The 2013 Masters has a ton of intrigue and is ground zero in the battle to settle the question of who the greatest player of all time is. Add in a wrinkle in the scheduling process and the winning picture becomes clear.
Like it or not, this year’s tournament is about Tiger Woods and if he can he light the flame under the second stage of his career and rocket himself to the all time top. Trailing Jack Nicklaus by four in the majors race, Woods’ three wins in six starts this year is scary good and he is primed for a run. His main competition on the world stage is Rory McIlroy, who’s game is in shambles due to the recent equipment change and some questionable (lack of) good practice habits. Rory is not a serious contender this year.
Three time champion Phil Mickelson seems to have the next best shot and usually prepares himself to peak at Augusta. But this year, a scheduling anomaly will hurt Phil, who likes to play the week ahead of a major. The Shell Houston Open would be an excellent tune up for Augusta, as the PGA Tour attempts to duplicate Augusta like conditions at the Redstone GC, but an additional tour stop has been inserted between Shell and Augusta. The Valero Texas Open at the J.W. Marriott TPC course is a poor tune-up venue with it’s high winds and tight tee shots. Phil is playing Shell but skipping Valero.
Next best opportunity comes from the duo of Louis Oosthuizen and Keegan Bradley. Louis finished 2012 very strong with four top-five finishes in his last seven events. He’s got the stones to win another major and performed beautifully last year in his runner-up finish to Bubba Watson. With only two cuts made in four starts this season, I would like to see a little more momentum heading into Augusta. Bradley hits a long high ball and is well suited for the venue. He’s won a major, seems to have the desire, and doesn’t get intimated by anyone. He’s got a chance.
Defending champion, Bubba Watson has been in decent form lately but feels like more of a one-and-done guy on the major circuit. Can he rekindle the emotional flame? I doubt it.
On Tiger’s chances, the only thing holding him back is an occasionally balky putter. He is clearly hitting on all cylinders and likes to skip the week before a major, so the scheduling quirk plays to his advantage. He is not, and will never be as dominant as he once was because of his age and his propensity to sustain injury. I’m not convinced his mental foibles are 100% behind him but he seems to be more comfortable being himself again.
So here are your 2013 Masters Picks:
Champion: Tiger Woods. Yes he gets it done this year as all the stars are aligned, but Jack Nicklaus’ all time record of 18 majors is safe. I know, doesn’t take much courage to make this pick 🙂
Runner-Up: Louis Oosthuizen, for the second straight year.
Third: Keegan Bradley. Needs a little more seasoning but could be a threat.
Dark Horse: Matt Kuchar. Winner already at WGC Accenture and would be a great feel good story.
Who do you like?