The Masters is a magical time in golf. The lure of the green jacket, the tradition of Augusta, the fight from South Africans. It has it all and is, for me at least the flagship major in the golfing calendar (I do have a soft spot for the Open Championship too). South Africans have fared relatively well at the Masters over the years, we have the second most wins behind USA, three different winners (second only to USA) and numerous top 10’s. Of course it is recent years that make the Masters a little bit more special for SA, with Trevor Immelman winning in 2007 and Charl Schwartzel winning in 2011.
Picking a winner at the Masters is as much luck as picking lotto numbers, but for me there are some players who stand out as favourites this week. So as we look towards the Masters, here are my picks for the 5 players to watch at Augusta 2013.
The current best player in the World seems to have moved on from his emotional breakdown after his failed relationship. He leads all other golfers in the all-important strokes gained putting statistic, and consider this: he made 35 putts of eight feet or longer in his last two starts. At a venue that rewards not only length (which Tiger clearly has) but also precision on the greens, Tiger is undeniably the guy to beat.
I decided to choose only one between Charl and Louis, the two good friends and its Louis that shades it for me. Louis will desperately want to break the mould formed by South Africans at the Masters, where Tim Clark, Retief Goosen and Ernie Els all finished 2nd and havent won the Green Jacket. If ever Louis was going to do it, this would be a great time. He already has a title in 2013 with the Volvo Golf Champions and his precision and length will be greatly valuable at Augusta. A very possible fourth different green jacket winner for SA.
This guy is an incredible golfer. Last year he led the masters after 36 holes and more importantly for him, in the year that has passed, he won his first title (beating Ernie Els in a playoff) the Zurich Classic and quickly won his second, the Byron Nelson. So in his third masters, the emotionless, yet gentle giant would not be a bad bet. He has only had 3 top 25 finishes this year so far, but could do the kind of damage we saw from Charl in 2011.
The likeable Aussie (I know, its sounds like an oxymoron), has made the cut in every event he has played this year. He has 3 top ten finishes. After his near miss in 2011 to our boy Charl and his withdrawl last year, Jason Day will be desperate to challenge again this year and to challenge that brilliant 64 he shot in 2011. Dont be surprised if Jason is lurking on Sunday Afternoon.
Is there a player with a greater affinity to Augusta than Lefty? In his 20 appearances to date, the American has finished in the top 5 an incredible 10 times. He has also won it three times and was pretty close last year, even though he was out of form. This year he comes to the Masters in his best form since 2009, having won the Waste Management Phoenix Open and finishing 3rd at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. An in-form Phil at his favourite golf course can only mean trouble for the other golfers.
My outsider to watch:
The 7th of the 8 South Africans to qualify for the Masters, George Coetzee did it on the back of a fantastic 2012 and has started 2013 off in a top way too. This year he finished 10th at the Alfred Dunhill, 9th in Abu Dhabi, 2nd in Qatar and 3rd at the Joburg Open. He does not get as much attention as our other star youngster, Branden Grace, but George Coetzee is one to watch and deservingly so.
Who are you backing at Augusta?