 50-year-old Phil isn’t a safe bet to win this weekend, and that means the likely contenders will be in search of their first or second green jacket. Let’s look at who’s in top form for the biggest week in golf.
The Best Odds to Win
The 2020 winner, Dustin Johnson, opens the week as the favorite to repeat at Augusta, but Justin Thomas and a revitalized Jordan Spieth are sure to compete. Here are the top-10 players with the best odds to win The Masters. (Full List of Odds)
D. Johnson: 9-1
J. Thomas: 10-1
J. Spieth: 10-1
B. DeChambeau: 11-1
J. Rahm: 12-1
R. McIlroy: 14-1
P. Cantlay: 20-1
X. Schauffele: 22-1
B. Koepka: 25-1
C. Morikawa: 28-1
Wednesday Waiting at Augusta
The Par 3 contest, traditionally held on the Wednesday of Masters week, has been canceled because of COVID-19 concerns. In it’s place we’ll have one more day of waiting as the storylines and headlines ramp up before Round 1.
First Round Coverage
Thursday (3:00 pm ET, ESPN)
The Sportsletter will have full coverage of The Masters tomorrow and Friday.
PGA Tour: Power Rankings for The Masters 2021
The NBA Playoff Hunt
Joel Embiid’s Return Puts 76ers Back Atop East
The return of Joel Embiid just spelled trouble for the rest of the Eastern Conference. The 76ers’ big man pumped in 35 points in his second game back after an extended absence with a knee injury. Philly dropped Boston below .500 on Tuesday (106-96), and the Sixers are 26-7 this season when Embiid plays — the highest win percentage for any individual player this season. In other words: the Most Valuable Player? With their second win since Embiid’s comeback, Philadelphia regained a share of the lead in the Eastern Conference. But Kevin Durant is making his Nets return tonight. Things are about to get interesting.
That got us thinking about the NBA playoff hunt with 20 games until the postseason.
NBA Playoff Picture
1. 76ers (35-16)
2. Nets (35-16)
3. Bucks (32-18)
4. Hawks (27-24)
5. Hornets (25-24)
6. Heat (26-25)
Play-In: 7. Knicks (25-26), 8. Celtics (25-26), 9. Pacers (22-27), 10. Bulls (21-28)
1. Jazz (38-12)
2. Suns (35-14)
3. Clippers (34-18)
4. Nuggets (32-18)
5. Lakers (32-19)
6. Blazers (30-20)
Play-In: 7. Mavericks (28-21), 8. Grizzlies (25-23), 9. Spurs (24-24), 10. Warriors (24-27)
Additional Highlights & Storylines
House of Highlights: Steph Curry Scores 41 as Warriors Hold Off Bucks (122-121)
Champions League Highlights
Manchester City & Real Madrid Take Advantage With Leg 1 Wins
The Champions League returned Tuesday with the first leg of the quarterfinals as the tournament nears the end. Two more games are on the docket today after a pair of scintilating matches yesterday, including one 90th-minute goal to vault Manchester City to victory. Here’s how yesterday’s UCL matches went down:
Man. City def. Dortmund (2-1)
The quarterfinals kicked off with the Premier League giants from Manchester City at home against Borussia Dortmund and its bright young star, Erling Haaland. It was City and Kevin De Bruyne who struck early, but Marco Reus found the equalizer in the 84th minute. A draw appeared almost certain before City’s Phil Foden finished a beautiful layoff from Ilkay Gundogan. City takes a slim one-goal lead into Leg 2 at Dortmund next week.
The resurrection of Real Madrid’s season continued with a shocking win over Liverpool in Leg 1. The once-unbeateable Reds scored just once on their only shot on target from Mo Salah. Madrid stayed on the attack throughout, getting a pair of goals from 20-year-old Vinicius Junior and a top-class performance from Toni Kroos to take a two-goal edge into Leg 2.
Bayern vs. PSG (3:00 pm ET)
Porto vs. Chelsea (3:00 pm ET)
Caliper CBD Powder
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Not one, not two, but three jacks from Rockies’ 2B Ryan McMahon on Tuesday night. Colorado and Arizona went deep into the morning hours (13 innings), and McMahon stamps the first 3-homer game of the 2021 season.
Juan Soto smacked a walk-off single to score Victor Robles and help the Nationals beat the Braves (6-5) after a COVID-19-delayed season-opener. The Nats are 1-0.
Yankees’ ace Gerrit Cole was dealing on Tuesday. He struck out 13 Orioles batters and allowed just four hits and zero runs in seven innings of a 7-2 Yankees win.
In the months leading up to the draft, which begins April 29, there have been pro days and… a whole lot of hoping for the best with virtual meetings with prospects. (ESPN)
Three or four games may not seem like a lot across a 162-game season, but opening weekend still presented enough data to swing some potential playoff teams’ chances by significant margins. (The Ringer)
From Nov. 26 through the early evening of April 5, the 2020-21 Gonzaga Bulldogs felt like a Death Star laying waste to everything in their path. If they couldn’t go undefeated, can anyone? (B/R)
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