Tiger out of the woods just in time for masters

4 April 2012

Written by: Jake D'Amato

Tiger Woods tees offThe 76th annual US Masters launches on Thursday this week at Augusta National Golf Club, arguably the world’s most picturesque course, which provides the perfect setting for the beginning of the tour.

Golf is in a great place at the moment, with a resurgent and fully fit Tiger Woods, mercurial Phil Mickleson and prodigal talent Rory McIlroy all in terrific form heading into the years first major.

Not to mention a host of stars more than capable of pinching the green jacket from the big three.

Predicting results in golf is always a dangerous business. With anyone inside the top fifty capable of winning a tournament at any time, generally golf is not a sport meant to be dominated by any one player.

So as risky as it is, here is the form guide and predictions for the best players of the 2012 season.

 

Tiger Woods

Woods’ first official victory since 2009 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March signalled the beginning of his second career.

Woods’ remodelled swing currently rivals that of his younger self, back in the late 90’s, where he brought about the revolution of the modern game.

There is a cruel irony in the fact that his greatest strengths and weaknesses have traded places. Once the bond between Tiger and his Scotty Cameron was sacred, brotherly, unbreakable even. Not anymore.

If his body holds up, and the flat stick starts to fire, he is still capable of putting a beat-down on the rest of the field, and that includes Messrs McIlroy, Donald, Mickleson etc.

Predicted finish: 1-4.

 

Rory McIlroy

McIlroy has had an excellent start to the 2012 season, with victory at the Honda Classic, and finishing runner-up to Hunter Mahan in the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship.

Is he the complete golfer? Not yet, a slight question mark still hovers around his ability to close tournaments out. He can win them well enough from behind, but always seems to leave the door slightly ajar as the frontrunner (2011 U.S Open is excused).

At the moment the current world number two still lacks the ruthlessness of Tiger.

Predicted finish: 1-4.

 

Phil Mickleson

Phenomenal talent, his career to date could easily have been twice as successful as what it stands now, with the absence of one Tiger Woods.

Mickleson has all the tricks in the book and with a victory at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am back in February; he is in good stead for a tilt at his fourth green jacket.

Predicted finish: 1-4.

 

Lee Westwood

With three top-five-finishes this year, Westwood is as consistent as he has ever been.

After first breaking into the top-five in October 2009, Westwood has cemented his position in there ever since. But what has he got to show for it?

Just two PGA Tour Victories in his lengthy career.

Something has to give sooner or later, and at 39 years of age, Westwood’s in the twilight of his prime.

His betting odds can be as low as anyone’s, but his lack of ability to close tournaments out makes him a more undeserving favourite.

Predicted finish: 4-7.

 

Bubba Watson

Every sport has its special players, those ‘freaks’ who can do things their peers can only dream about. Tennis has Roger Federer, Cricket has Sachin Tendulkar, Soccer has Lionel Messi and the AFL has Lance Franklin.

Golf has Bubba Watson.

One word: Magician. And magicians can win majors.

With three top-five-finishes this year, Watson is starting to establish the level of consistency required to stay at the top.

Predicted finish: 4-7.

 

Luke Donald

Donald’s breakout year in 2011 saw him rise to the top of the world rankings, on the back of two wins, and 14 top 10 finishes.

He showed enormous composure to take back the number one crown with victory at the Transitions Championship in March; just two weeks after McIlroy stole it from him.

He is a super player, but if there is one criticism of his game; it is a slight lack of distance off the tee. He can get away with it on most courses, but some of Augusta’s long par 4’s might find him out.

Predicted finish: 5-8.

 

Charl Schwartzel

Maybe golf’s most underrated player, Charl Schwartzel emanates efficiency from tee to green. That flush swing which combines power and touch so effortlessly is the corner stone of this South Africans game.

Capable of taking back to back green jackets.

Predicted finish: 5-8.

 

Jason Day

As the future of Australian Golf, big things are expected of Jason Day. So far he has met expectations, with ten top ten finishes in the 2011 season. However he has started the 2012 season slowly and the feeling is that he is due for a high finish soon.

Day appears to be mentally stronger than Adam Scott, and at the moment, more consistent than Geoff Ogilvy. His game is also well suited to Augusta; expect him to be in contention on the weekend.

Predicted finish: 7-10.

 

Hunter Mahan

Mahan has established himself as the form player in 2012.

Having won the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship back in February, knocking off none other than Rory McIlRoy in the final, and now the Shell Houston Open. Mahan is the first multiple winner on the PGA Tour for the 2012 season.

There is no doubt that others will reach greater heights, and Mahan lacks the natural talent of McIlroy and co, but he is one of the few golfers on tour that has managed to get the most out of his game.

Now at a career high number four in the world, it is time for Mahan to take the next step and become a major winner, and he is certainly capable of it.

Predicted finish: 7-10.

 

Justin Rose

Victory at the WGC Cadillac Championship in early March may have finally spelt the end of Rose’s long standing apprenticeship to join the elite of the elite.

The South African born Englishman showed early on in his career that he has the ability to match it with the best, but he has taken a good while to develop into the player he was touted to be.

Current form indicates that Rose has every chance of a high finish this year.

Predicted finish: 8-11.

The first round of the Masters begins on Thursday April 5, it will be televised live on OneHD from five am Friday morning.

Michael Pollock is a third year Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe University.