It's never easy to pick the winner in a golf tournament, especially one with as many variables as a major but, seeing as the bosses want me to weigh in, herewith are my choices for this year's model for the Green Jacket.
I know, way out on a limb here, right? But let's face it: he knows the course as well as anyone and he happens to be putting as well as anyone at the moment. In fact, he comes in as the leader of the Strokes Gained – Putting category, usually the best measurement of who's putting well. Oh and he's the leading money winner, leader in the Fedex Cup points, No. 1 in scoring average and the top-ranked golfer in the world. Oh, and he has four Green Jackets already.
The last two years, Rose has finished T8 and T11 and he is arguably better now that he was when he played those two events. Ranked third in the world, he has held the lead at the Masters at various points of the tournament and doing so in the final round on Sunday doesn't scare him. He managed quite well in the heat of the battle last year at the Ryder Cup singles matches against Phil Mickelson and should be able to perform if he gets to the back nine of the final round with a chance to win.
He came close to winning last year, getting nipped in the palyoff against Bubba Watson. The sweet-swinging South African didn't wallow in his loss, however. He took it as a sign that he can handle the tough course under the toughest conditions. With a new residence in Florida and a baby on the way, Oosthuizen has a calm off-course life, something that should show up in his game. An inconsistent start to the year showed signs of turning around with a T10 finish at Houston two weeks ago.
Normally we'd put Rory in the same class as Tiger, among the can't-miss options. But this year hasn't been quite as solid as the finish to 2012 and, while he played well down the stretch at the Texas Open, we're not quite sold on whether his game is all the way back just yet (and no, it has nothing to do with equipment – it's the driver, not the car). We know he can play Augusta, but also that he can cough up great chances here. I suspect McIlroy, however, will be around on Sunday afternoon. And when he's on, very few are going to beat him.
And Two More
All this guy did in 2012 was finish inside the top 12 in all four majors and play in the final group in two of them. No, he didn't win, but that should show you that G-Mac shows up for the big ones. This year, he has three top-10s in five starts – all this while he opened up his new restaurant in Florida.
So far this year, Kuchar has three top-10s, a win at the Accenture Match Play and hasn't missed a cut. He is a solid putter and has a great wedge game – two necessities at Augusta National. Last year, he posted a tie for third at the Masters showing that he understands the course well enough to win. He just might get over that hump this week.
Three Final Shots
Sergio Garcia – Never really warmed to the course but has the imagination in his game to succeed here.
Freddie Jacobson – Has finished inside the top 25 in six of his seven starts this year.
Hunter Mahan – Another Sean Foley student who has missed one cut in 2013 and has eight other finishes inside the top 26.