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The 2012 Masters: Staff Predictions and Questions

Apr. 4, 2012     By     Comments (1)

The lead up to this years event is better than ever, check out who the staff likes and what they will be looking for at this years event.

Thrash TalkThe Masters truly starts the golf season. Sure there are plenty of events on the West Coast and the Florida swing, but that week in April with the beautifully manicured fairways at Augusta truly gets the season underway.

There has not been a Masters in the last few years that has the excitement of all the big players playing so well going into the event. Tiger winning, Rory winning, Luke Donald winning, Phil winning, and Mahan (now the top American in the OWGR) winning twice, all before the event. It is set up to be one of the best ever. With that I have collected the predictions and some additional questions from the staff here at The SandTrap, enjoy.

Question 1: Who is your winner and what is their score?

Tristan Hilton
I know its probably the popular choice, but I really think that Tiger is going to pull this one out. Last year he made a late charge and had a great chance at winning but didn't. This time around he is even more comfortable with his swing and coming off his win at Bay Hill his confidence is through the roof. I think it's going to be really hard to keep Tiger from winning this tournament.

Mike McLoughlin
Rory McIlroy at 15 under.

Danny Ottmann
Lets go with Tiger (-13). It seems a long time since Tiger had game enough to win but after watching Bay Hill I think he is getting very close to being Tiger of old.

Jamieson Weiss
Tiger Woods at -13. Why am I picking Tiger? His record is astounding. Since his missed cut in 1996, Tiger has missed the top eight just three times. He hasn't finished outside the top 22 a singe time. He just won a regular-season event for the first time in two and a half years, and his confidence couldn't be higher. Add to that the fact that he's first on Tour in total driving and his putts gained number is getting better every week, I think it's his to lose. If someone told you five years ago that Tiger would be 14th in driving accuracy and still averaging 298.1 off the tee, would you have picked against him?

Michael C. Hepp
Tiger and Rory are going to be the popular picks, so I don't want to go with them. Certainly if I pick purely on the stats Tiger would be the prudent choice. I however am going to go with Lee Westwood at -11. I think it is Lee's year to finally breakthrough and get that first major.

Ron Varrial
Rory McIlroy, -14. Guys who play well at Augusta National don't just forget how to play it. While he got his redemption for the Sunday Masters meltdown at the U.S. Open, I see Rory making a bold statement here, battling Tiger Woods on Sunday and walking away with his second major title.

Erik J. Barzeski
I suck at picking people, so I'm torn between picking who I think will win (thus dooming them to failure) and picking someone who I don't want to win (thus dooming them to failure). So I'm going to pick Hunter Mahan at -11, though his win last week doesn't bode too well for him. It's tough to win back to back on Tour, but if you have to do it in a major, it's easiest at Augusta with the smaller, weaker field.

Question 2: Which golfer outside of the usual suspects (Tiger, Phil, Rory, Luke) do you pick as your dark horse to surprise everyone, and why?

Tristan Hilton
Bill Haas. I don't think that he is going to pull out the win, but I think that he is going to make some noise and surprise a lot of people. He played well last year, in fact, so well that he won the FedExCup, and this year he's already won again (the Northern Trust Open). His best finish in the Masters is a T18 in 2010, and has never finished in the top ten in any major. However, his high finish in each major came last year with the exception of the Masters, so I take this to mean that he his improving. Look for a career finish for him at Augusta somewhere in the top ten or better.

Mike McLoughlin
I like Charles Howell III as a dark horse. After being ranked outside the top 100 his game picked up towards the summer of last year finishing inside the the top 30 on the money list and OWGR. He has had some solid finishes this year, best was T2 at the Sony Open and hitting the ball better than he ever has. I think the home town hero will get some love this year at Augusta.

Danny Ottmann
Bubba! Maybe Bubba will have his major breakthrough moment this year. I followed him around during his practice round at the Masters last year. He works the ball so well, and hits it so far; two important things at Augusta National.

Jamieson Weiss
Last year my pick to win was Matt Kuchar, and while I don't think he'll come away victorious this year, he might be a solid darkhorse. Adam Scott, who played well last year despite being only in the early stages of the broomstick putting experiment, is also a good underdog pick, as are Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler. But my real darkhorse pick is a guy who tied for second last year; Jason Day. In addition to his high Masters finish, Day also won the U.S. Open over everyone not named Rory McIlroy, and had eight other top 10s. He hasn't lit the world on fire so far this year, but I have confidence that we will see some good play out of Jason Day.

Michael C. Hepp
For this pick I went to study par-five scoring and who plays them well, it is so critical to beat up on the par fives as Tiger has done throughout his successful years. The leader of that stat is Rory followed closely by my pick Kyle Stanley. He is a rookie so I do not expect him to win, but he played some practice rounds with Phil and plays the par fives so well. So I am going with him.

Ron Varrial
I want to say Steve Stricker, and while I guess it's hard to call the fifth ranked player in the world a darkhorse, Vegas thinks he is. At 50-1 odds to win, he's behind 18 guys, including guys like Mahan, Baddeley, Choi, and Sergio Garcia. But Stricker can get hot with the putter and has proven he can go low on Tour and has the chops to gut it out on Sunday. If you think it's a cop-out to take No. 5 Stricker, give me my old standby, Alvaro Quiros to overpower Augusta (although he'll likely miss the cut like every other time I'm mentioned him in the picks).

Erik J. Barzeski
I'm picking Kyle Stanley as the dark horse. Ideally he won't lay up on many par fives so that he can suck his wedge back into the water and make triple. :)

charl_schwartzel_masters_win.jpg

Question 3: What do you expect from defending champion Charl Schwartzel?

Tristan Hilton
I think that Schwartzel will play well, but I just don't see him in serious contention on Sunday. The thing is that last year he had to put together an amazing final round, including a stretch of 4 birdies on the last 4 holes, to win and I don't think he's going to make that kind of run again. However, his win at Augusta last year took him from 29th to 11th in the OWGR and he currently sits at 6th. He'll play well enough to make the cut and may even wind up in the top ten but I don't see him in the final few groups come Sunday.

Mike McLoughlin
I think Charl will play well, he's played in four events on the PGA Tour this year and had two top-tens. I expect him to contend in defending his title.

Danny Ottmann
I expect him to contend, he has game as he has shown with his two top 10s and three top 25s in four events this year on the PGA Tour.

Jamieson Weiss
I like Charl, but I'm kind of surprised to still see him hanging around the top 10 in the world, and I don't see him seriously contending again. His record is impressive over the last few years; though his only win is The Masters and he has just four top 10s, his only missed cut since 2010 was the Transitions just a few years ago. If I had to guess, I would say Charl's name is mentioned a few times during the early rounds, but he doesn't compete for the top 10 over the weekend. A solid T30 nets him some cash.

Michael C. Hepp
Charl has a very solid swing and putts decently enough to hang around a lot of the big tournaments. He really has not done much to back up his win last year and I feel last year was such a free for all he never really had the pressure on him until he reached 18. I think it will be a top 20 for him but not have much of a mention over the weekend.

Ron Varrial
Schwartzel must be the most under-the-radar Masters champion of all time. Think of all the story lines from a year ago, and all the hot players coming into this week's. Normally Masters champions win because they are well-suited to Augusta, have figured something out, and it typically sticks with them. I can't say I expect him to win, but there's no reason to think he won't be around on the weekend.

Erik J. Barzeski
Too much for him to worry about this week. He'll make the cut but won't seriously contend. Maybe a T18 or so.

Question 4: Who has more finishers in the top ten: the Americans, Europeans, or - similar to last year - the rest of the world?

Tristan Hilton
This is a tough one. Looking at the OWGR the Europeans definitely have the edge but that doesn't always mean anything. However, it's hard to bet against the likes of McIlroy, Westwood, and Donald, so while I don't have a European winning the tournament I think they'll have more in finishers in the top ten.

Mike McLoughlin
Europeans will have more players in the top ten, so many great players, Luke, Rory, Graeme, Westwood, Kaymer.

Danny Ottmann
Americans will dominated the field this year, at least I hope they will. As we head in to a Ryder Cup year I will root for the Americans all year long.

Jamieson Weiss
Just looking at the top ten of the Official World Golf Rankings, there are five Europeans, three Americans, and two Internationals. Martin Kaymer's track record is terrible, so he's out. I don't think we'll see either Stricker, Simpson, or Rose up there, and I already have Charl falling back. That said, the rest of the top 30 of the OWGR is jam-packed with Americans, so I'll say Americans make up the majority of the top 10, with Europeans second and Internationals last.

Michael C. Hepp
I think it will be full of Americans this year. Nick Watney, Phil catching a late top 10, my darkhorse Kyle Stanley and even Steve Stricker. Although Steve is coming off an injury I wouldn't pick him to win but he might do well enough to catch a top 10, and of course I can't forget Tiger. Second will be the Internationals with the Australians taking a few spots and then the Europeans. Even though I have a Euro winning I think the rest of the group will not make a big splash.

Ron Varrial
I normally ride the Europeans on this one, but I have high hopes for the Americans this time around. I fully expect Tiger to be Top five, and think we'll see Phil and Steve Stricker in the mix. Toss in a guy like Mark Wilson who can hang around and a young American who gets caught up in the moment Kuchar-style (I'm picking Bud Cauley to fill that role) and you can see it being a US-heavy leaderboard Sunday.

Erik J. Barzeski
Americans have played well this year, so I'm going with them. One of them may even be an amateur.

Question 5: What is your favorite Masters moment?

Tristan Hilton
I'm a bit of a Tiger fan now, but truth be told I've only really been a fan of his since the "incident." There is something about rooting for an underdog that I like. Before Tiger was the underdog, there was Phil, and he's provided some of the greatest moments. My favorite has to be the jump (if you can call it that) on the 18th green after sinking the putt for the win. Just a huge weight off of his shoulders for his first major and a great reaction.

Mike McLoughlin
Phil's 6-iron from the pine needles on 13, fourth round in 2010.

Danny Ottmann
You cannot get any better than Jack Nicklaus' win in '86. I believe that to be one of the greatest golf moments all time . I also liked Tiger's first Masters victory in '97.

Jamieson Weiss
My Masters memory bank is surely smaller than that of most people, but I did watch Tiger's chip-in on 15 in 2005 live. It was such an amazing moment that people who watched the highlights of it got goosebumps, but seeing that moment as it happened was simply indescribable. It's not often that you actually get to reflect mid-shot on how a player should play his next stroke, but as that Nike One golf ball was rolling slowly towards the hole it didn't even cross my mind that it would go in. Then it did.

Michael C. Hepp
So many to choose from. My favorite, although it involved the unfortunate collapse of Greg Norman was the 1996 final round by Nick Faldo. Nick was unbelievably clinical in that round shooting a flawless 67 and doing it in the final group with Norman. I remember watching Faldo and thinking that was as cool and calm as a golfer could be.

Ron Varrial
I learned so much about the game through Harvey Penick's books, so I always felt a strong connection to Ben Crenshaw. Sometimes I'll listen to one of his books on tape (yes, my car is that old) and when Crenshaw retells the story of how he won days after burying his teacher and mentor, I still get a combo of chills down my spine and tears welling in my eyes. It will be hard to ever top that Masters moment.

Erik J. Barzeski
I wasn't alive for many. I remember being floored - absolutely floored - by Tiger's win in 1997. Last year was awfully exciting, though.

Discussion

  1. Not too bad I guess with my predictions... Tiger and Bill sucked this week so I missed those, but Schwartzel played as expected, well enough to make the cut not well enough to contend. I also picked more Euros than Americans in the Top 10.

    Nice job Danny with Bubba as the dark horse.

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