2013 Masters Predictions: Last-Minute Picks and Projections

Ben Alberstadt@benalberstadtFeatured ColumnistApril 11, 2013

2013 Masters Predictions: Last-Minute Picks and Projections

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    The superbly manicured Augusta National is getting a final touch up in preparation for this year's competition. The famous azaleas are in bloom, and 94 of the world's best golfers have played their practice rounds at Mr. MacKenzie's Georgia masterpiece.

    Contrary to many reports, it won't rain at Augusta this year. The golf gods have spilled enough of the wet stuff on tour players so far in 2013 to last the next three years, and Bobby Jones has surely brought this to their attention in the golfing afterlife. They'll take pity on the Masters participants and patrons this week.

    Amen Corner and the rest of the course, however, will not be so kind to a number of club-swinging souls during this year's tournament, including a 14-year-old. 

    Will Tiger Woods, in the midst of a resurgent 2013 and the favorite entering the tournament, end his drought in major championships? What will Rory McIlroy, who climbed to the top of the world golf ranking only to walk off a golf course a little over a month ago, do this week?

    Read on for answers to these questions and more last-minute Masters predictions!

Guan Tianlang Won't Break 80

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    I'll lead off with a prediction nearly as easy to make as "The flora at Augusta will be pretty."

    Since winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, the 14-year-old Guan Tianlang hasn't exactly convinced anyone that he's the second coming of Tiger Woods in his succeeding starts.

    Tianleng reportedly only hits the ball about 235 yards off the tee. Even if he putts like Crenshaw this week, he's not going to be competitive at the Masters. 

    There's no way this kid breaks 80 at Augusta National, and there's a strong possibility he'll embarrass himself with a couple putts and long approach shots. 

Gary Player Will Dominate the Ceremonial Opening Tee Shot

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    In addition to being a profoundly engaging and gentlemanly presence on Twitter, Mr. Player is still in excellent physical shape at age 77 (either this, or everyone really does look trimmer in black). The South African legend reportedly does 1,000 sit-ups a day, although a minor controversy has developed surrounding this claim.

    Given his passion for fitness and his ability to still make a full swing of the golf club, Player will outdrive the considerably less fit Misters Palmer and Nicklaus when the three play the ceremonial opening tee shots of the tournament. He may blow it by the two elder statesmen of the game by 50 yards.

    And although Player won't be competing for the green jacket this year, I imagine he'll collect a few greenbacks for his long drive effort. 

The Masters Piano Theme Will Slowly Drive You Insane

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    Sure, we all start out watching the Masters coverage with a ping of nostalgia when that signature music plays and Jim Nantz lulls us to sleep with his soothing vocals ("Hello, friends...Welcome, once again, to a tradition unlike any other. Presented with limited commercial interruption...).

    However, by the end of the week, you'll find yourself like Jerry in "The Jacket" episode of Seinfeld, slowly being driven insane. Instead of singing "Master of the House," though, you'll be hearing the lilting piano music while making your morning coffee, taking a shower or trying to have a conversation.

    This is pretty common side effect of the notes precisely calibrated—like the music of Zelda's ocarina or the Pied Piper's flute—to stir your soul during the tournament. However, if you wake up hearing the tune on Monday, it may be necessary to seek a support group.  

Players' Attire Will Receive More Attention Than It Should

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    Ah! So lovely to watch the best golfers in the world strolling the runways of Augusta...I mean fairways.

    Masters fashion seems to have taken on a life of its own this year, although things have been trending in this billboardy/peacockish direction for some time now.

    Fashion, or rather style, has always been a part of the game. One only has to look to Sarazen, Hagen, Hogan, Snead, Palmer or the profoundly peacockish Jimmy Demaret to prove this point. For as many drones in chinos as there have been throughout the years, there have always been some truly dapper gents teeing it up on the PGA Tour. 

    With this process of "scripting," though, things have gone in an altogether different (and absurd) direction. If you aren't familiar, major apparel manufacturers have taken to releasing photos/sketches of what their stars will be wearing in upcoming majors. For example, you can see Tiger's Masters attire here

    The tendency is both predictable and understandable from Nike, Adidas and company. It is not, however, a news item. Clearly though, a precedent was set this year, which will seep into the Masters coverage. You can bet you'll hear about TaylorMade/Adidas's decision to outfit several stars in the same apparel all four days

Michael Weaver Will Secure Low Amateur Honors

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    Last year's U.S. Amateur runner-up, Michael Weaver is the most likely candidate for Low Amateur honors at the Masters Tournament. The Cal junior boldly asked Rory McIlroy to play a practice round, and the world No. 2 obliged.

    This move suggests the carefree "Nobody expects me to win and I'm just here for the experience," type of attitude that could pay dividends and propel Weaver inside the cut line. 

    Weaver reportedly is trying to get comfortable at Augusta and competing in the Par Three Competition will surely help this.

    The 21-year-old has been playing well in his collegiate competitions and some experience in the spotlight (last year's U.S. Amateur). Given this, he'll upstage over favorite for the Low Am honors, such as Alan Dunbar. 

    If nothing else, Weaver is certainly a fiery competitor, as evidenced by this episode at the U.S. Amateur last year. 

Tom Watson Will Make the Cut

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    Sure, Tom Watson has missed the cut in his last two efforts at Augusta National, but the 63-year-old two-time Masters champion did finish tied for 18th in 2010.

    Perhaps he comes to Augusta, as many aging past champions do, to enjoy 36 holes of golf at one of the finest courses in the world and head home. However, if he's prepared appropriately and is interested in playing the weekend, the Kansas native still strikes the ball well enough to do so.  

    Watson finished fifth in his last Champions Tour event a few weeks ago, so his game is in good shape heading to the season's first major.

    The 39-time PGA Tour winner has made the cut the last two years at the Open Championship, and he of course famously finished second at the 2009 edition of that tournament.

    Watson is more than capable, then, of making the cut this year if the putter cooperates with him. 

The Phrankenwood Will Work for Phil

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    This monstrosity will help the traditionally less-than-accurate Mr. Mickelson find fairways at Augusta, especially when playing his preferred draw.

    If he falls in love with Callaway's creation, as he did with his new RAZR Fit Xtreme driver at the Waste Management Phoenix Open earlier this year, look for his confidence (often a variable quantity for Phil) to skyrocket, along with his place on Augusta's iconic green and white wooden leaderboards. 

    Mickelson improved from 134th in strokes gained putting in 2011 to 10th in the category last year, and he's currently inside the top 50 in the statistic for 2013. So, if the Phrankenwood works and his putter follows suit, Lefty and Tiger could battle for the green jacket on the back nine on Sunday. 

Rory Will Rebound

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    His dental issues thankfully under control, and with his game rounding into form with a second-place finish at the Valero Texas Open (including a final-round 66), Nike's new big-ticket acquisition will play well at Augusta National this week. What type of finish can we expect from the lesser half of team Wozzilroy?

    Certainly, something better than his weekend finish of 77, 76 last year. McIlroy has reestablished some sort of equilibrium his life both on and off the golf course.

    With the lion's share of the media attention focused primarily on the man who usurped him for No. 1 in the world, Rory will comfortably notch himself a top-20 finish this week and continue to reassert himself. 

Justin Rose Will Finish Second

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    Justin Rose-IER (you're welcome, TaylorMade) will be a bridesmaid this year. Always an adept striker of the golf ball (he led the tour in greens in regulation last year), Rose's putting has improved significantly in 2013. The Englishman has picked up nearly half a stroke per round in the strokes gained putting category this year. 

    He's surely on the short list of best players in golf without a major. At 32, the former teen phenom must be feeling the window of opportunity for major triumph beginning to close. This should motivate him. 

    Rose finished tied for eighth at Augusta last year and closed with an impressive final-round 68. Given his past performance at Augusta, which includes three additional top-20 finishes, and the step forward he's taken with his putting, Rose will contend for the green jacket this year, but ultimately finish second best. 

Tiger Woods Will Triumph

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    The odds-on favorite for the green jacket this year (latest lines have him pegged around 3/1), Tiger Woods will be wearing the green jacket on Sunday evening.

    There isn't a surer bet this year at Augusta, literally or figuratively. Woods is the most likely candidate for Masters victory because of his scintillating start to 2013, which includes three victories, as well as his more-than-proven track record at the course. Excluding last year's unimpressive performance, Woods has finished in the top 10 in the Masters every year since his last victory in 2005. 

    In his wins, Tiger has shown command of his short and medium irons, as well as mind-bogglingly good putting. If Woods is moderately accurate of the tee, continues to strike approaches as he has been, and putts anywhere near as he has thus far this year, he's a lock to win his fifth Masters.