By Mr. Flatstick
The 2012 Masters is upon us and the dominant theme is evident. Transcendent superstar Rory McIlroy looks to challenge Tiger Woods for the right to be called The Best Player Alive. Rory’s 2012 campaign has been sublime with three top-3 finishes in three PGA Tour events, along with a number of top 5 finishes worldwide. For the first time since 2009, Tiger Woods won a PGA Tour event with a new swing, a new putting style and some renewed mojo. All the while, three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson has looked formidable with a gripping beat-down of Woods at Pebble Beach earlier this season to prove he cannot be ignored.
My winner prediction is based off a dream scenario – that two or more of these elite players battle on Sunday. Either Tiger or Phil would have to be considered the favorite in a duel vs. Rory. They’ve both proven they can close in these cases. Rory is a great front runner but hasn’t shown he can cope with Sunday stress in a tight major championship. Neither does he have many overall professional victories. This is not to denigrate his 2011 US Open title, but that was a landslide sans any gritty Sunday drama. However I do feel he’d learn his lesson and be able to apply his schooling promptly. Tiger owns a PhD in psychological warfare and Phil is the crowd favorite among the Augusta patrons.
If the battle was Tiger vs. Phil, I’d take Tiger only if he was leading going into the day. Despite some near misses, his major championships have been earned while leading after 54 holes. The foolhardy choice would be to presume he’d change this trend 15 years into his career. If they were tied, I’d go with Woods simply because of his recent form. Just note that nothing elevates Phil’s game like a chance to thwart his nemesis.
Throughout its history, The Masters has been seen the dominant world players own the majority of its titles. But there are plenty of instances where a professional can win the tournament with a world-class display of ball-striking and putting – resume be damned. When Tiger was winning at Bay Hill two weeks ago, NBC displayed a graphic that said 78 different professionals had won a PGA event since Tiger’s last win in the fall of 2009. That illustrates how many capable professionals exist with the ability to not just compete - but to defeat these global fields of the best golfers alive.
When ranking the 2012 Masters Field, I weighed several criteria. These include OWGR (Official World Golf Ranking), 2012 OWGR points earned, career performance, ability to contend deep into majors and my personal thoughts about the respective professional’s game and its relationship to Augusta National. OWGR rates players over two years so it cannot be solely used. Also, major championship golf exposes any player with a flaw in his game.
The National is a long course with damning greens that penalize the mundane ball-striker. Length off the tee helps as the long player (by tour standards) can reach all the par five holes in two shots, thus turning the course into a par 68. Further, the greens will severely punish iron shots left above the hole so distance control is a necessity.
The course’s primary defense has always been wind – and as of tonight, there is little wind forecasted. Therefore I expect overall scores to be low, with the winner being very low (I’d say -16 winner this week). Only a player that can dominate a world class course & field has a chance to win this week. There is some rain forecast but the unparalleled agronomy at Augusta should render that inconsequential, with perhaps a mild advantage to the longer player. Shaky putters need not apply. They may post a top 20 but they’d need an elite week of ball-striking to contend.
As for the field, any player who’s won in 2012 should be considered game. While players in their first-year at Augusta often struggle, there are a number of them in fine form and shouldn’t be dismissed this year – especially reigning PGA champion Keegan Bradley. My darkhorse selections are Geoff Oglivy and Paul Lawrie.
Please listen to FDH Lounge Mini-Episode #107 with Rick Morris and myself for more info and feel free to tweet at me or email for any help in your 2012 Masters pools. Good luck.
Know the Field…
Prior Masters Champions
Charl Schwartzel Zach Johnson
Fred Couples Vijay Singh
Angel Cabrera Trevor Immelman
Tom Watson (2) Mike Weir
Ian Woosnam Bernhard Langer (2)
Mark O'Meara Jose Maria Olazabal (2)
Sandy Lyle Craig Stadler
Larry Mize Ben Crenshaw (2)
Paul Casey K.J. Choi Tim Clark
Ben Crane Jason Day Jason Dufner
Simon Dyson Ross Fisher Rickie Fowler
Sergio Garcia Anders Hansen Peter Hanson
Charles Howell III Ryo Ishikawa Fredrik Jacobson
Miguel Angel Jimenez Dustin Johnson Robert Karlsson
Kyung-Tae Kim Matt Kuchar Martin Laird
Edoardo Molinari Francesco Molinari Kevin Na
Sean O'Hair Ryan Palmer Ian Poulter
Alvaro Quiros Chez Reavie Rory Sabbatini
Adam Scott John Senden Scott Stallings
Henrik Stenson Bo Van Pelt Scott Verplank
Nick Watney Bubba Watson Lee Westwood
1st Time Pro Invitees
Kevin Chappell Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano
Harrison Frazar Robert Garrigus
Webb Simpson Kyle Stanley
NOTE: No player since 1979 (Fuzzy Zoeller) has won the Masters in their 1st attempt. However, due to course knowledge shared by peers and that today’s pros have more income & ability to test the course throughout the year, I feel we’ll see this trend thwarted in the near future. Course knowledge does represent a significant obstacle – but remember each year on Tour several young pros do win on courses they haven’t played.
Amateurs Title Amateur Ranking
Patrick Cantlay US Amateur Runner-Up #1 ranked amateur in the world
Hideki Matsuyama Asian-Am Champion #4 (2ND Masters, 2010 Low-Am)
Corbin Mills Public Links Champion #5
Kelly Kraft US Amateur Champion #7
Bryden Macpherson British Am Champion #50
Randal Lewis Mid-Am Champion #400 approx
2012 Tour Winners
Mark Wilson Johnson Wagner
Brandt Snedeker Kyle Stanley
Paul Lawrie (Euro Tour) Phil Mickelson
Bill Haas *Hunter Mahan (two 2012 wins)
Rory McIlroy Justin Rose
Luke Donald Tiger Woods
2012 Invitees With Other Major Championship Victories
Darren Clarke 2011 Open
Rory McIlroy 2011 US Open
Martin Kaymer 2010 PGA
Louis Oosthuizen 2010 Open
Graeme McDowell 2010 US Open
Y.E. Yang 2009 PGA
Stewart Cink 2009 Open
Lucas Glover 2009 US Open
Padraig Harrington NUMEROUS (2009 Open most recent)
Tiger Woods NUMEROUS (2008 US Open)
Angel Cabrera 2007 US Open
Geoff Ogilvy 2006 US Open
Phil Mickelson 2005 PGA
Vijay Singh 2004 PGA
Jim Furyk 2003 US Open
David Toms 2001 PGA
Paul Lawrie 1999 Open
Mark O'Meara 1998 Open
Sandy Lyle 1985 Open
Tom Watson NUMEROUS (1983 Open)
Past Champions Not Playing in 2012
Jack Nicklaus Arnold Palmer Gary Player
Nick Faldo Raymond Floyd Billy Casper
Fuzzy Zoeller Tommy Aaron Jack Burke Jr.
Charles Coody Doug Ford Bob Goalby
Weather (as of SUN eve):
^ 40% chance rain THUR-FRI
^ Almost no wind forecast