Why are you sitting in an office reading this? You should be on the golf course right now. It is April and the 2012 edition of the Masters is about to tee off. That means it is officially golf season. So knock off work early, grab your clubs and dream that you’re the one coming around Amen Corner with a shot at your first Major Championship. That’s as close as you’re going to get to Augusta this weekend – Especially if your dog ate your tickets.
The Masters have had plenty of first-time winners recently – when Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson haven’t been dominating. Over the last 11 Masters, Tiger has won three (2001, 2002, 2005) and Phil has won three (2004, 2006, 2010), but the other winners have been guys who haven’t really tasted major success on the PGA tour.
Charl Schwartzel (2011), Ángel Cabrera (2009), Trevor Immelman (2008), Zach Johnson (2007), and Mike Weir (2003) have all won during the Woods – Mickelson era. Of all the non-Tiger-or-Phil golfers to win a Masters in this era, only Cabrera has won a Major Championship before or since. My point is? Either Tiger, Phil or somebody else is going to win this weekend. I know that’s an incredibly trite thing to say, but that’s the way it’s been since the turn of the century.
The conditions could be rainy this weekend, so Augusta – much like chicks – will dig the long ball. I’ve included Bovada (former Bodog) odds so we can get an idea of how Vegas sees the tournament playing out. I’ve separated the preview into two sections – The Big Three and Everybody Else.
Tiger / Phil / Rory
Last year, Tiger Woods (4/1) finished tied for fourth place, just four shots back. That might be surprising since Tiger has been a supreme hack-fraud since Thanksgiving 2009. Tiger hasn’t won at Augusta since 2005, but his worst finish since then has been a tie for 6th place. Tiger is always competitive at Augusta. That, combined with the fact that he’s coming off this first tour win since 1946 (approximately) has made him the favorite to make his 15th major victory this weekend.
While Tiger is the betting favorite, Rory McIlroy (11/2) has to be the on-paper favorite to win his first Masters. Rory won his first Major in 2011 with a record-setting performance at the U.S. Open. In three 2012 tournaments, Rory has finished second, first and third. McIlroy is certainly primed for his first Green Jacket.
After the three EA Sports Tiger Woods Golf cover models (Tiger, Rory and Augusta National), Phil Mickelson (11/1) is the other no-brainer pick to win this weekend. Phil has had an up and down 2012 season, with just 4 top-25 finishes in 8 tournaments. He won the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and finished second a week later, but he also missed a cut early in the year and has four finishes outside the top twenty, including two in the 40′s. Having said all that, this is Phil Mickelson. In 2012, Phil is as likely to be in the final pairing on Sunday as he is to sweat the cut on Friday, but you’d be dumb to count out the three-time champion.
Last year Charl Schwartzel (33/1) earned his first PGA tour victory as he held off Adam Scott (33/1) and Jason Day (40/1) by two strokes. Schwartzel has two top-five finishes this season, but has missed the cut in consecutive tournaments. Neither Scott or Day have made any noise this year.
FedEx Cup leader Hunter Mahan (28/1) has two tour wins in 2012, including victory at the Shell Houston Open last week. Mahan has never finished better than 6th place at a Major Championship. Johnson Wagner (125/1) is second in the FedEx Cup standings. His best major finish was a tie for 36 at the 2008 Masters, but he has four top-10 finishes this season.
Martin Kaymer (50/1) has two top-25 finishes in 2012, plus he made this sweet trick shot where he skipped the ball across a pond and into the hole. He makes shots like that all week and he’ll be tough to catch.
Sergio Garcia… *sigh* We’re still waiting for Sergio (50/1) to seize the day and win a Major Championship. We’ve been waiting since that magical 2nd place finish at the 1999 PGA Championship. His best Masters finish came in 2004. He’s come close to winning every tournament imaginable. In 2012, he has just one top 10 finish.
Justin Rose (33/1) has been solid this year and has at least a top-10 finish in every Major. Kyle Stanley (80/1) won the prestigious Waste Management Phoenix Open two months ago, but has missed a cut and finished outside the top-50 since March began. Bubba Watson (40/1) has never been great in Major Championships, but he has torn it up in March with two second place finishes and a 4th place finish.
Keegan Bradley (33/1) has been one of the most solid players on tour in 2012 with 9 top-25 finishes in 9 tournaments this year. Bradley will be just 26-years-old next month, but the 2011 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year is coming off a Major title at the PGA Championship. He was the third player to ever win his Major debut.
Luke Donald (16/1) was the 2011 leading money winner on the tour. Donald has a sixth and first place finish in his last two tournaments this season. He’s been as close as a third place finish at the 2005 Masters. Playing well recently combined with a strong 2011 season and the fact that he has been close before makes Donald my non-Tiger/Phil/Rory pick. I apologize to the three Luke Donald fans out there.
[Images via US PRESSWIRE, Getty]