Of course all the focus going into the Masters is on the Big Four (if you ask me it's Big Five) and deservedly so, especially at Augusta where the winner is almost always near the top of the world rankings.Augusta is unlike the other three majors in that there are really never any journeymen players who win there. There are no Ben Curtis's at Augusta. There are no Rich Beem's or Shaun Micheel's that win there. One reason is that you have to be a pretty established player just to get invited, but for some reason Augusta seems to bring the best out of the best.
Another uniqueness about Augusta is the variety of champions who get to wear the Green Jacket. Last year it was Phil Mickelson, long off the tee with a great short game. The year before was Mike Weir, the diminutive Canadian who is an excellent technician. Other champions have included obviously Tiger with his phenomenal all-around game but also players like Jose Maria Olazabal who is a terrific iron player but struggles with the driver, or Bernard Langer who is another great technician. The course is suited to so many different styles of play that it is tough to rule anybody out.
So with all that in mind here are my picks to do well next week in Augusta, Georgia:
Ernie Els. After heartbreak in all four majors last year Ernie has got to be determined to win at least one this year. Augusta has always had a special place in his heart and he comes in on a hot-streak this year after winning back-to-back events in the desert. He's the best candidate of the Big Five to win it this year.
Sergio Garcia. Though still young Garcia has now been burdened with the best player never to win a major, label. Expect that to change soon. A final round 66 last year has got to help his confidence coming in to this year's event and his often talked about swing changes seem to be comfortable now.
Fred Couple. It would be thrilling to see Freddie win another major before his career winds down. While the chances of that happening may be getting slim, Couples always play well at Augusta.
Scott Verplank. Verplank goes about his own business, week-in and week-out. He has been playing well of late though and if his putter holds up he should have a good week.
Don't be surprised If there is to be an upset winner this year don't be surprised if it is David Howell's name that shows up. No, not hometown boy Charles Howell, David Howell of England. Howell is a terrific international player who had seven top-ten finishes last year and seventeen top 25 finishes, pretty impressive stuff. Hmm, sounds like there might be an upcoming player's bio to do.
That's it that's all. Sure there's a ton of guys I could pick but these are my horses and I'm sticking with 'em. Now, as long as it doesn't rain.