Our team of writers pick the players they think will go the distance this week at The Masters at Augusta National Golf Club.
BRYCE RITCHIE / Editor / @BunkeredOnline
Sergio owes me big time following years of sizeable wagers and a paltry £21 in return. He is one of the form players in world golf right now, has tasted victory this year and has rounded off good performances in standout events. It’s time to step up, and Augusta National suits him. If his game holds up and he holes some putts, the only thing that will beat him is what’s between his ears.
Like Sergio, the next thing to tick off the list for Kuchar is a major victory. Most likely the form American in the field, Kuchar has blown his shot at victory the last two weeks on the spin – but that’s incidental. He’s playing well and he’ll be fired up to prove he’s got what it takes on the big stage.
Doesn’t matter if it’s wet, plays long and turns into a bombers course, Green Jacket owner Johnson, below in action this week, knows his way around Augusta. He has nerves of steel, strikes it beautifully and has a short game to rely on. He won’t be scared of being out in front either. 33/1 is a steal.
This guy is your man for an E/W bet. He’s set for his fifth Masters this week, having never finished worse than 40th in four tries. He’s also fitter than ever thanks to a new fitness regime, and he’s playing some of his best golf for years. Talented as hell, he’s too good and too in love with Augusta to miss at 100/1.
MICHAEL McEWAN / Assistant Editor / @MMcEwanBunkered
Four top tens in six PGA Tour events this season and a win at the Qatar Masters on the European Tour suggest to me that Sergio’s game is peaking just at the right time. As ever, question marks linger over his putting and his attitude but, if he gets them both right, this could be his week. A tie for eighth last year, meanwhile, suggests he might have figured out how to play Augusta National at last.
Injuries might have contributed to a stuttering start to 2014 for the amiable Englishman but I can’t say that’s put me off. In his eight previous appearances at Augusta, he has never finished outside the top 40. That’s impressive work by anybody’s standards. Now that he’s worked out how to win majors – as he demonstrated at last year’s US Open – I think he could be a real force to be reckoned with.
For my money, 'Kuch' is one of the best active players yet to win a major. He’s done pretty much everything else. Six PGA Tour wins to his name, the calibre of titles he has won trends towards a major being next. For example, the Players Championship in 2012 and a first WGC last year. And forget the recent near-misses. He’s bang on-form and primed for Augusta, where he’s finished third and eighth on his last two visits.
A runner-up at Augusta in 2000 and 2004, Ernie is currently going off at what I consider to be a rather generous 150/1 with most bookies. Granted, he’s yet to hit top form this season and has missed the cut in two of his last three PGA Tour events but The Masters is an event where form can go out of the window in the blink of an eye. Still plenty long enough to contend, he’ll need to shore up his putting to factor this week. But if he does…
CRAIG DENNETT / Equipment Writer / @Craig_Dennett
The Northern Irishman brought all of the attention onto himself with his comments after Tiger’s withdrawal but he seems to be getting back to the confident Rory everyone loves. If everything clicks, this could be one that lives long in the memory for him and fans alike. The Masters, minus Tiger, almost needs Rory to step up.
At 34, Sergio, below, is starting to run out of time. It will be a real shame if he keeps the ‘best player not to win a major’ tag, but it seems to be heading that way. He goes into this Masters in the best form he’s been for a while. He’s in with a chance, as long as he doesn’t hold the lead after 54 holes!
For sure, McDowell is in with a shout. Having already won a major championship, he definitely has what it takes. A likeable character, too, he would be a popular winner and can definitely be regarded as someone with an outside chance of victory.
The man of 2013 is back and hungrier than ever to win a major title. After becoming the first player to win the FedEx Cup and Race To Dubai in the same season last year, he knows it’s the major winners that are really remembered. Watch out for the Swede making a charge on Sunday.
JOSEPH BRADY / Staff Writer / @BradyTwinPart1
Arguably the best player yet to win a major, the Spaniard is currently golf’s on-form player. In his last eight tournaments, he has won twice, finished second once, and racked up three more top tens. With bags of experience and with a point to prove in major championships, expect Sergio to be battling it out come Sunday.
A player who thrives on the big stage, the Aussie, below, has a solid mentality, and an aura of confidence - it is surely a question of when, not if, he will win a major. Having finished third at The Masters last year, I see no reason why he can’t build on that foundation and claim the tournament for himself this year.
When it comes to competing in the Masters two things are key: experience and distance off the tee, so step forward Adam Scott. Last year’s champion has both and it is hard to argue against his chances this year following a solid start to 2014. He proved he can handle the pressure after winning last year’s play-off – an experience he can draw upon this time around when the pressure begins to build.
The 2007 winner has been one of the PGA Tour's most consistent performers this season and knows how to plot his way around Augusta as good as anyone. So far this year, he has one victory to his name as well as three other top ten finishes. The American may just come from under the radar again and claim the Green Jacket for the second time.
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