Well, the first major of the season is finally upon us. I’m not going to sit here and wax poetic about the beauty of Augusta National or the history of the Masters tournament because it has been done thousands of times by writers far more eloquent than I.
I am going to tell you that in a winter that has seemed longer than most the Masters represents a welcome break from the cold and our first real introduction to Spring. Although the British Open, or just the Open is considered by many to be golf’s ultimate championship the Masters is truly the event that transcends the sport of golf. So much that even the most casual of golf fans can recall Tiger’s fist pump in 1997 or Jack’s win in 1986 at the age of 46. All fans dream of one day making the drive down Magnolia Lane into the grounds of Augusta National just for a peek at Bobby Jones course.
Of course we could also get into the lengthening of the golf course and whether it is now a bomber’s paradise, has “Tiger proofing” actually benefited the number one player in the world, and what century Hootie is stuck in but frankly, at this time of year I like to focus on the positives!
The pool I joined this year is simple, pick 12 players, total earnings after 4 days wins. No strategy, just pick your 12 favorites. So, in no particular order, here they are:
Tiger Woods If you need to ask why you obviously don’t follow golf. Tiger won convincingly his last time out and is looking to win the third leg of the Tiger Slam here at his favorite course. Look out field.
Charles Howell III People have been picking him for a long time to do well in this tournament, it is his home town. For years he has disappointed but he comes into the tournament playing the best golf of his life and one of the hottest players on tour.
Ernie Els More a sentimental favorite than anything. Els has had some good finishes this year but just hasn’t been able to put together four solid rounds. However he does hold the active streak for most cuts made on the PGA Tour and tends to play well at Augusta.
Fred Couples Another sentimental pick. Couples has only played in two events this year and missed the cut in both yet he always seems to play well at Augusta, and how can he be ignored after the way he played here last year.
Retief Goosen Another player who is not exactly coming into Augusta on a tear but he has played well here in the past and usually plays well in major tournaments. Another major title would go a long way to cementing Goosen’s legend as a truly great player.
Henrik Stenson This guy hits it long and is third on the tour in putting average, what’s not to like about his chances.
Vijay Singh The hottest player on tour this year. Vijay already has two wins and his looking to get back to his old self after a couple of off years by his standards. If the putter holds up he will be in contention on Sunday.
Geoff Ogilvy Ogilvy has won two huge tournaments in just over a year and already has two top three finishes this year. He seems to have the kind of all around game that works under any conditions.
Adam Scott Not a great history at Augusta but Scott comes in with a lot of confidence and should have the type of game to win here. Like Singh this week will probably come down to the putter for Scott but now would be a great time to get that first major under his belt.
David Howell This is the Howell that traditionally does play well at Augusta with a T11 and T19 finish in the last two years. Howell is a very good, and very underrated player on this side of the Atlantic.
Angel Cabrera Another player who tends to fly under the radar on this side of the pond. He hits the ball long and has had some good finishes in this tournament. Do I think he can win, no, but I certainly like his chances for another top 20 or top 15 finish.
Nick O’Hern Another of the unheralded players that I quite like. O’Hern has a strange swing, doesn’t hit the ball far, and doesn’t look particularly good on the golf course but he is as tough as nails. He has taken down Tiger twice in the Match Play and has shown that he belongs with these guys. Exactly the type of player that can surprise people at this tournament (think Tim Clark last year).
So that’s it, my dirty dozen. Maybe not too many surprises. You will probably notice the one conspicuous absence being Phil Mickelson and frankly, he has played horribly this year and I just don’t like him. Objective? Maybe not. But hey, they are my picks and chances are nobody has read this far anyways.
Enjoy your Masters weekend!