Will he be wearing green over the red shirt come Sunday evening?
The 2013 Masters is upon us, and the anticipation of everything that has to do with Bobby Jones'
Augusta Invitational is reaching unprecedented levels in the "LinksNation". The real star of the annual
first major is always the course, but the debate rages over who will win the 77th Masters.
Keep in mind folks - The Masters is not your typical PGA Tour field of 156, this year it's 93 players . . .
of those 93, you have close to a dozen past Champions over 50 like Couples, O'Meara, Crenshaw,
Stadler, Watson, Langer, Mize, Sandy Lyle and Ian Woosnam. Sure Freddy is still capable at Augusta,
but is he beating Tiger or Phil over a four round stretch? I think not.
There is a handful of Amateurs including 14 year old Tianlang Guan from China, and then there are
another dozen professionals playing the Masters for the first time. That brings the legitimate competitive
field down to about 65. Then there are guys that are in the field based on prior accomplishments, but
clearly are not on form: Mike Weir, David Toms, Jose Maria Olazabal, Paul Lawrie, Thomas Bjorn, Ernie Els,
Vijay Singh and Martin Kaymer and a few others. That brings the field to around 55 competitive players
. . . I submit it's even less than that.
Here's how we assessed some of the featured pairings for Thursday's 1st round of this years first major,
Our Contenders are in bold green type.
In Group 7 teeing off Thursday at 9:06: Lee Westwood - Jim Furyk - (Mike Weir)
Lee Westwood's window on winning a major appears to closing, but at 39, he has some time left. His
move to Palm Beach recently shows that he feels the urgency to breakthrough. His 2nd place in 2010
behind Mickelson, and his 67 that led after round 1 last year (where he finished Tied for 3rd) shows he
still has the form to contend.
Furyk is 42 years old now and he is a short/medium length driver of the ball, his mediocre record at
the Masters includes only two top 5 finishes (in '98 & '03), a long shot but we can't count him out.
Mike Weir's game is M.I.A, the list of reasons could be a separate feature on its own.
Group 8 - 9:17 : Brandt Snedeker - Justin Rose - Ryo Ishikawa :
All three players in group 8 are capable of slipping on the Green Jacket, Snedeker has lost some
momentum after an unbelievable start to 2013. He appears to be healthy now, after a rib injury forced
him out after his win at Pebble. Will that short jabby putting stroke work on Augusta's slick & undulating
greens . . . we'll see.
Justin Rose is one of my picks to contend this week, he is in the prime of his career at 32 years old
and seems to be ready to be the first European to win the Masters since Olazabal in 1999. If you're
looking for a semi-dark horse this week, Rose might be the guy.
Ishikawa is young and hasn't shown much recently, but unlimited talent is hard to ignore.
Group 10 - 9:39: Charl Schwartzel - Webb Simpson - Peter Hanson
2011 Champion Charl Schwartzel has the complete game to contend each year at Augusta, his calm
demeanor is also a plus on a course that can bring out the best and the worst on any given day.
Webb Simpson did not contend in his first Masters finishing 44th, but the U.S Open Champion has
plenty of game to be a factor. It will all come down to the belly putter for Webb Simpson this week.
Peter Hanson finished T3 here last year, and at 35 years old, the Swede might be a solid contender
Group 11 - 9:50: (Zach Johnson - K.J Choi) - Graeme Mcdowell
Zach Johnson won the 2007 Masters by laying up on all of the par 5 holes - because conditions were
so tough he was able to grind out a win. No such conditions this week, doubt he'll be a factor.
K.J Choi hasn't had much success at the Masters since his third place finish in 2004. Since winning
the 2011 Players at TPC Sawgrass, Choi hasn't seen a victory on the PGA Tour.
Graeme McDowell seems to show up at the big events, in 2012 he finished inside the top 12 at all
four majors. The 2010 U.S Open Champion finished T2 at the U.S Open at Olympic Club, T5 at the
Open Championship, T11 at Kiawah for the PGA and T12 at the 2012 Masters. Somehow G-Mac will
be in it come Sunday.
Group 14 - 10:34: Bubba Watson - Ian Poulter - (Steven Fox)
2012 Champion Bubba Watson has had an emotional week recalling the memories from last year in
his Tuesday press conference, then hosting the Champions Dinner. His length and shot making skills
always make him a threat at Augusta National, but I'm not expecting much from him this week.
Ian Poulter has said that he believes the Masters is his best chance to win a major, he might be
right. It will be interesting to see what he wears on Sunday if he's in contention.
Steven Fox is the 2012 U.S Amateur Champion.
Group 15 - 10:45: Tiger Woods - Luke Donald - (Scott Piercy)
Four time Champion Tiger Woods looks better than he has in many years, both physically and mentally
. . . will he let another year go by without another major? 2005 was his last victory here, a Green Jacket
this year would put him right back on track to catch the Golden Bear, and he knows it. Crazy to say, but
it looks like it's his to lose . . . question is: Does he want it too much?
Luke Donald is too good not to win a major someday, with shortgame being so important at the Masters,
this could be the major he feels strongest about. I think he'll be in the mix, but I see his big day 8 weeks
from now at Merion (where length means nada).
Scott Piercy is playing in his first Masters.
Group 16 - 10:56: Jason Day - Rickie Fowler - Paddy Harrington
Jason Day missed the cut here last year after his near win in 2011, he's playing well again this year with
three top 10 finishes in 2013.
Rickie Fowler hasn't really shown much in his two Masters appearances so far, but he did make the cut
each time. Similar to both Jason Day and Ishikawa - young with unlimited potential . . . wouldn't surprise
anyone if he played well at Dr.Mackenzie's layout.
Paddy Harrington quietly has four top 10 masters finishes in his 13 Masters appearances, however a
telling stat shows that his lowest score at Augusta is 68 in 44 rounds. He'll have to do better to get the
Group 26 - 12:57: Angel Cabrera - Sergio Garcia - Adam Scott
Angel Cabrera, the 2009 Champion is still a threat at Augusta, although he is now in that purgatory
age of 43.
Sergio Garcia finished tied for 12th at last years Masters, although he's been around forever, he's only
33 years old. If he can find some Seve magic on the greens, and that's a BIG IF - he could get his first
Adam Scott is the official LinksNation.com pick to win this years Masters, he finished T8 here last year
and if it weren't for Schwartzel doing something that had never been done before in 2011 (birdies on the
final four holes) Scott might already have had his first major. He had his hands on the jug last year at the
Open Championship, and Butch Harmon and I both think he has the best swing in the game. In this line of
work you don't root for the player, it's always about the story . . . I get lucky here, I'm openly rooting for
Adam Scott and in turn a great story will flood the World of Golf.
Is it his time? We think it is.
Group 27 - 1:08: - Dustin Johnson - (Branden Grace) - (Fred Couples)
Dustin Johnson has it all, length and touch. If he doesn't get a jacket at some point it'll be a surprise
. . . it could happen this year.
Branden Grace is making his first appearance at the Masters.
Fred just doesn't have enough in the tank to go four rounds with the kids, but he'll put up another
Does he have another in him . . . can he catch Tiger at four Masters wins ?
Group 29 - 1:30: Phil Mickelson - Louis Oosthuizen - (Martin Kaymer)
What can you say about Phil Mickelson and the Masters, he professes his love of the course and
the tournament anytime he is asked. Another T3 last year, he has ten top 5 finishes in his 20
appearances at the Masters. He has made 15 consecutive cuts, and 19 of 20. If he wins this week, he
would be tied for 2nd all time with 4 Green Jackets, and it can be argued that only Jack Nicklaus was
better at the Masters (Arnold Palmer & Tiger Woods also have four Masters wins). At age 42 he knows
the window is closing, and has openly stated that he wants to tie Tiger's mark of 4 victories at Augusta.
Louie Oosthuizen finished 2nd last year after he lost in a playoff to Bubba Watson. Was that a sign of
things to come or an anomaly (he had missed the cut in his 3 Masters appearances before last year). His
double eagle on the 2nd hole last year was an amazing highlight, holing out from 253 yards with a 4 iron.
The South African with the great swing won the 2010 Open Championship at St.Andrews. It won't surprise
anyone if he contends again.
Martin Kaymer has fallen off of form since his rise to #1 in the world in late 2010. It would be a surprise if
he gets in the mix this week.
Group 30 - 1:41: Rory McIlroy - Keegan Bradley - (Freddie Jacobson)
The 2011 U.S Open Champion and 2012 PGA Champion has had a tough beginning to 2013. After switching
equipment deals and walking off the course at the Honda Classic, he appears to be right back on track
after his 2nd place at the Valero Texas Open last week . It shouldn't surprise anyone this week if Rory
McIlroy blows away the field, his talent seems boundless.
Keegan Bradley has all of the tools, and since aligning himself with Phil Mickelson, he has a mentor and a
playing companion on tour. At home in Jupiter he often plays with Michael Jordan and seeks his advice on
the mental aspects of gaining an edge. I'm not sure if it's this year, but he should get a Green Jacket at
some point in his career.
Freddie Jacobson has the filthy shortgame to hang around, but his ball striking can't keep up with the
Group 31 - 1:52: Jason Dufner - Matt Kuchar - Bill Haas
Jason Dufner is a true sleeper here, he is so consistent . . . if the putts drop he could be there come
Matt Kuchar has been coming to ANGC since he was a freshman at GT, he loves the place. Similar to
Dufner, Kuchar is always in the hunt.
Bill Haas - He hasn't shot better than 70 in his 12 rounds at the Masters, but his talent is undeniable.
His best finish is 26th at the National in his first appearance (2010).
By our estimation, the field comes down to 26 players with a serious shot at taking home the
Everything points to Tiger winning his 15th major, but we have Adam Scott beating Phil in a
Playoff. Tiger coming close again finishing 3rd.