Golf’s first major is finally here, with play about ready to get underway at Augusta to kick off the 2011 Masters.
Evan and I have already given you our sleeper picks for this year’s tournament, and now it’s time to turn our focus to the favorites and our predictions as to who will earn the green jacket on Sunday.
So without any further ado, let’s get right to our predictions!
Of course, you have to start here. Mickelson is the defending Masters champion, and we all remember the amazing shots that he made last year to put himself in position to win the tournament. He’s coming off of a win at the Houston Open, and clearly has his game where it needs to be right now in order to be a factor at Augusta this year. If he keeps it in the fairway, there is simply no doubt that he’ll be towards the top of the leaderboard heading into the weekend.
Although we still haven’t seen Tiger’s game get anywhere close to where it use to be, he’s made some progress. And anytime you have a competitor like this on the course, he always has a chance to do something special. He finished in the Top 5 here last year in what was his first tournament back, and how awesome of a story would it be if he finally breaks through at Augusta National to get his first since all the off-course drama? I know I’d love to see it.
Following last year’s Masters, I made the bold prediction that the winner of the 2011 Masters would be none other than Nick Watney. Little did I know how well Watney would play throughout the 2010 season, and how his game would look to start this season. That pick isn’t looking too bad right now, is it? I’ve said it time and time again, but Watney is one of my favorite players on tour, and the guy has the game to win multiple majors in his career. He almost had one at Whistling Straits. And after finishing seventh here last year, along with the fact that he’s been in the Top 25 in every event he’s played this season, Watney’s going to be in the mix this week.
We all thought Westwood was finally going to get his first major last season at Augusta, but once again saw a Sunday struggle keep him major-less for the time-being. Can that change this year at the Masters, or in 2011 for that matter? We’ll see. Aside from the whole winning thing, this guy has owned the majors these last few years. If there’s been one consistent in golf since Tiger’s downfall, it’s that Westwood will be in contention on Sunday at a major. I would expect the same this week.
Kuchar’s history here is well-documented. The guy loves Augusta and has the game to win here. Accuracy is the name of the game at this event, and Kuchar has proven to be one of the more accurate players on tour for the last few years. He’s finished in the Top 10 six times already this season, and if that’s not a sign that a guy is playing some good golf, then I don’t know what is. He’s great with the putter right now, and if his game holds true to form, he’s going to have himself a great week.
And the winner is: Nick Watney
It’s the first time in recent memory that someone not named Tiger heads for Augusta as the odds-on favorite. And why not? Phil’s stock spikes at pitch-perfect timing fresh off his commanding win in Houston this past weekend. Perhaps most impressive —and uncharacteristic—about Phil’s final-round 67 last year was that he did it without a single bogey on the card. If he can again stay out of trouble, battle the course more than himself, Phil might very well capture his fourth green jacket—one that would forever burnish his Masters legend and not to mention level the score with Tiger.
Bubba’s inability to qualify for last year’s tournament does little for his confidence but should at least have him licking his chops heading into this year. The lefty’s uncanny ability to shape the ball in both directions could create success around Augusta’s serpentine corners. He reminds me of when Phil won his first Masters in 2004 after finally learning to cut the ball off the tee. Except that Bubba hits a natural cut and can also hoot it with the best of them. Much like Phil, his only flaw may be trying to get too cute around the course, one that is certain to make him pay for his transgressions.
After a modest past few years on tour, Luke’s career has undergone something of a renaissance in 2011. He’s had a number of top finishes this year including a dominant victory at the Accenture Match Play Tournament in February. His Masters resume is also impressive with two top 10 finishes that offer much confidence to strike again this year. Like always, Donald’s success depends on the stability of his driver, as his iron play and short game seldom falter. (Interesting side note: The last Englishman to win a major was Nick Faldo at the 1996 Masters. A win from Luke this year would be a welcome 15th anniversary gift to the homeland.)
Credit the 29-year-old: perhaps no one has played more consistently since Watney’s epic meltdown at the PGA Championship last year. He’s had five top 10 finishes in 2011 including his huge win at Doral earlier in March. He’s also had three top 20s in as many starts at Augusta and comes in this year ranked second in putting and par-4 performance. Long, accurate ball-striking and a red-hot putter usually form the recipe for success at golf’s toughest test. Look for Nick to pounce on his first major tournament action since last year’s heartbreak at Whistling Straits.
Kim returns with a vengeance after nearly pulling off the unthinkable during last year’s run at Augusta. His final-round 65 fell a few notches short of Phil’s stellar performance in 2010, but still landed him in third place for the tournament. Coming back one year wiser, Kim hopes to pull together the flashes of brilliance we’ve seen scattered throughout his nascent career. Despite some disappointing play early in 2011, Kim still ranks 12th in putting overall heading into some greens few others have been able to figure out.
And the winner is: Bubba Watson
And there you have it. Now it’s time for your pick. Who are you picking to win the 2011 Masters?
Who Will Win the 2011 Masters?
- Phil Mickelson (22%, 31 Votes)
- Tiger Woods (11%, 15 Votes)
- Bubba Watson (8%, 11 Votes)
- Nick Watney (26%, 36 Votes)
- Luke Donald (12%, 17 Votes)
- Other (21%, 29 Votes)
Total Voters: 139
Topics: 2011 Masters, Anthony Kim, Bubba Watson, Golf, Lee Westwood, Luke Donald, Masters Favorites, Masters Picks, Masters Predictions, Matt Kuchar, Nick Watney, PGA, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Who Will Win The Masters