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2011 Masters Preview: The Contenders

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As winter begins to loosen it’s grip on the northern parts of America, The Masters returns to officially mark the start of golf season. The champions dinner has been planned, the azaleas are in bloom, and the tradition like none other returns staunch and steadfast.  You can’t win The Masters by accident, it takes a rock solid game and nerves made of star crust. As you settle in to enjoy a long weekend of coverage, here are the contenders that I foresee making some noise at Augusta.

1. Nick Watney: Even though he primarily cuts the ball that doesn’t mean that he can’t slip on the green jacket. It just means that he will have to trust his game and take more aggressive lines into the greens. If anyone trusts their game more than Watney I’d be surprised. He approaches his shots like he’s just pounding through a bucket on the range. He had had a solid season to this point and after this week may very well engrain himself in the minds of the casual golf fan.

2. Phil Mickelson: Fresh off a win last week, no one comes in on more of a roll than Phil. After seemingly 37 tries he finally passed Tiger on the world rankings (more because Tiger fell to 7th). Phil knows what it takes to win here and seems more control of his game than I have ever seen him. It wouldn’t be a stretch to see him join the short list of back-to-back winners this weekend.

3. Hunter Mahan: Mahan has been playing very well this year and his game is pretty well suited for Augusta as noted by his back to back top 10 finishes. He hasn’t yet shown the elite short game needed to win multiple majors, but he’s one of the most talented players on tour from tee-to-green. It is only a matter of time until he wins his first majors and this week may be Hunter time.

4. Dustin Johnson: Dustin hasn’t shown much in The Masters to this point in his short career, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t. Augusta requires length in addition to touch. Dustin has both and now he has the experience of being in contention with a major on the line. It didn’t turn out in his favor before, but it will soon, and it could be this weekend.

5. Tiger Woods: Last I checked Tiger was at 8/1 to win this week. It wasn’t long ago that he was less than even money. I nearly placed a bet on principle alone. His game is getting closer and he’s showing signs of rounding into winning form. He plans his year to peak at each of the four majors. Here is his first chance to silence the doubters and re-establish himself as the man. On the other hand, another dismal performance could push him all the way out of the top 10 in the world golf rankings. He may never dominate like he has in the past, but I’m not going to doubt him.

6. Bubba Watson: Augusta was more or less tailor made for Bubba’s game. He’s a high ball hitting lefty with the stones to attack the pins. Pars aren’t difficult at The Masters, but birdies or better require the type of shot-shaping ability and gung-ho attitude that Watson has in spades. He came within a shot of winning the PGA in 2010 and already has a win on tour this year. A win this weekend would be a great kickstart to the summer of Bubba.

7. Anthony Kim: At 25, it’s really not fair to compare him to the ultra-underachieving Sergio Garcia, but Kim needs to take the next step in his game. This is AK’s fifth full year on tour and it’s a make or break one for him. If he plays up to his potential, he has the talent to be elite. If he continues to struggle with his consistency, in 10 years we will be talking about how he’s the best player to never win a major. I think he puts it together and has a breakout season, starting at Augusta.

8. Retief Goosen: With the exception of 2009, the goose always seems to find his way near the top of the leaderboard in The Masters. He hasn’t played all that well to this point in 2011, but the sight and smell of the azaleas is just the remedy that he’s been looking for. He’s looking for this third major and this might be the weekend for him to get it done.


One Response to “2011 Masters Preview: The Contenders”

  1. …well, you had TIGER…

    Posted by Bobby Digital | April 11, 2011, 9:16 am

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