The Masters – The Contenders and PretendersPost by: Reece Lightning
// April 6th, 2011 // Johnnie Walker Golf Club News
Magnolia Lane, that soothing music, the aching beauty, the history, the excitement, the drama, the crushed marble, the manicured greens and fairways…that’s right golf (and sports) fans – The Masters. It’s that time of year again where we are treated to the best sports viewing of the year in front of the beautiful backdrop of Augusta National. Who’s in line for a Green Jacket? Well, here’s a handful of players to keep an eye on…
(A mrbojumbles piece as seen on Johnnie Walker Golf Club)
Martin Kaymer (WR#1): The best golfer on the planet. The 26-year-old German is looking to emulate compatriot Bernard Langer’s feat of winning at Augusta. Bernard did it twice, and the way young Martin’s career is headed, it looks certain that the machine-like-flusher is going to bag many more Majors in the years ahead. The Masters is the most emotive of the big four and emotion may be a factor Martin is lacking to flourish this week. But above all, the German Robot is a genuine star that will be a familiar sight at the top of leaderboards during the next generation. Get used to him, he ain’t going anywhere.
Lee Westwood (WR#2): Lee returns to Augusta to try and bury the memories from last year’s close call. Leading after 54 holes, the Englishman could smell the fabric of that emerald green dinner jacket only to see Phil squeeze into his third. Lee played brilliantly here last year, and while his game’s been a little off-beat in recent weeks, he heads into the Masters with plenty of confidence knowing he capable of getting himself in the mix yet again. He lost his short rein of the world’s top ranked golfer to German Martin Kaymer, but he’ll be fine with that as long as he can rid himself of the ‘best player to never win a Major tag’ also.
Phil Mickelson (WR#3): Phil’s finally living up to his potential in golf’s Major’s after years of close misses. The 04’, 06’ and defending champion is peaking at exactly the right time and looks ominous. Last year’s season for Phil will forever be remembered by one phenomenal shot on the 15th in the final round of the Masters, but this season Phil’s already found his range. Last weekend Lefty shot a third round nine-under 63 (his lowest round in 2 years) in the Shell Houston Open and went on to win, he’s clearly feeling good about his game. In 06’ he won the week before then went on to win the Masters so mentioning burnout is a moot point. The smart money is on Phil Mickelson. Next stop, world number one?
Graeme McDowell (WR#5): GMac seems to be everyone’s favourite player right now. Joined the Major party last year with that stunning US Open triumph, picked up three other wins world wide and brought the house down with a performance to savor in the European Ryder Cup victory in Wales. GMac’s streaky – of a similar mould to our own Michael Campbell – and the Masters presents another opportunity for the Northern Irishman to make his mark on the world of golf.
Tiger Woods (WR#7): It’s been rather strange watching Tiger struggle around fairways where he once prowled with invincibility over the past year. Who really knows what Tiger’s future holds, but what we do know is that Augusta is Tiger’s place. His win for the ages in 97’ beefed up by three other Green Jackets is a fine record indeed. Even after all the malarkey of what went down last Summer, Tiger emerged from hiding and scrapped his was to a respectable tie for 4th without contending. Tiger Woods wants redemption and another Green Jacket in his locker may be the ticket.
Steve Stricker (WR#8): For someone who performs so consistently all year round it’s ridiculous that he never pops up in the Majors – never. Augusta suits Stricker too. He has a putting stroke as true as Big Ben, sound short game, dead-eye-dick scope off the tee and is clearly a likable chap for the Georgian patrons to root for. Let’s call Steve a wildcard this year.
Rory McIlroy (WR#9): Widely earmarked as a future world number one, McIlroy’s career continues to go from strength to strength. While the 21-year-old Northern Irishman still only has two pro victories to his name, he’ s maintained his top-10 world ranking for for nearly 18 months, finished tied for 3rd in both the US Open and PGA Championships and has tasted Ryder Cup success. He has the complete game and head to match, see: Quail Hollow Championship 2010. Last year’s missed cut may just be a blip on the radar because it seems Rory’s destined for greatness.
Matt Kuchar (WR#10): Easily one of the most consistent and form Americans over the past 18 months. Kuch has fond memories dating back to his amateur days at Georgia Tech just down the road from Augusta National so will be feeling comfortable and confident. Well received by the galleries, the 32-year-old would dearly love to add a Major to his expanding golfing resume.
Rickie Fowler (WR#32): The great American hope is a Masters rookie this week and brings a huge amount of colour, excitement and unprdictability to the hallowed fairways of Augusta National. Last year’s PGA Tour Rookie of the Year is still yet to win as a pro, and while two players have won The Masters on their first attempt, no one has ever made The Masters their first pro vistory. The edgy, young, excitement-machine will be looking to prove he’s more than a pretty face and Augusta is the biggest stage in golf to make a statement. Rickie booms it long for a short chap, oozes aggression, has plenty of imagination and above all, is fearless – sound familar? Agh em… Tiger who?
Padraig Harrington (WR#34): Has basically done nada since his 08’ PGA Championship triumph but you can never count Paddy Harry out, the Irishman will niggle his way though a tournament with 72 consecutive pars if that’s what it comes down to. Showed promise last week, but missed the cut in three of four majors in 2010 – a dark horse.
Anthony Kim (WR#40): Once touted as America’s next big thing, AK has provided barely no substance to back the claims up. He’s had his share of injuries, but heads to Augusta on the back of an encouraging tie for 13th last week and fond memories of a 3rd place last year that included a memorable birdie rampage in the final round.
KJ Choi (WR#43): The man everyone thought would be the first Asian-born player to win a Major is once again flying in under the radar. Recent form suggests KJ’s game is about to peak at the right time. A 3rd placing in 04’ and a tie for 4th last year are his career best Major finishes, so if you’re a betting man Korea’s finest would be a solid top 10 punt. If nothing else, KJ’s sure to sport some quality threads to match that majestic purple number from last year’s Sunday.
Ryo Ishikawa (WR#45): Yo! The kid’s a genius. You do get the feeling that all the hype is not just smoke and mirrors too. He has a swing to die for, is silly long, can go crazy low (has a 58 to his name already) and time on his side. It really is just a matter of time before the 19-year-old Japanese prodigy announces him self in the Majors.
Angel Cabrera (WR#97): The Duck. Perhaps the most random major player of the past decade – has only won two PGA Tour events and both of them are Major’s. A big stage player with enormous drives and silky hands around the greens, don’t be surprised if we’re listening to a translator as the Argentinean dons a second Green Jacket.
Fred Couples (WR#216): Ahhh Freddie, everyone’s heart pick and the player every other player wants to be. Augusta and Freddie go hand-in-hand, they’re like peas in a pod – it’s the all-time-flusher’s spiritual home. Yes, there’s always going to be that dodgey back and putter too, but a leading opening round 66 (without any socks) last year showed that the Silver Fox may still have a something special in store. He may be 51 now, but no one told Tom Watson he was 59 at the 09’ Open Championship.
No Kiwis in the Masters field this year but what have they been up to?
Michael Campbell (WR#753): Well, what can I say about Michael Campbell’s form since the 2005 US Open that hasn’t already been said? Not much. But hey, I’m still the same guy that went on record claiming that Cambo will win a Tour event this year and I still I stand by that comment. It might not be the biggest event on the European Tour’s calendar, but the 42-year-old Campbell has shown there’s plenty of life left in the ol’ dog yet, recording an encouraging tie for 19th in last week’s Trophée Hassan II in Morocco. There’s still plenty of the year left for Cambo to rejoin the winner’s circle.
Danny Lee (WR#520): Danny Lee continues to be hard golfer to follow. The teenage prodigy that exploded onto the scene three years ago has offered little in his outings on the European Tour. However, last week’s tie for 7th with a closing round 65 on the Nationwide Tour’s Chitimacha Louisiana Open hints that Lee may have turned a corner. It’s no secret he’d desperately love to be playing on the PGA Tour, and positive placings like this perhaps show America is where young Danny needs to be.