Expert Picks for The Masters
If there is one golf tournament the casual fan notes and watches, it is often the first major of the season, The Masters. For many, this week marks the official start to the current golf season (now over three months old in earnest) and this season the environment of golf is ramping towards an outstanding battle that should entertain us all. Known as one of the most illustrious and challenging courses in the world, Augusta National lies in the heart of Georgia where weather has been warm and the flowers are already blooming. Now measuring 7,435 total yards (following various changes and revisions made over recent years), this course is one of the longest tracks the professionals will hit this year, yet the greens are known by those who play here to be the path to success and glory. Every hole presents a unique challenge and all are punctuated by greens that are difficult to read and conquer. However, as the only major venue on the Tour brought to the same course every year, many of the top PGA competitors have learned how to tame those putting surfaces and as such there is still room for glory. Reviewing the historical performances of The Masters may be as crucial in fantasy efforts as any week this season. There are golfers who enjoy the work at Augusta and others that most certainly do not, and while a change in direction can come in any given season, the opportunity to review past history specific to this set of links is a unique gift for fantasy owners this week. Past champions, including many who will return and play this week, include three-time winner and defending champ Phil Mickelson, Angel Cabrera, Trevor Immelman, Zach Johnson, Tiger Woods (a four-time winner), Mike Weir, Vijay Singh, Fred Couples and Nick Faldo (a three-time winner). This is the most exclusive field of the season and while many of those names are in the hunt for the Green Jacket this season, all of the game's rising stars will be on hand and battling to make history.
Phil Mickelson [Yahoo Class A] - World Ranking: #10
Mickelson is the defending Masters champ. He’s the defending weekly champ, coming off an exciting win at the Houston Open. Most importantly, he’s the man who has ruled Augusta National more than any other over recent memory, and he comes in with the hot hand needed to make good.
Martin Kaymer [Yahoo Class C] - World Ranking: #28
Kaymer lacks the history we desire from a top starter at the first major of the season and as such we are worried he will disappoint, but his rise to the top of the World Golf Rankings has come to fruition for a reason. If he's in the field, he's near the top of rankings. Kaymer is that good.
Lee Westwood [Yahoo Class C] - World Ranking: #11
Westwood fell just short of the chase for his first Tour major at Augusta last season, one of several quality performances he has enjoyed at The Masters. He is falling short in terms of momentum, but this course could be his catalyst for a return to the top of the leaderboard.
Tiger Woods [Yahoo Class A] - World Ranking: #2
Tiger cannot be ignored at any venue, but his work at The Masters has been so outstandingly strong over the course of his career that a move to keep him off your roster could be as silly as the thought of starting him today may seem. If he can get right, it will happen at The Masters.
Nick Watney [Yahoo Class B] - World Ranking: #23
We waste no time in shooting for a young gunner some might consider a risk for the week, but Watney has enjoyed strong performance at The Masters during his short time on the Tour as a member of the elite. He's shown the game needed this season to compete once again.
Rory McIlroy [Yahoo Class A] - World Ranking: #1
McIlroy has all the skills, ego and intelligence needed to push the best in the world on one of the best courses in the world. He is young and still has much to prove, but he is gearing his focus toward major titles. Augusta could be his proving ground.
Ian Poulter [Yahoo Class C] - World Ranking: #12
Poulter is a dangerous game for fantasy owners. but at Augusta National the history suggests he could be one of the most tempting options on the board. He knows these links and he has enjoyed positive performance on them in the past. His momentum lacks ,but he turns a negative into a positive in a moment.
Hunter Mahan [Yahoo Class B] - World Ranking: #22
Mahan has played well in most of his appearances this season and now he gets to enjoy the comfort of the links at Augusta, where his sticks have proven potent over recent seasons. He has a knack for finding the competition in the first major of the season and he's touting the momentum we covet.
Luke Donald [Yahoo Class B] - World Ranking: #3
Donald may be one of the more complex options on the week. His work thus far this season has been outstanding and it is hard to find a member of the game's elite with this much wind at his back. However, his Masters history is checkered, at best. It's a tough call, but we know Donald has to be considered.
Ernie Els [Yahoo Class B] - World Ranking: #24
Els has a Green Jacket in the closet, he showed well at Augusta National last season, and we've seen enough of his game this season to know he should be able to compete. He may not be the top target in the field but we can't put him too far down the list.
Matt Kuchar [Yahoo Class B] - World Ranking: #9
Kuchar seems to be working his way toward status among the elite, but he has struggled (as he did in Houston last week) to put it together for four rounds. Last season he was one errant round away from competing for a win at The Masters, and this year he's looking just as good.
We would be tempted to get DJ higher on the list but his work at Augusta last season is more than enough reason for concern. He's been a bit up and down thus far in 2011, but we know he enjoys playing against the best.