Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Masters Preview: Will Tiger snag his 5th Green Jacket?

Before we get started on our preview, enjoy a little golf music video from some of the world's greatest players.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, there are some very compelling story lines in this year's Masters tournament.  Let's delve in, and see if we can't find our green jacket winner in the process.

Obviously, the first name to mention is Luke Donald, the current world number one.  Donald is coming off a great performance at the Transitions Championship, where he shot a final round 66 (-5) and eventually won the tournament in a playoff.  Donald is also coming off a good performance last year at Augusta, finishing -10, good for fourth overall.  But he has developed a reputation for failing to show up when pressure mounts, especially in major tournaments.  While I tend to disagree with that reputation, there's really no argument against it until Donald proves himself on the course.  He's an incredibly consistent golfer, but I think he's going to need to take some chances to win this year, especially with Tiger at full strength.  As the world number one, Donald should be incredibly insulted, and motivated, that he is not the favorite in this tournament.  This is a chance for him to prove himself and his lofty ranking, but I just don't see him stepping up this time.

Another interesting player in this year's tournament is one of the guys moonlighting as a hip-hop star up top.  Bubba Watson has finished in the top 5 in his last two tournaments, and we know his length won't be a problem at Augusta, or any course for that matter.  It's promising to see how many greens Bubba has hit in regulation in the past two tournaments, and if he can keep hitting balls far and with accuracy, he has as good a chance as any to come away with a victory.  I like Watson's chances this year, even though he has never seen much success at Augusta, simply because he seems to be playing with a newfound confidence and swagger.  I'm expecting a top-10 finish from the young gun, and I think he will be disappointed with anything less.

It'd be tough for me to write this entire article without at least mentioning my favorite golfer. Ben Crane has had a rough go of it in his past 5 tournaments, and he has never played exceptionally well at the Masters.  Having said that, I think we could see the comedy genius turn it on this week.  I'm expecting a made cut and a final day run that puts him in the 20-30 range.  As you can see in the video to the left, Mr. Crane has been going through rigorous training in preparation for the Masters.

Rory McIlroy has to be one of the favorites this year, especially after his 3-round domination of the course last year.  Unfortunately, he coupled that with a final round 80, and he ended up outside of the top 10.  This year, McIlroy will be on a mission to prove that was a fluke, and he is dangerous when he is that focused.  Anything less than a green jacket would be disappointing for McIlroy, and I consider him this year's favorite.  How incredible would it be to see Rory and Tiger battling it out on Sunday, with Rory prevailing in a changing of the guard?  What would they call it?  Tiger, hear me Roar(y)?

Last year's winner Charl Schwartzel and always in contention but never winning Lee Westwood should be on the first page of the leaderboard, but I don't see either of them coming away with the ultimate prize.  That's because one man is standing in their way.

Tiger Woods will win this tournament.  I might be jumping to conclusions, considering he's had one good tournament in the past year.  But that tournament happened to be his last one, and his putter was putting on a show all week.  Tiger seems to be playing with confidence, and I think as long as his driver is mildly consistent, we could see him putting on the green jacket.  With the crowd behind him, Tiger will feed off the energy like no one else can and take back the title of world's best golfer, which he relinquished not too long ago.

Having said that, don't count out the Lefty, the magic of Mickelson.  Enjoy your weekends, and don't forget to catch some of the great action at Augusta.

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