It takes a special kind of player and a special kind of week to win the Masters Tournament. With that being said, each of the top ten players in the Official World Golf Rankings have a very legitimate chance to don the Green Jacket. Although only two of the ten have won the Masters previously, they have combined for seven Green Jackets and 26 top tens between them. In our first Masters preview of the 2013 season, Spreadsheet Fantasy will examine the top ten players in the Official World Golf Rankings, and each of their chances to win come Sunday afternoon. Enjoy.
1. It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly eight years since the last of Tiger Woods’ four Masters victories. Although he has finished in the top ten six of the past seven years, he just hasn’t been able to come out on top. Over the past few seasons, Woods has certainly had his share of struggles, but with wins in three of his first five starts, this looks like his best chance yet to capture his fifth Green Jacket. With his last Major win coming in 2008, many would question Tiger’s ability to show up when the pressure is on, as his results in last year’s four Major Championships left much to be desired. The days of Tiger beating a field without hitting a shot may be over, but he is still an intimidating figure once he gets a lead under his belt. Tiger’s result at this year’s Masters Tournament will be linked to his play throughout the first two days, and whether he puts himself in a position to lead going into Sunday. If he does, he has a chance to become the second greatest Masters Champion in history.
2. It’s been two years since Rory McIlroy’s final round meltdown at the 2011 Masters, but a lot has changed since then. The Ulsterman has since captured two Major Championships by a combined 16 strokes, and added three other PGA Tour wins. Although he has never finished in the top ten at Augusta, McIlroy’s game is well suited to a course that favors players who can draw the ball, and if he putts like he has in his other two Major victories, he has a very good chance of donning the Green Jacket. Although he comes into the tournament in a bit of a slump after a much-publicized off-season equipment change, McIlroy’s runner up finish at the Valero Texas Open is a good sign that he can still compete. Rory McIlroy’s success at Augusta National will depend on his ability to avoid the mental mistakes that have plagued him early on in the season.
3. Despite having finished inside the top five of each Major Championship tournament, Justin Rose has never managed to come out on top. Easily one of Europe’s most talented players, Rose has risen to prominence, with wins in each of the last three PGA Tour seasons. Although he has finished inside the top ten just twice in his seven starts at Augusta, the nature of his wins shows that he is capable of beating the best in the world. Just entering his prime at 32 years old, Rose is poised for a big season, with top tens in three of his first four starts including a second place finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Rose plays a smart game and doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, which helped him to a top ten finish in last year’s tournament. He’ll look to improve on that as he enters this week with the highest OWGR of his career.
4. Although he’s still ranked number four in the world, Luke Donald doesn’t have much going for him right now. After reaching number one in the world on the shoulders of ridiculous week-to-week consistency, Donald has gone more than a year without a win and has just one top tens so far in 2013. His three top tens in eight career starts at Augusta National are a good example of how well suited his short game is for the course, but he still has trouble reaching that extra gear that the players who thrive on the big stage seem to find. No one will be surprised to find Donald in the top ten come the end of the week, but he’ll need to show he can compete with the pressure on if he hopes to capture the illusive first Major.
5. It’s been a tale of two seasons for Brandt Snedeker. After a red-hot start to the year which saw him take home his fifth win in addition to three other top three finishes, a rib injury forced him out of the Accenture Match Play Championship, and has clearly been bothering him as he has missed his last two cuts. The reigning FedEx Cup Champion has performed admirably in his five Masters starts, with a top ten and two other top twenties. One of the most dangerous putters on tour for much of the past few years, Snedeker is tough to beat when the rest of his game is on. Since Augusta’s tricky greens make it nearly impossible to win without excellent putting, Snedeker has a leg up on much of the field. The only issue for oft-cheery 32 year old this week is his health, which could hold him back from reaching his full potential.
6. One of four players in the top ten with a Major Championship under their belt, Louis Oosthuizen comes into this year’s Masters on the heels of a runner up finish in 2012. After missing the cut in his first three appearances at Augusta National, King Louis went toe-to-toe with Bubba Watson, but ultimately came up just a bit short. Despite owning one of the smoothest swings in the game, and capturing the 2010 Open Championship, Oosthuizen has not had much success in the Majors. He has just three top tens in his 18 starts, and has missed 11 cuts. After an excellent 2012 season which saw him card five top five finishes, Oosthuizen has had mixed results so far in 2013, and it is hard to predict how he’ll do this week. We know he has the game to win at Augusta, and we know he can get it done at a Major Championship, but it remains to be seen whether he’ll put it all together this week.
7. Like Oosthuizen, it will be hard to predict how Adam Scott will do this week. We saw the best and worst of Scott at the Open Championship last year, where he appeared well on his way to winning, before four straight bogeys cost him his first Major. He bounced back well, with an eleventh place finish at the PGA Championship, but we won’t know whether the scar is fully healed until we see him in contention on a Sunday afternoon. Aside from the hiccup at the Open Championship, Adam Scott had been one of the most consistent players in big tournaments over the last couple of years, with six top fifteens in his last eight Major starts. Scott has won both the Players Championship and the Tour Championship, and finished in the top ten in the last two Masters. He hasn’t played much so far this year so it’s hard to gauge his game, but a third straight top ten at Augusta National would come as no surprise.
8. One of the most likable players on Tour, Steve Stricker has taken a new approach to his game in 2013, cutting down his schedule to just a handful of events outside of the Majors. So far the change has paid off, with Stricker carding top five finishes in three of his four starts. His record at the Masters has been less than stellar, with just two top tens in 12 starts, but he has been a completely different player in the last four years of his career, making all four cuts with one top ten. Much like Snedeker, Stricker is consistently one of the best putters on Tour, and what he lacks in distance, he more than makes up for in course management and his play around the greens. Much has been made of Stricker’s failure to win a Major Championship(although it appears to bother him far less than it bothers most others), but with his new abbreviated schedule and game in excellent shape, this may be Stricker’s best chance to get inside the winner’s circle.
9. It’s hard to remember what it was like when Matt Kuchar didn’t appear in the top ten of most leaderboards. Since his resurgence in 2010, Kuchar has accumulated a mind-boggling 32 top tens, with 16 of them coming in Majors, World Golf Championships, and FedEx Cup Playoff events. Kuchar has made the cut in five of his six Masters appearances, finishing with a career best T3 in last year’s edition. There aren’t many weaknesses to Kuchar’s game, and he’s one of the most consistent players in the world. It hasn’t translated to a lot of wins, but when he does win, it often comes in big events. He’s already won once this year at the Accenture Match Play Championship, so a win at Augusta is certainly a possibility. Whether he wins or not, expect to see him smiling his way to another top ten.
10. No list regarding the Masters is complete without Phil Mickelson. No active player has finished in the top ten at Augusta National more than Mickelson, who has finished in the top ten an incredible 14 times in 20 starts, with eight of those finishes in the top three. He hasn’t missed a cut at Augusta since 1997, and only Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods have won more Masters Tournaments than Mickelson, who has donned the Green Jacket on three separate occasions. The last few seasons have not been his best, but Mickelson is an entirely different player when he drives down Magnolia Lane, and with a win and another top three finish already this year, Mickelson is primed to join an elite company of four-time winners.
That wraps up Spreadsheet Fantasy’s preview of the world’s top ten players. We hope you found it enlightening. Let us know what you think in the comment section below and enjoy the tradition unlike any other!