Masters Field 2012: Everything You Need to Know About the Year's First Major

Michael DixonAnalyst IIIApril 2, 2012

Masters Field 2012: Everything You Need to Know About the Year's First Major

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    Alright, golf fans, Masters week is here. You've seen everything that you need to see, and the field is set. 

    Think of this as a handy guide for experienced golf fans and novices alike. Yes, we're going to focus primarily on players here, but we'll also take a look at things that you should keep a close eye on throughout the week. 

    Without any further ado, let's take a look at exactly what to expect between now and Sunday evening. 

Essentials

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    Obviously, you can't follow anything about the tournament if you don't know when to do so. Let this be your viewing guide throughout the week at Augusta. 

     

    Live Television Schedule

      Date Time (ET) TV
    Round 1   April 5 3 - 7:30 p.m. ESPN 
    Round 2 April 6 3 - 7:30 p.m. ESPN
    Round 3 April 7 3:30 - 7 p.m.  CBS
    Round 4 April 8  2 - 7 p.m.  CBS

    Rebroadcasts

      Date Time (ET) TV
    Round 1   April 5  8 - 11 p.m. ESPN 
    Round 2 April 6 8 - 11 p.m. ESPN


    Live Stream Information (via Masters.com.)

    Thursday, April 5

      Times (ET)
    Amen Corner Coverage  10:45 a.m. - 6 p.m. 
    Holes 15 and 16 11:45 a.m. - 7 p.m.
    Featured Group 1 12 - 7:30 p.m. 
    Featured Group 2 12 - 7:30 p.m

    Friday, April 6

      Times (ET)
    Amen Corner Coverage  10:45 a.m. - 6 p.m. 
    Holes 15 and 16 11:45 a.m. - 7p.m.
    Featured Group 1 12 - 7:30 p.m. 
    Featured Group 2 12 - 7:30 p.m

    Saturday, April 7

      Times (ET)
    Amen Corner Coverage  11:45 a.m. - 6 p.m. 
    Holes 15 and 16 12:30 - 6:30 p.m.
    Featured Group 1 12:30 - 7 p.m. 
    Featured Group 2 12:30 - 7 p.m

    Sunday, April 8

      Times (ET)
    Amen Corner Coverage  11:45 a.m. - 6 p.m. 
    Holes 15 and 16 12:30 - 6:30 p.m.
    Featured Group 1 12:30 - 7 p.m. 
    Featured Group 2 12:30 - 7 p.m

     

    Masters.com also offers extensive pre-tournament coverage. 

    From Monday through Wednesday, you can catch all of your favorites on the driving range. 

    The par-three shootout is available at Masters.com and on ESPN on Wednesday at 3 p.m. ET.

Facts to Note

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    While the Masters is known for dramatic finishes, recent history shows that a deep final-round comeback is not likely. Eight of the last 10 champions have come from the final pairing (denoted by *). 

    Year

    Champion

    54-hole standing 

    2011 

    Charl Schwartzel 

    Four down

    2010

    Phil Mickelson

    One down*

    2009

    Angel Cabrera

    Tied for lead*

    2008

    Trevor Immelman 

    Two up*

    2007

    Zach Johnson

    Two down

    2006

    Phil Mickelson

    One up*

    2005

    Tiger Woods

    Three up*

    2004

    Phil Mickelson

    Tied for lead*

    2003

    Mike Weir

    Two down*

    2002 

    Tiger Woods

    Tied for lead* 

    According to Masters.com, 18 former champions will be in the field. All former champions are invited to participate at the Masters for the remainder of their lives. Tom Watson, who won in 1977, is the least recent champ in the field. 

    With the exception of 1943-1945, the Masters has been contested every year since 1934. In the tournament's history, only Sam Snead (1954), Jack Burke Jr. (1956) and Zach Johnson (2007) have won with a score over par, so expect to see some birdies. 

    Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods are by far the most accomplished Masters players in the field this week, with seven wins between them (Woods: 1997, 2001, 2002, 2005; Mickelson: 2004, 2006, 2010). Ben Crenshaw, Bernhard Langer and Jose Maria Olazabal are all multiple-time champions, but only Olazabal's 1999 win came after the first won by Tiger and Mickelson. 

    There are 15 players in the 2012 Masters making their tournament debut. Of them, only Keegan Bradley has won a major, as he won the 2011 PGA.

    The par-three shootout is held every year on the day before the Masters. Whether it's coincidental or not can be debated, but the winner of that shootout has never won the Masters that same year. 

Don't Bet on Charl Schwartzel

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    Don't get me wrong, I like Schwartzel a lot and he's a fine golfer. But in the history of this tournament, we've seen three repeat champions. 

    Golfer   Years
    Jack Nicklaus  1965, 1966
    Nick Faldo 1989, 1990
    Tiger Woods 2001, 2001

    All three of those guys were the best golfers in the world at the time of the repeat, and Schwartzel is not that. Maybe the golfer gets too comfortable or too confident; maybe it's that the odds of any one out of nearly 100 golfers winning any given tournament are long.

    Whatever it is, this is not something that happens often. Don't plan on it happening here. 

    Still, there are plenty of other golfers to look at. 

The Favorites Are Clear

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    Taking a look at the current odds, it's clear that the people setting these numbers see only a highly exclusive group of players having a real chance taking the green jacket. 

    (All odds listed courtesy of Bodava.lv)

    Golfer Odds  
    Tiger Woods  4/1
    Rory McIlroy 5/1
    Phil Mickelson 12/1
    Lee Westwood   14/1
    Luke Donald 14/1

    As a point of reference, the next man on the list is Hunter Mahan, at 25/1. That is a massive difference between two players. 

    Obviously anything can happen, but if you believe the oddsmakers know what they're talking about, your focus will be on a select group. 

    Now, let's take a closer look at those players.

Tiger Woods

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    No player will be more worth watching than Woods. He is a four-time champion at the Masters (1997, 2001, 2002, 2005). Even in some down years, he always seems to be some kind of factor on the back nine. Even in the last two years, he managed fourth-place showings while coming in ice-cold. 

    Of that group of players, he is the one most likely to win it this year (note that I did not say he was my pick). The problem over the last few years with Tiger has been as mental as anything else. Now that he's won and won at Bay Hill, a place he previously dominated, I have no doubt that his mind is right. 

    All of that means is that whether he wins or not, it would be downright shocking to see the back nine on Sunday without Tiger at least right in the mix. 

Rory McIlroy

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    The simple question is, can he recover from last year's Masters collapse? The game is custom-built for that course, as the approach shots are consistently high, meaning they stick. McIlroy also hits the ball a long way, so he'll be approaching greens from close. 

    The U.S. Open last year was impressive, but there have been several great golfers who could never quite get over the hump at the Masters (Greg Norman, Ernie Els). Yes, McIlroy is still young, but the determination will have to be big this year. 

    As for what to watch for, keep an eye on the first round. McIlroy is a good front-runner, so don't expect him to hang in the middle of the pack early and burst late. If he's going to be a threat to win, we'll have a good sense of that early on. 

Phil Mickelson

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    The performance at the Shell Houston Open was encouraging, but I am not seeing a consistent enough putter from Mickelson; this is going to be a problem at the Masters. 

    The reality is that to win the Masters, you need at least three good putting days, mixed in with maybe one average one. Unfortunately, Mickelson's magic doesn't seem to be consistent enough this year to win. 

    Now, he'll be around on Sunday. Not unlike Tiger, it's a rare Masters where Phil is completely off everyone's radar on Sunday, but don't look for a win. 

Lee Westwood

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    The game is there, but to win the Masters, putting well is a must. Westwood is just not good enough in that part of the game to do that for four days. 

    The putting is one problem, but it's not the biggest. 

    Westwood has had many chances to win a major, but that part of his trophy case remains empty. He hasn't closed the deal at any one of the four in his entire career, and that's a big deal when you've been around as long as Westwood. 

    Being unable to close the door in a major is a sign of nerves showing up. Ironically, that's also a big effect of a dead putter.

Luke Donald

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    Donald has a similar problem to Westwood. By his world ranking (No. 1), there should be plenty of majors in the bag right now. Unfortunately, there isn't a single one, which doesn't signify a great set of nerves. 

    The other problem with Donald is that he's a terrible driver of the ball. He doesn't hit the ball a long way or find the fairway all that often, which is a ghastly combination. 

    At other courses, Donald finds ways. You can hold greens at other venues, and Donald is a superior putter. At Augusta, approaching with long irons from the rough is a tough way to go. Quite frankly, he won't make enough birdies down the stretch to win. 

    Now, let's take a look at some long shots worth giving a second look.

Hunter Mahan

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    Based on 25/1 odds (according to Bodava), this is an absolute long shot, but Mahan shouldn't be. 

    It doesn't take much to figure out that Mahan is hot right now. Actually, he was my pick before winning the Shell Houston Open. Ironically, my conviction of that pick has gone down, as consecutive wins are rare on tour. 

    Still, I am sticking with it. That tournament sets itself up a lot like Augusta, so it is excellent practice. Mahan has always hit the driver very well and his iron play is virtually second to none, but on and around the greens has been tough. 

    Now, he's extremely solid with wedges and the putter. In Texas, his putting was top notch all week.

    I am sticking with the pick of Mahan to win. I would have to see a glaring flaw to back off of my pick, and it's just not there. 

Keegan Bradley

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    This guy has all of the tools to win at Augusta. He hits the ball a mile, is deadly with the irons and more than capable of getting hot with the putter. 

    There are two problems with Bradley, and neither can be overlooked. 

    One is that people just don't win consecutive majors. It hasn't happened since 2008, when Padraig Harrington was red-hot and, in reality, the best player in the world (remember, Tiger was out with a knee injury at that point).

    I think Bradley will be one of the best in the world sooner rather than later. The problem is that he's never played the Masters before, and first-timers at Augusta just don't do well at the Masters.

    Bradley's closet will have at least one green jacket in it by the time his career is over, but he won't earn it in 2012. 

Jason Day

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    Last year was not a fluke; he will be a factor at the Masters for a long time.

    What's impressive about Day is not what he can do with the clubs, although he's immensely talented. No, it's an attitude that I also see in the aforementioned Keegan Bradley and Rory McIlroy, who are both major winners. 

    It's not off-putting in any way, but these youngsters have an attitude that this is their time. They aren't going to wait a few years to win the big ones; they're taking them now. I see that when watching Day play. 

    No, he's not my pick to win, but he'll be around all tournament.  

Adam Scott

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    Scott has had some close calls at majors, but baggage doesn't seem to be an issue like it is with Donald and Westwood. For one, his game is just quite a bit more suited to win here. Two, he quite possibly would have won the Masters last year had Charl Schwartzel not gone crazy over the last four holes. 

    Now, Scott has Stevie Williams on the bag. Williams caddied for 13 of Tiger's 14 major wins and three of the four Masters Championships. A good caddie coming down the stretch is a big deal. 

    Scott looks to be supremely confident. He will have a major sooner rather than later. 

Alvaro Quiros

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    He shrinks the course in a way that few others can; that has to be respected at Augusta, which always benefits long hitters. 

    The problem with Quiros is that he doesn't do enough with the putter on a consistent basis. He's also won a fair amount around the world, but never in the United States. Different countries have different styles of courses, and going this long without a win on American soil shows that something doesn't quite meet his eye. 

    Still, he has to be respected. A hot two or three days with the putter and Quiros will be a factor late. 

Other Players

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    Dustin Johnson

    UPDATE: April 3, 12:30pm ET: Johnson has withdrawn from the Masters with a back injury.

    The talent will never be a problem. No, the problem is that Johnson has been in position to win several majors on Sunday and always seems to move the wrong way.

    If he makes progress on a Sunday (even if he doesn't win), then we can view him as a major threat. Until then, he's impressive, but not a great choice to win. 

     

    Bubba Watson

    Bubba relies a lot on a heavy cut of the ball. At Augusta, the shots are pretty narrow, so that's not really a good idea. That will put him in a spot where he's trying shots that aren't his bread and butter. He won't sustain that for four days. 

     

    Martin Kaymer

    On paper, Kaymer has a game that sets up fine for Augusta. Unfortunately, he's never made a cut at the Masters, let alone contended. That means he's never faced the Sunday pin locations in crunch time. That has to happen at least once before even considering him a real threat to win. 

     

    Sergio Garcia

    The problems with Garcia have always revolved around the head and putter. The head seems to have improved, although I would like to see that for a full season. The putter is a different issue, which is why he can't be seen as a real threat to win. 

     

    Steve Stricker

    This is a man to watch. While he's not terribly long with the driver, he is accurate. On top of that, his putting is top notch. Ultimately, the holdup is that there will be too many long irons going in.

    Still, if a shorter hitter is going to do it, this will be the one.

    The remainder of the field can be found at Masters.com. Tee times and pairings for Thursday and Friday's play will be revealed on Tuesday. 

Augusta Is Unpredictable Until the Bitter End

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    Yes, we noted that the winners tend to come from the final pairings. Even the ones that aren't from the final pairing are close to the lead. Still, this tournament is anything but predictable. 

    You will hear the saying a lot that the tournament doesn't start until the back nine on Sunday—it's true. 

    High-risk, high-reward holes litter the final nine holes. Included in that is a brutal three-hole stretch, more commonly known as Amen Corner (11, 12, 13): two par fives (13 and 15) over water that can be eagled, but also bring big numbers into play; a par three (16), which is a genuine hole-in-one opportunity; and two difficult finishing holes. 

    It is not uncommon for a golfer to be trailing heading into the back nine by about two or three shots, only to walk away with the green jacket. Never get too sure of anything until it's all over.

    If you get up to refill your beverage of choice, you may return to an unrecognizable leaderboard.