The Masters is unlike any golf event of the year. From the opening theme music to the lush and beautiful course coverage, it is one of the few places that is more about the course and the tournament than it is about the players involved. It signifies the becoming of the golf season for many and yet all true golf fans will be glued to their television sets indoors as the first major of the year on the PGA Tour takes center stage. Of course it is a major and with that means predictions. THP asked each member of the staff for some predictions and went with 3 questions that should be fun to follow along with.
1. Who will win the 2011 Masters?
2. What name not thought of will make a splash in this event (darkhorse)?
3. Who finishes higher, Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson?
Our “expert” panel has their thoughts and choices coming up and of course you can discuss the Masters all week long in tournament thread in the THP Forum.
Who will win the 2011 Masters?
Smallville – I’m picking Phil Mickelson. Bold pick there. He’s defending champion and he proved last week he’s ready to defend.
JB – I have gone back and forth on 3 names and they are all “chalk”. Three headlines stare at me and could all happen. Tiger Woods will make a resounding return at the Masters and win. Lee Westwood will finally get that major monkey off his back and win his first major. Phil Mickelson goes back to back (in more ways than 1) and becomes #1 in the world. In the end, I am not all that confident in any of them, but I am going to go with Phil Mickelson to finally become #1 in the world and win back to back green jackets.
TC – My pick to win the Masters is Nick Watney. I believe he will get it done at Augusta in 2011 for a couple of reasons:
*So far this year, he’s just flat out been a contender, a top 10 machine if you will, throw that on top of a win at a WGC event, the kid will have confidence.
*Length, accuracy and a short game is a premium at Augusta and right now, no one in the field is as solid in these categories as Nick Watney. He’s leading the PGA Tour this year in Par 4 scoring average, he’s one of the top Tour Professionals in the scrambling category, and right now, he’s hole’ing a lot of putts.
*I just think it’s time for a 1st time Major Champion, and I can’t think of anyone right now who’s more poised than Nick Watney.
Ryan H – Tough one, but I think Kuchar is going to take this. He’s not the longest player out there, but he always has a way to get it done. He’s also very good on the greens.
Jason K – Bubba Watson- He’s played the weekend in both of his other Masters appearances. He’s a bomber who hits a ton of greens in regulation as well (2nd on Tour). Amazing short game imagination and a pretty decent putter as well. Already has proven his game is in good shape in 2011. Bubba Watson, your 2011 Masters Champ!
Todd H – Hunter Mahan – He has finished in the Top 10 the last 2 years at Augusta and coupled with his Rider Cup experience he’s poised to break through. He’s got a solid all around game that can handle Augusta’s length and greens. This year to date he’s ranked 10th in Par 4 scoring and 6th in Par 5 scoring. He’s finished in the Top 10 of events played this year 5 times so he’s been a steady contender so far in 2011. Everyone thinks Phil or even Tiget are the favorites but Phil has never been a ‘get on a run’ kind of golfer where he can rip off 2-3 wins in a row and Tiger, well, Tiger isn’t the same now is he. Stay tuned for my Tiger/Phil thoughts later but Hunter is my pick to put o the green jacket. Hunter green will be the new coor of the Masters!
GolferGal – Greame McDowell. I struggled a lot trying to come up with a winner. There are a few guys that I think could win the Masters this week. I think Phil has a chance at a repeat and I also think that maybe, just maybe, Tiger really will be back and he will start with a nice new green jacket. But if I have to pick just one guy then I think that guys as to be G-Mac. He already has one major under his belt, he has beaten Tiger head to head, and with a great attitude like his I think he could easily be the last man standing.
Smallville – Bill Haas. He started out pretty good this season, then cooled off. I think it’s time for him to start playing well again. I don’t think he’ll finish top 10 or anything, but he’ll be there going into Sunday at least. Fowler would be a safe pick, and he’s outside the top 30. But he is still someone people think about.
JB – Two names keep coming to me for this pick. One is ranked 23rd and one is ranked 34th. Both Alvaro Quiros and Paddy Harrington seem to be playing great golf right now and I think both will play well this weekend. My darkhorse pick is the 34th ranked golfer in the world this week and that is Paddy Harrington. His game has come alive after what seems like a few years of working on things and he is playing some incredible golf. I look for him to be in contention early and if he can go low on one of the 1st two days, he has as good a shot as any.
TC – Trying to pick a darkhorse is usually a daunting task, especially in a field like we see at The Masters. I am going to go out on a limb here and really go for broke and say, Peter Uihlein. If there’s anyone who can handle the big stage, the pressure, the spotlight, it’s this young man. I honestly don’t think he’ll be bothered one bit by the stage or the environment. He has tremendous talent and it’s just a matter of time before he’s a constant at this venue, so I don’t see a reason why he can’t get off to a hot start here.
Ryan H – I think Gary Woodland has a chance to do well this week. He’s streaky, but he hits the ball a ton and can putt the ball.
Jason K – Peter Uihlein- Every year there are old dudes that surprise everyone with a great run the first couple days of the Masters, well this year I don’t see that happening. As with all of 2011 so far it’s all about the kids. The 2010 US Amateur champ has tons of confidence and quite a bit of game as evidence by his play in the Transitions Championship last month. Who can forget 1998 when Matt Kuchar surprised everyone with his great finish, smiling the entire way around? Watch for Uihlein this year!
Todd H – KJ Choi – He’s got 2 Top 10’s at Augusta in his career and last year he only had 7 bogeys for the ENTIRE tournament so he clearly knows the course and likes playing there. Experience and focus are part of his game which includes length off the tee, solid iron play, and when he heats up the flat stick he can drop putts from anywhere which is handy with Augusta’s greens. He shot bogey free golf in Round 2 at Arnie’s course a couplle of weeks ago and ended up ranked 9th in putting for the tournament so he’s got a little momentum on his side. If KJ contends again with the flat stick leading the charge, you may see a run on Super Stroke putter grips at a local golf store near you.
GolferGal – Sergio Garcia. This is a total shot in the dark but I just have a weird feeling about Sergio this week. He has been playing better and just seems to have a better all around attitude about the game and I think he might surprise us all with a victory. I hope I am not eating my words come Sunday.
Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson
Smallville – Phil finishes higher. Because he wins the whole thing!
JB – This was tough for me because I really think both are going to play incredibly well. They are both great headlines, but in the end, I too picked Phil Mickelson to win this week.
TC – Quite possibly the toughest question posed, but a very good one. I’m going to have to go with my heart here and go with Lefty! I try to be as subjective as possible, but I struggle to with this question. I do believe that Phil is coming in with a tremendous amount of momentum but I also think that could be a disadvantage. However, he’s made it very clear that this is the one tournament that he wants to win more than the others. Phil is a man of the people, a family man, the grinning/crowd embracing hero, and I truly believe that he embraces those emotions, those roars from the crowd, and ultimately, I think he finishes higher than Tiger.
What really stands out was how precise he was with his iron play last weekend. He birdie’d 3 of the 4 par 3’s in his final round in Houston and when Phil is precise with his irons, he’s incredibly tough to overcome. And while Phil is showing us that sort of precision, Tiger has shown us that his swing and his play has been somewhat laboring so far this year. I’ll always take the guy who’s in control of his swing and his irons going in to Augusta, and right now, that guy is Phil Mickelson.
Ryan H – Phil. Tiger hasn’t shown anything lately to suggest that he will play well. On the other hand, Phil has actually won recently. I suspect Tiger will contend at times, but I don’t think he’ll be a factor on Sunday.
Jason K – Phil Mickelson will finish higher than Tiger and it’s because of 1 club…the putter. Tiger’s been all over the map this year with his putting and regardless of if he can get his swing right this week or not the putter has been and will be the one club that can hold him back at Augusta. Phil would have been a good pick for this week prior to his amazing weekend at the SHO, now that we saw just how well he is playing he just might leave Augusta with his 4th green jacket, never mind just finishing higher than Tiger.
Todd H – Phil finishes higher than Tiger and its not even close for me. Phil is the defending champion and Augusta is set up for a lefty who is long off the tee and can work the ball well. Sounds like Phil to me! Everyone saw Phil take control of the Shell Open and I expect that success to carry over for him at Augusta. Not well enough to win it but to definitely place better than El Tigre.
Tiger is still searching for something (either his swing or a girl, who knows any more?) and until he shows solid scoring for more than just 2 weeks he’s not going to beat Phil at a course Phil has had recent success on. Yes Tiger hasn’t finished worse than 6 in the last 6 years and Augusta does provide him with a little more ‘control’ with media access, etc. but Augusta isn’t a place where I’d want to be still trying to figure things out or have my golf game in an ‘it’s coming along’ state right now.
GolferGal – Phil. This was another hard choice and even though I said above that it’s possible that this is where Tiger makes his official comeback, I truthfully don’t think it’s probable. I do think he will win again but not this week and I think with the way Phil played last week he will definitely finish higher then Tiger.