It’s been billed as America’s Golf Boys v Europe’s Brat Pack. The bible-bashing Yanks of Bubba Watson, Hunter Mahan, Rickie Fowler and Ben Crane against the brash European elite of Rory McIlroy, Ian Poulter, Graeme McDowell and Sergio Garcia. Lawrence Donegan tees up the action and narrows down the field to see who’ll be top dog come Sunday night.
Lawrence Donegan | U.S. Masters 2013
The beauty of trying to pick a Masters winner is there are fewer contenders than normal golf tournaments. A regular PGA Tour event has a field of 156 players, as does its equivalent on the European Tour.
The 2013 Masters has a field of 93. Of those we can dismiss the chances of least 50 players – including former champions and the invited amateurs and the over-awed journeymen. That leaves us with approximately 40 ‘contenders’.
Of those 40 – 10 fit neatly into the “will be a good effort if they make the cut”. That means you, DA Points, Martin Laird (yes, I know he won last Sunday) and Thomas Bjorn.
Now we are down to the real deal, the 30 players whose wishful thinking about that adulatory Sunday afternoon walk up the carpet of the 18th fairway has some basis in reality.
Unfortunately, this is where the soothsayer business gets rather tricky, contending as it does with human condition, the vagaries of emotion and form.
However, there are some clues.
- A player who is a short hitter and a mediocre putter has no chance. Nor does an average wedge player.
- Augusta National has no time for those who lack accuracy from 100 yards and in. That takes care of another 10.
Which leaves us with the potential winners. Qualification for this elite group is earned by those who drive the ball fairly straight and have the ability to move the ball left-to-right (and right-to-left). They must all cut out three-putts and make mincemeat of the par-fives.
They must be mentally strong, unafraid to hit 220-yard four-irons over water to a distant pin and brave enough to rap of five-foot putt for par into the back of the cup.
No-one fits all of the above categories, but Tiger Woods (4/1f), Rory McIlroy (8/1) and Phil Mickelson (11/1) come closer than most. They will be there – or thereabouts.
Brandt Snedeker (35/1) fits this bill. The American has faded slightly after a strong start to the PGA Tour season but that dip in form has been injury-related. If he is fit and healthy and putts like he can (i.e. like a God) then look for him on the leaderboard.
The same can be said for Ian Poulter (45/1) – another “medium length” hitter who putts with the angels.
As for the rest, Dustin Johnson (30/1) has the power and the ball-flight (a right-to-left draw that suits the course) to suggest he will have a chance. So too does fellow Golf Boy Bubba Watson if he can get his head out of the clouds after last year’s victory, and Adam Scott.
Yet if the weather stays fair – and the forecast is good at least at the weekend – then the balance might tilt away from the bombers towards those who hit the ball just long enough off the tee but who are also blessed with a wonderful touch on and around the greens.
It’s been 14 years since Europe had a winner at the Masters with Jose Maria Olazabal in 1999.
What chance the Europe’s 2012 Ryder Cup is followed into the Augusta National winners’ enclosure by the Englishman Poulter who made his Medinah dreams comes true?