Watching Gerry Lester “Bubba” Watson tear up last year as he won his second green jacket in three years reminded me why I love the game of golf. Better yet, why I love the Masters Tournament.
The perfection of Augusta National Golf Club’s architecture and design by arguably the greatest golfer of all time, Bobby Jones, proves year in and year out to be the toughest test in golf.
Entering the Masters 79th year, there is guaranteed to be no shortage of meltdowns, triumphs and lead changes that will keep even non-golfers glued to the television.
Coming it at 7,345 yards, Augusta National is a lengthy course that has always favored the long hitters. Those long hitters have all needed superior touch around the greens, with their lightning fast and agonizing contour reputation.
Augusta isn’t the narrowest course, but the trees, fairway bunkers and mulch make for a long day if you’re shaky off the tee, or can’t find your swing that day.
What’s it take to win at the Masters?
Length, accuracy, approach/spin control (sounds like any other PGA event, right?) and most importantly mental toughness.
We’ve seen breakdowns, not to pick on you Mr. McIlroy, but I can’t think of a bigger meltdown in recent history than yours in 2011 at Augusta. We also, watched Greg Norman give up a six shot lead on Sunday to Nick Faldo. You could–and people have–made lists of the biggest chokes in the Masters, so, mental toughness will be the key to winning or holding onto a lead en route to the green jacket.
Tiger Woods, Nick Faldo and Jack Nicklaus are the only golfers to ever win back-to-back titles at the Masters. Considering I don’t place Bubba in the same tier of golfer as any of the gentlemen above–also a much deeper field today–I’m going to give him the early exit at a chance to win the 2015 Masters.
So, here are my top picks for the 2015 Masters. I’m going to select my top three golfers inside the top 20 and one from outside the top 20 to win the coveted green jacket in 2015.
Rory Mcllroy –
I can’t believe I’m saying this. I hate picking the best player in the world to win the most majestic tournament in the world, but there are too many reasons not to pick him as the favorite to win at Augusta.
As previously mentioned, he has already dealt with the mental breakdown during the 2011 Masters, giving up a four shot lead after posting an 80 for his final round.
He plays a high draw, which sets up perfectly for Augusta off the tee, and he has great workability with the cut and fade when he needs to pull it out of the bag. He has also blown up on Saturday in the 2013 Masters, putting two balls in the water on 11 and 15. My premise is, he has learned not to bite off more than he can chew, and since 2011, he has collected three more major championships, so the mental game has come around.
If he can find a way to keep his emotions low, not get too aggressive from the fairway and keep the putts to a minimum–continuously ranked in the bottom half of the Masters putting stats–we will see Mcllroy pick up the career grand slam this weekend.
He’s also taken the last two weeks off in order to prepare for the tournament. I have never said this before about Rory, but I like his chances coming into the 2015 Masters.
Rickie Fowler –
Once again, I can’t believe I’m saying this. Since he stepped onto the tour with his eccentric Puma colors and long locks, I hated this kid. But, after finishing in the top five for all four 2014 majors – first player to do so without winning at least one – I’m going with the, “he’s due” mentality.
Prior to January, Fowler has finished outside of the top 10 only one time in his 11 starts internationally. Leading me back to the fact that, Fowler has played runner up for most of his career, in a field that is deeper than ever in the world of golf.
While his four-year history at the Masters hasn’t been marvelous, his finish in 2014 caught attention. He posted a 71-75-67-73 in 2014, which was good for fifth on the leaderboard, and since then has been working diligently with coach Butch Harmon.
At No. 11 in the world, Rickie might not be the best in the best in the world rankings, but his top four finishes in three of last years majors supplemented with his fifth place finish at Augusta, proves that this kid can play under pressure and with the best in the game.
Who knows, with this being the first major of 2015, maybe its time people will be chanting the name Rickie instead of Rory.
Adam Scott –
Currently sitting at No. 5 in the world, the 2013 Masters champion is ready to make his comeback. After notching his first green jacket in 2013 in an exciting win over Angel Cabrera in a sudden death playoff, the Aussie has won one jacket in 13 trips to Augusta.
As mentioned, Augusta fares well for longer players, which is exactly what Scott brings to the tee box. According to Golfdigest, Adam Scott is ranked in the top five for average driving distance, tied for second at a 309 yard-average. He is comfortable working the ball right to left, which will help him off the box and put himself in good position from the fairway.
Despite hitting only 61.5 percent of fairways in 2014 (good for 80th in the rankings), Scott found ways to make birdie chances happen, ranking at No. 10 in greens in regulation hit at just under 69 percent, according to the PGA Tour.
This tells me that Scott (might have the purest swing on tour) doesn’t miss the fairway by much and hits great shots when called upon. Both will be, and have been crucial for his success at Augusta.
Recent news also posts that Scott will be going back to his anchored–soon to be banned by the PGA–putter for the Masters, the same style with which he won the 2013 Masters. This is good news for Scott’s putting going into the toughest greens in the world.
Since the 2010 Masters, Scott’s worst finish comes in at No. 18 in 2010. Since then he has placed in the top eight three times, including a second place finish and of course his victory in 2013.
Experience is almost a must when heading into the Masters, Scott has 13 years of it, missing the cut only twice, winning the green jacket once and seeking to claim it for the second time in three years.
Lee Westwood –
Something has got to give for Lee. His history at the Masters is nothing short of impressive, continuously making a run at the top of the leaderboard.
Since 2008, Westwood has placed outside the top 11 only once, which came in 2009. Since then, Westwood has compiled four top ten finishes including finishing at 2,3,7, and 8 on the leaderboard when Sunday ends.
He has momentum, somehow, whenever he steps foot on the hallowed grounds of Augusta, with his highest round total since 2010 being a 74.
Don’t sleep on Lee.
I’d like to apologize in advance to my Thursday professors for not being attentive in class.