Masters 2013 Preview: Tiger vs. The Field

The beginning of Spring is one of the most exciting times of year for sports fans. It begins with March Madness, followed by Opening Day for the MLB, and then the pinnacle of golf…The Masters. One of golf’s most prized tournaments, it is rich in history and never short on drama come Sunday.

Tiger

Photo By Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Augusta National has always been famous for its lightning fast greens that can make any pro look like an amateur at times. The greens have a huge impact on putting, and make it more difficult for the pros to hit their approach shots close to the pin. The course was lengthened from 6,985 yards to 7,290 yards after the 2001 tournament and then stretched out to its current length of 7,435 after 2005. This significant increase has crippled the shorter hitters and it showed last year when Bubba Watson (1st in driving distance in ’12) won his way into the Green Jacket. The fairways are pretty generous, the rough has never really been an issue, and even with the additional trees that were planted in 2005-2006, driving accuracy has not been much of a factor here.

It will be very important for players to attack the Par 5 and capitalize on any birdie chances they have early on because this is not a course that is ideal for making huge comebacks. Phil and Tiger were the only players to ever win after finishing round one outside of the Top-10 since 1998. They are clearly the exception and it puts emphasis on the fact that a below average first round will put any player out of contention. It is also worth mentioning that no player has ever won the Masters with a triple bogey in any round. Mistakes will be made by everyone, but the person who wins this year will have to limit damage made from their mistakes.

Below are my Top 20 rankings for The Masters. If you have any specific questions regarding fantasy lineups or are looking for betting tips, feel free to shoot me a comment below. I have never finished below the 96th percentile in Yahoo’s fantasy golf since joining in 2007, and finished 2nd overall in 2009. If you need any pointers – I’d be happy to help!

Top 5

1. Tiger Woods

Tiger has yet to win the Green Jacket since the re-design in 2006 but has been vintage Tiger this year already winning 3 out of the 4 stroke play events he has teed up at.  He ranks #1 on Tour in Strokes Gained Putting and #1 in scoring average. What has been his Achilles ’ heel this year has been his driving. Woods currently ranks 147th in Driving Accuracy and only 32nd in Driving Distance.  Because of this, Tiger has had to be a little more conservative off the tee by using irons more often to ensure his approach shot will be in-bounds thus reducing his yardage off the tee. The good news for Tiger is that only one of the last seven winners finished the season ranked in the top 90 in Driving Accuracy since the re-design.  The only winner that has is Zach Johnson, in a year that was the toughest test Augusta has ever presented, with him winning the tournament at +1. The field should be very worried that his only weakness this year likely won’t have a very big impact on him.

2. Rory McIlroy

Most people were shocked when Rory announced that he’d be joining the field for last week’s Valero Texas Open. He felt he needed to at least get into contention in order to build up some confidence for The Masters. Not only did he contend, but he nearly won and ended up finishing 2nd. Rory ticks almost the same boxes as Tiger this week. He has had a very difficult time finding the fairway this year but has been crushing it off the tee and is 1st in measured driving distance this year. A lot of his putts have been ending up just an inch short recently, so if he and his putting coach Dave Stockton can figure out how to tune his putter to catch more breaks this week; I don’t see why he won’t be in contention on Sunday.

3. Justin Rose

Augusta National Golf Club was formerly a plant nursery so each hole is named after a plant or shrub for which it has become associated with. It would be fitting for Rose to eventually wear the Green Jacket and this could be his year. He is a very steady player with a great record here. His current form couldn’t be better and he has finished inside the top 10 in each of the 3 stroke play tournaments he’s played this year. Rose squandered a pretty big lead at the Palmer Invite, which Tiger Woods ended up winning, and attributed his collapse to fatigue. Now that he has taken the last 2 weeks off he should be rested enough for this not to be an issue this week.

4. Keegan Bradley

Keegan has virtually no negative attributes heading into this week. Despite failing to win a tournament in 10 tries this year, he is having one of the best seasons on tour. He has finished in the top 10 in each of the last 4 tournaments and has already proven he has the stomach to win a major by winning the very first one he played in 2011 at the PGA Championship. Keegan tends to play his best golf on courses that range from 7,400-7,500 so Augusta’s length of 7,435 is perfect for him.

5. Jason Day

Jason is my main sleeper pick to win the Green Jacket this year. His playing style fits Augusta perfectly. Jason can launch the ball off the tee and his weak driving accuracy will not be punished here.  His above average putting will be a major asset this week but it’s also interesting to note that he has the highest ball flight than anyone else on tour with an apex height of 132 feet. This is going to be very valuable in trying to get his shot to stay on these very fast greens as most players will have trouble doing so.

Best of the Rest (#6 – #20)

6. Phil Mickelson

7. Lee Westwood

8. Adam Scott

9. Charl Schwartzel

10. Louis Oosthuizen

11. Dustin Johnson

12. Hunter Mahan

13. Bubba Watson

14. Ian Poulter

15. Matt Kuchar

16. Nick Watney

17. Rickie Fowler

18. Jim Furyk

19. Brandt Snedeker

20. Angel Cabrera

When it comes to the Masters, you can never count out Phil Mickelson. He has had a roller coaster start to ’13 by tinkering with his putting stroke every week and he seemed to have found a happy medium with the claw grip at the Shell Houston Open 2 weeks ago. Lee Westwood and Adam Scott seem to be in contention in most majors but neither has busted through with a win…yet. Louis Oosthuizen had a crippling defeat last year and I like his chances of bouncing back and getting into contention again this year. Bigger hitters such as Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson can wreak havoc on the leaderboard if they can get their putters going – as Bubba demonstrated by winning his first Green Jacket a year ago. Matt Kuchar and Nick Watney are 2 steady players that are rarely going to miss a cut. Brandt Snedeker was arguably the hottest player in golf to start the year and then suffered a rib injury that has slowed him down considerably. I feel it will prevent him from claiming his first Green Jacket this year but he is way too talented to leave him outside of the Top-20.

Missed the Cut

These are players that missed my cut but that doesn’t mean I think they will miss THE cut. It just means that these are players I would normally consider in any other tournament but for various reasons will be avoiding them for this years’ Masters:

Bill Haas

Ernie Els

Jason Dufner

Steve Sticker

Martin Kaymer

Luke Donald

Webb Simpson

Zach Johnson

That is a scary list to fade! Each of these elite golfers have me worried going into this week though. Bill Haas has been on fire lately with 5 Top-10’s in his last 7 tournaments but his weekend scoring has been very poor as of late, mainly due to his play around the green. That is not going to get the job done at Augusta and he doesn’t play particularly well here to begin with (0 rounds in the 60’s out of 12 tries since the re-design). Ernie “The Big Easy” Els is a familiar face here and won his way into this year’s with a miraculous come-back victory at the Open Championship last year. He hasn’t had great form this year and I see him struggling a bit on these greens as he is currently ranked 124th in 3-Putt avoidance in 2013.

Jason Dufner has yet to crack the top-10 this year after becoming a regular in that department in 2012. His driving distance is way down this year and his putting has been brutal which just won’t cut it here. There’s a decent chance he’ll be #dufnering instead of being in contention come Sunday. Steve Stricker, Martin Kaymer, Luke Donald, and Webb Simpson are all fantastic golfers that seem to not do so well at Augusta. If the course were 500 yards shorter (like it was pre-2006) I wouldn’t dare bet against Stricker or Donald but the added length is definitely the cause for 2 of the game’s putting specialist’s struggles here. Former Masters Winner, Zach Johnson, is very similar to the putting specialist’s mentioned above. The year in which he won was a year in which the course was very firm, fast, and windy. This allowed the shorter hitters a chance and he was able to win the tournament with a +1 (the 3rd time a winner finished with a score above par).  Most years this course doesn’t fit his playing style and his recent form hasn’t been great so he should be avoided this week. Next week’s RBC Heritage tournament at Hilton Head is where he normally shines.

Masters Drink Ideas

Nothing beats relaxing on the couch for a weekend watching the drama unfold at Augusta. Here are a few Masters inspired drinks that you can enjoy while viewing this years’ tournament:

The Green Jacket

• 1 part Midori • 1 part Blue curacao • 1/2 part Triple sec • Top with Pineapple juice

Build over ice. Garnish with pineapple wedge.

Amen Corner

• 1 part Midori • 1/2 part Blue curacao • 1/2 part Banana liqueur • Dash of lemon juice • Top with Soda Water

Build over ice. Garnish with a slice of lemon.

Arnold Palmer (non-alcoholic)

• 1/2 Lemonade • 1/2 Iced Tea

To make this a John Daly, pour in a considerable amount of vodka.

 

 
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