Will Tiger have a magical Masters moment?
The 2012 Masters tournament kicks off this Thursday at Augusta National. While the major stories of the week are likely to revolve around the top of the leader board and whether someone can shock Tiger and Rory, some attention will go to the players who under-perform at the bottom of the leader board.
In this article I will predict which golfers are likely to not be in contention for the Green Jacket when it comes to the tail-end of the weekend. See what you think! All comments are welcomed.
The German—former number one—was the 2010 European Tour golfer of the year. Since then he has suffered a small slump, having fallen to fourth in the World Rankings and banking only two wins in 2011. He does have a major win in his bag—the 2010 PGA Championship—which shows he has the talent and drive to win majors.
Kaymer has a very good touch around the greens. Last year on the European Tour he ranked 7th in putts per GIR. However, he has struggled with his putting at Augusta. He is one of the best scramblers around—specially from the sand—which as shown by Phil Mickelson can be a very useful tool at Augusta.
Martin Kaymer has failed to make the weekend in his only four appearances at Augusta. He has tried in the past to change his game specifically for Augusta, but that hasn't worked well for him. If he finally plays his natural game, I can see him making the weekend but not making a big challenge for the trophy.
Keegan Bradley really burst onto the scene last year. He was ranked outside the top 300 at the start of the year. By year's end he had won two PGA Tour events, the second being a major—the PGA Championship. He was only the third golfer to ever win a major on his first attempt and is currently ranked 20th in the world.
Keegan Bradley is one of the best drivers on the PGA Tour and is ranked 20th for greens in regulations. He is not too shabby at any one part of the game. He has also spoken to three-time champion Phil Mickelson for advice about playing at Augusta—an excellent choice considering Mickelson's extensive experience golfing the course.
Bradley's problem is his lack of experience. Only Jason Day managed to finish in the top 10 of people who had no prior experience at Augusta. I do think this will be Bradley's downfall this week, although he has the potential to be a future Masters winner.
Steve Stricker is known on tour as Mr Consistent. A staple in the world top ten for the last few years, Stricker is often considered the best current player without a major win. He is currently ranked 5th in the world and has a tournament win this year in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
Stricker is one of the most consistent players around and will definitely not fall apart in a pressure situation a la Rory last year. He is also one of the most accurate hitters around, with a very good short game. There aren't many holes in his game—something which Stricker will hope can win him the Masters.
Despite his drives being accurate, he is not known for having a long driver and will perhaps struggle as he will be hitting long irons onto the greens rather than short irons or wedges. He also struggled last week with his putting, which will need to be rectified if he wants a shot at the win.
The Ulsterman has proved to be a man for the big occasion. He won the US Open in 2010, the first European in 40 years, before calmly slotting the putt that won Europe the Ryder Cup. Although he hasn't won a tournament since 2010, he has been in good form this year with five top-15 finishes in nine events.
McDowell is particularly good off the tee with impeccable driving accuracy as well as enough distance. Like Stricker, he is one of the top ranked players in terms of greens in regulation and has a similar good touch around greens which can help him save par in sticky situations.
The feeling that McDowell won't do well is based on intuition; not perhaps the greatest thing to go by when predicting a major tournament. McDowell has never had a good record at Augustal, only reaching the weekend on one of his four attempts. Since the US Open win he has only made two of six cuts at majors. Both of these factors contribute to my not expecting much of McDowell.
I think most people would love Rickie Fowler to have a breakout week akin to his performance at the Open last year. He has had a decent year, making the cut at every event he played except the Pebble Beach pro-am, and is currently ranked 41st in the world.
Rickie Fowler has one of the most unique drives on tour and it is one that serves him well with good distance and accuracy, a key at Augusta. If he can get the short game working at its best then Fowler will be in with a real chance.
However I just can't see Fowler having the consistency or bottle to nail it. Sure he might have a good round or maybe even just a little spell, but he won't consistently play well for 72 holes. That should come with experience and winning events. Hopefully Fowler comes back to Augusta next year and we'll be discussing him as a serious contender.