Just thinking off the top of my head, there are 15 guys who I think can win at Augusta this week. Last year (and like most other years) I was all over the Europeans for every major. Luke Donald was red hot, Lee Westwood, Paul Casey, McIlroy and Kaymer all dominated in Europe and stole the show. Then the tide started to shift a bit as Matt Kuchar became the machine of consistency. Then the Ryder Cup happened and the Europeans showed us once again why they make up 4 of the Top 5 spots in the world.
Welcome to 2011. Watney is doing what Donald did last year, people would actually predict Phil to win this time and we’re all looking for Tiger to return to his true form at Augusta (that didn’t change).
While in the past year Bubba and DJ are kind of like the new Tiger and Phil for American golf, I just don’t see it at Augusta. Bubba lacks major experience (he’s played in the Masters twice, 08 and 09) and I don’t think DJ has the game to hold up at Augusta. Even though his game can be somewhat compared to Phil’s. However, DJ can’t get out of situations like Phil can. The bombers at Augusta (Tiger, Phil, Cabrera) have only done well when they can rely on their putting, short game and getting out of fairway bunkers. I just don’t see that for DJ. For those reasons, they’re off of my list. Also, let’s take away all of the rookies (sorry Pretty Rickie fans) and stick to golfers with major results with a decent history at Augusta.
Here’s my fresh 15 (in order of World Golf Ranking);
Martin Kaymer, Lee Westwood, Phil Mickelson, Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell, Paul Casey, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Matt Kuchar, Nick Watney, Ian Poulter, Hunter Mahan, Retief Goosen, Miguel Angel Jiminez and Anthony Kim.
Most of these are because of results at Augusta, while some (Kaymer, Donald, McDowell, McIlroy) are more because of heart.
Recent winners (other than Tiger and Phil) were Trevor Immelman, Angel Cabrera, Zach Johnson and Mike Weir. All of these guys had played in at least 2 Masters prior to winning and made the cut at least once. Zach Johnson is the one that sticks out. He won the Masters on his 3rd try (CUT the first time, T32 the second). Weir sticks out a little. Prior to winning, Mike went 28th, 27th, 24th. While Trevor and Angel had previous Top 10’s at Augusta, so their winning wasn’t out of nowhere in the aspect.
One other statistic that has jumped out at me from the past 5 Masters winners; Approaches from > 200 yards.
Of course we remember those eagles from Phil last year. But he set himself up well. Let’s take a look at the overall season statistics for the Masters Winners;
2010 – Phil – 2nd
2009 – Angel – 11th
2008 – Trevor – 33rd
2007 – Zach – 36th
2006 – Phil – 2nd
It may be a bit of a stretch, but it’s something to look at. Honestly, what matters at Augusta is results. Tiger said it himself, he’s trying to peak 4 times a year. I mean, Poulter doesn’t play great in the smaller events. He plays his best when he plays with the best in the WGC’s and the Majors. Given this criteria, here are my top picks to win;
notable stats – 1st in scoring average, T34 in Approaches >200 yds, 4th in scrambling
Masters results – 11th in ’08, 19th in ’09, 7th in ’10
The stars have aligned for Watney this season. A lot of eyes will be on him. The WGC loss to Phil helped him a few years ago. He can play on the big stage and he has the game to do it. Gotta love his record here.
notable stats – T23 in Approaches > 200 yds, 3rd in sand save percentage
Masters results – 13th in ’07, 25th in ’08, 20th in ’09, 10th in ’10
I said it above, Poulter shows up big time and he’s getting better and better at Augusta.
notable stats – T12 in Putting Average, T17 in Birdie Average, 2nd in Approaches from 50-150 yards
Masters results – 2oth in ’09, 3rd in ’10
He’s healthy, he loves Augusta and for me, his two performances at Augusta are the most prominent in recent memory.
notable stats – 6th in All-Around Ranking, 6th in Birdie Average, 13th in Birdie or Better Conversion
Masters results – 28th in ’03, 10th in ’09, 8th in ’08
Mahan is basically the American version of Poulter. They both are emotional, competitive dudes who show up on the big stage. Hunter is having a great year and it should continue at Augusta.
notable stats – 1st in Scrambling, 4th in Sand Save %, 1st in Approaches 125-150yds, 17th in scoring, 8th in putting from 5-15′
Masters results – 6th in ’04, 10th in ’07, 11th in ’08, 20th in ’09, CUT in ’10
Missing the cut last year is no big deal. Casey has started slower this year compared to others, but his short game and putting are among the best in the world right now and he can’t be discounted.
notable stats – 1st in Scrambling from the rough, 1st in Approaches from 125-150yds, 16th in putting from 15-20′
Masters results – in the past 11 years, 11 Top 25’s, 9 Top 10’s, 3 wins
Holy Wolfmother, I hope Tiger wins.