It's Masters Week, so that means it's time for our incredibly simple but undeniably fun Masters Majors Challenge game. Pick six golfers to form your team -- any six golfers -- and whoever's team has the most earnings come Sunday evening wins. First prize: $1,000. Entry fee: $10. You can't beat it!
It's my favorite weekend of the year, I'm happy to admit. We're around family, the weather is usually pretty nice, and the golf season truly kicks off for the majority of golf fans with The Masters. Watching the final round with my father after a big Easter meal over the years has created some of my fondest memories, and I can't wait for more this weekend.
This is shaping up to be the most competitive Masters ever -- I'd argue it is, hands down. Even thumbing through some old tournaments, I can't find a time when so many of the world's best players have been peaking heading to Augusta. I count an unheard of 10 players for whom a legitimate case as the favorite can be made: Tiger, Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Luke Donald, Hunter Mahan, Lee Westwood, Justin Rose, Steve Stricker, Adam Scott and Charl Schwartzel. That leaves out a big crop of top players who are playing great in 2012 and/or are suited for this course, such as Bubba Watson, Brandt Snedeker, Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson, Nick Watney, Dustin Johnson (note: W/D) and Jim Furyk. There is literally no way to pick these guys out of a hat when they're on their games. It's anyone's tournament, and that means some tough choices have to made when selecting golfers.
But we're the guys who live and breathe this stuff and have some ideas for you as you make your pick for your One and Done game or Masters Majors Challenge team. Here's your 10-Fer for that little tourney held off Washington Ave. in Augusta, Ga. -- no need to be sensitive on darkhorses this week, as this in one of the weeks you want to use the big guns.
As always, make sure to check the bottom of this page one last time on Wednesday night to make sure your selected players haven't unexpectedly withdrawn from the tournament. Ed. note: Dustin Johnson has withdrawn from The Masters.
10. Angel Cabrera. The Duck more resembles your buddy at the neighborhood bar than the average major champion, and hasn't done much in 2012 so far… but that's par for the course with the affable, chain-smoking Argentinian. He plays the majors and especially Augusta National extremely well -- he hits his booming, free-swinging draw around doglegs and lets his deft touch around the greens do the rest. He won here in 2009, finished 7th last year and t18 in 2010. He hadn't done anything notable prior to Augusta in any of those years, either. He's a good bet to be in or near the top-10 come Sunday and it wouldn't surprise anyone if he won.
9. Brandt Snedeker. My Nashville brethren lives for this tournament, is playing well in 2012, and has done well here (t15 last year, t3 after a final-round debacle in 2008). He would qualify as a darkhorse, but I expect to see him on page one of the leaderboard come Sunday.
8. Justin Rose. He's never missed a cut here, although it's tough to get much from past results with Rose. His swing has matured the last two years to become one of the most solid on Tour, and I'll rely on his t11 finish in 2011 as more of a true indicator of future results. He also won the WGC Cadillac event at Doral last month, which was a great field. I don't think a ton of people will pick him this week, but when Tiger says he wants your swing, you're doing something right and deserve consideration.
7. KJ Choi. He's certainly not the guy that comes to mind when thinking about The Masters, but he is right at home at Augusta National. He's finished 8th and t4 the last two years, has a handful of other great finishes. He's a solid pick to finish in the top-10.
6. Phil Mickelson. The three-time Masters champ is really in the trifecta of favorites with Tiger and Rory, but I wasn't wild about his weekend play at Houston last week. He hit a few funny shots that will absolutely bludgeon his scorecard at Augusta National and even missed a couple of gimme putts. In Georgia, I think he'll play it super conservatively Thursday and Friday (and shoot in the neighborhood of 71-69), and really go for it on Saturday unless he's in the lead already. He should be on your team, but his Saturday round is the one to watch -- I just don't know what to expect when he really lets it loose, and that's not a great feeling when he's your pick.
5. Luke Donald. He's the World No. 1, but he's flying stealth-like under the radar this week. He won The Transitions two weeks ago so he's playing well. He finished t4 here last year and has two other top-10 finishes the last seven years. His superior short game is what makes him a factor at Augusta, no matter how he plays tee to green. But if his iron game is dialed in, he could win.
4. Hunter Mahan. The four-spot for the No. 4-ranked player in the world. He's won twice already in 2012 and has taken his game to a new level. He also has two top-10's at Augusta the last three years. Short game has always been his weakness, but he's taken major strides in that department (jumped 20 spots in the scrambling stat, 5th in putting from 20-25 feet, a key distance at Augusta National). He seems ready.
3. Keegan Bradley. This is his first appearance at The Masters, but he's played six practice rounds here the last few months, several with Lefty in his group. That's a lot more than he played at his first-ever major at Atlanta Athletic Club, which he happened to win last August. I'm not predicting a win for him (Fuzzy Zoeller in '79 was the last to do that in his first Masters appearance), but it wouldn't surprise me if he had a top-5. It would actually be an outlier if he had a bad finish. He missed two cuts immediately following his PGA Championship win, but hasn't finished worse than t22 since.
2. Rory McIlroy. Boy wonder has something to prove this year. He didn't falter during Tiger's run at Honda, and he's likely savoring the opportunity to show that he can do it on the Augusta stage. I think what all of us hope for is that he's back in the same position he was last year -- leading (or around the lead) heading into the back nine -- and plays well on the way in, with everyone else making a run to the finish line. Especially is one of the guys charging is...
1. Tiger Woods. It just seems like things have been building toward this since last Fall, doesn't it? Even when he's playing poorly (or not playing at all), he finishes in the top-5 at The Masters. Only he's playing well now. Is he a lock to win? No, as evidenced by the list of players above. If any of those guys has a great week of putts dropping or favorable bounces, that player will likely win. But it would be shocking if Tiger finishes outside of the top-5. He's back.
Player to Avoid: Dustin Johnson. This course seems to set up ideally for him, but he's not a great putter and seems to make mistakes at the wrong times. His three starts at The Masters: t38, t38 and t30. His recent play on Tour has been only average as well (and sporadic - only one March event, was back at Doral). Not the history or recent play we're looking for this week. This is especially relevant now, as Johnson withdrew from The Masters on Tuesday with a back injury.
Decent picks last week in Houston: Jeff Overton and Bud Cauley both finished t4. Ernie Els (no Masters for the Big Easy) was t12 and Henrik Stenson t21. Five others made the cut. We'll take it.
Bad picks: Paul Casey was my only guy to MC. Should probably put a 'hold' on him until he's shown he's completely back from his injury.
Important note: If you haven't signed up for one of our games yet, here's a great way to participate... We're donating 100% of your $20 entry fee to this One and Done game to the Tennessee Breast Cancer Coalition in support of Lori Mihal, wife of golfmanna co-founder Mark Mihal, who was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer last week. So have some fun and support a great cause, it means a lot to us.
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Photo: US Presswire