Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Time for a Little Golf (Masters Preview)

Our very own golf expert, Grand Slam himself, has weighed in with his Masters preview.  As previously mentioned he's destroying everyone in our fantasy golf league this year, so whether you're in a fantasy league, like to make a wager from time to time, or just dig the Masters, it's worth your time to give 'er a read.


“A tradition unlike any other”, “There it is—as grand as it gets”, “Is it his time?.....Yes!”  “A win for the ages.”  Yes boys and girls, it’s that time of the year when Jim Nantz will give us another memorable quote to end The Masters.  I used to think the NCAA Tournament was the single greatest sporting event, but after that garbage this year, it’s not….it’s that little golf tournament played in April down in Augusta, GA.  

This will be the 75th edition of The Masters being played at Augusta National Golf Club.  I expect a finish that has been just as, if not more exciting than previous years.  In previous years coming into the tournament, there have been a small handful of real contenders, where I see this year’s addition a little different.  For most, Phil Mickelson, who is also the defending champion has to be the odds on favorite to repeat.  He played last week’s Shell Houston Open with the mindset that he wasn’t there to win, but merely to prepare for Augusta.  So what happened?  Lefty went on to shoot the lowest winning score on the 2011 PGA Tour season.  While lefty heads to The Masters with a lot of steam, I literally see a group of 25-30 players that are legitimate contenders this year.  For that reason, I see this year’s tournament possibly being the best ever.   

Look no further than the OWGR (official world golf rankings) to see the recent domination of the European players.  The contingent to head down Magnolia Lane may be the strongest field to ever assemble in Masters History.  It all starts with the #1 player in the world Martin Kaymer.  Kaymer comes into The Masters with a solid 2011 campaign thus far.  He won his first tournament of the year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship against a very strong field, and recently finished 2nd to Luke Donald at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.  Kaymer who won last year’s PGA Championship in a controversial finish will be looking for his 2nd major victory in as many events.  I look for Kaymer to have a solid tournament, but his game doesn’t fit what’s needed to win at Augusta.  And of course there’s the former #1 player in the world, Tiger Woods.  We all know of Tiger’s struggles throughout the last year, but ladies and gentlemen…..this is The Masters.  Remember what happened last year after Tiger’s extensive layoff from the PGA Tour, he finished T4.  There is something about this tournament that brings out something special in Tiger.  Look at his record since turning pro, the results speak for themselves as his worst finish was 22nd.  Although he’s not coming in on a real high note, come Sunday April 10th, you will see Tiger’s name near, if not the top of the leaderboard. 

It’s obvious that with The Masters and the type of field invited year after year that you will get some outstanding pairings.  If you are a “rube” like myself and have access to watching specific groupings, I have picked out five that may be of interest:  

Group 6 features Dustin Johnson, Adam Scott, and Nick Watney.  Johnson may be the hottest golfer on the planet over the last year, while Scott has seemed to have found his swing of late as well as an improved putting game with his new long putter, and Nick Watney is coming off the biggest win of his career at the recent World Golf Championship.   

Group 10 features young guns Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, and Jason Day.  Many people believe that both Fowler and McIlroy could win their first major this week.   

Group 16 features Tiger Woods who is a 4-time Masters champion, Graeme McDowell who is the recent U.S. Open Champion, and Robert Allenby who may be one of the top 5 ball strikers on tour and has the game to win at Augusta.   

Group 32 features defending champion Phil Mickelson, U.S. Open Champion Geoff Ogilvy, and maybe the next rising star Peter Uihlein who has remained an amateur for the chance to play here after his 2010 U.S. Amateur victory.    

Finally if you’re a fan of big tee shots, group 33 features 3 of the longest drivers of the golf ball in PGA tour rookie Jhonattan Vegas who notched his first career PGA tour win earlier in the year at the Bob Hope Classic, Gary Woodland who won a few weeks back at the Transitions Championship, and maybe the longest hitter on any tour in Alvaro Quiros.

Finally if you’re a betting man, don’t put money on Luke Donald to win The Masters.  He was the winner of today’s par 3 contest, and the winner of the par 3 contest has never gone on to win the tournament.  This really pisses me off as I have Donald in one of my Masters pools.  Ok, I’m going to shut up now, but as you can see I am extremely excited for The Masters.  It is hands down the greatest sporting event other than maybe the Lingerie Bowl.  Below you will find my 2011 Masters predictions, as if anyone cares.
What Jim Nantz quote will go into the history books this year?

Winner:  Tiger Woods
Contenders: Ian Poulter, Hunter Mahan, Nick Watney, and Bubba Watson
Sleeper:  Francesco Molinari 


So there you have it folks, straight out of the expert's mouth (or ass?).  For the record, I'm rolling with Bill Haas at 100-1, Francesco Molinari 80-1, Hunter Mahan 25-1, Paul Casey 35-1, Justin Rose 35-1, Steve Stricker 40-1, David Toms 125-1, Jerry Kelly 250-1.  So avoid those players at all costs.  My actual pick, however, mirrors Grand Slam's because I've got a feeling about the Tiger.  You know it's coming at some point, he's been a little too quiet, and this just feels like the tournament where's it coming.  Hide your golfers and your women.

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