When it comes to analyzing the field at Augusta National, there are categories: The when-hell-freezes-overs. The no-they-can'ts. The improbables. The hots. The what-have-you-done-for-me-latelys. The mights. The yes-they-coulds.
If you are in an office pool, not that anyone would place a bet on someone winning the Masters, these are the categories you have to contemplate before placing your five bucks down on a square.
Without further ado, here's where everyone falls. Hopefully no one was left out.
The when-hell-freezes-overs are mainly the amateurs: Matthew Fitzpatrick, Oliver Goss, Garrick Porteous, Lee Chang-woo, Jordan Niebrugge and Michael McCoy. You can't say it is impossible for them to win, but whatever is located right next to impossible, that is where they are.
The no-they-can'ts already pretty much know that, but they love Augusta National and enjoy playing it one week a year, even if it's just the first two rounds.
This category includes some past champs like Vijay Singh, Jose Maria Olazabal, Mark O’Meara, Ben Crenshaw, Ian Woosnam, Sandy Lyle, Larry Mize, Craig Stadler and Tom Watson. Tom Watson almost comes out of this category, but because he's now over that mystical age of 60, it would be hard for his putting nerves to match those of a 30-year-old.
And make no mistake, of all the major championships, the Masters is more about putting than the rest of them.
The improbables include PGA Tour event winners since the 2013 Masters, particularly if they have not been frequent visitors to the Masters: Derek Ernst, Sang-moon Bae, Ken Duke, Jimmy Walker, Ryan Moore, Chris Kirk, Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler, Russell Henley, John Senden, Matt Every and Steven Bowditch. It also includes Stewart Cink and K.J. Choi, based only on recent form. Both Cink and Choi have the skills to win big tournaments and proved that by doing it, but in recent months, we have not see their championship form.
Ordinarily, Matt Jones could fall into that category, having just won in Houston, but his eagle on the 18th in regulation and hole-out to win in the playoff move him into another category: The hots.
The hots include the aforementioned Jones as well as Patrick Reed, who may be too aggressive to know his chances are low, which is what it takes to win a big tournament like the Masters. He already beat everybody he'll face at Augusta when he won at Doral.
Who's to say he can't win the big one? Are the greens at Augusta National going to be any harder than the ones at Doral? Doubtful. Are the slopes off the greens going to be move severe? Possibly, but not a lot. Plus, Reed has that Augusta State connection. You have to think he saw an azalea or two when he played there.
Who else is hot? Mmm. Welllll. Pretty much nobody. And that also plays into his hand.
The what-have-you-done-for-me-latelys are a sizable group starting with Billy Horschel, Boo Weekley, D.A. Points, Roberto Castro, Thomas Bjorn, Jamie Donaldson, Thongchai Jaidee, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Stephen Gallacher, Brendon de Jonge, Kevin Streelman, Graham DeLaet and Mike Weir. It also includes Hideki Matsuyama, Victor Dubuisson, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Francesco Molinari, Rickie Fowler, Matteo Manassero, David Lynn, Peter Hanson, Joost Luiten, and Branden Grace, Tim Clark, John Huh, David Toms, Steve Stricker and Jonas Blixt.
The possible exception here is Dubuisson, who displayed one of the more miraculous short games since Seve Ballesteros at the Accenture Match Play.
Now it gets interesting. Your five bucks should hover over these last two groups like a drone ready to strike.
The mights include former winners of the Masters who still have a putting stroke lethal enough to compete on the course: Adam Scott, Bubba Watson, Charl Schwartzel, Phil Mickelson, Angel Cabrera and Zach Johnson. It includes recent U.S. Open champs: Justin Rose, Webb Simpson, Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell. It encompasses recent British Open winners Ernie Els, Darren Clarke and Louis Oosthuizen. Is has the recent PGA champs Jason Dufner, Keegan Bradley and Martin Kaymer. And it includes recent Players champ Matt Kuchar, mainly because he is in better form than a lot of golfers. Even Bernhard Langer, Fred Couples and Jim Furyk fall into this group.
The yes-they-coulds also cover a lot of ground: Jason Day, Marc Leishman, Thorbjorn Olesen, Brandt Snedeker, Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Dustin Johnson, Nick Watney, Hunter Mahan, Jordan Spieth, Bill Haas, Harris English and Luke Donald.
If you have to narrow down the choices even more, and you probably do, take out the guys with longer putters. Scott, Simpson, Bradley, Kuchar, Langer and Couples. Yes, Scott won with a broomstick-length putter last year, but face it, that has not happened often at Augusta. Plus Scott grew up on greens in Australia that make Augusta look slow.
Bubba Watson, Zach Johnson and Day have won this season so keep them on the short list. Snedeker, if he doesn't break anything in his torso between now and Thursday, has to be a favorite because of his putting. So do Donald and Oosthuizen.
Dustin Johnson, Watney and Haas can bring any course to its knees with their distance, but sometimes their putting fails them. Garcia and Westwood are the best drivers in the group, and Garcia has one of the best short games ever. For dark-horse picks, try Clarke, a long hitter and a great feel putter, or Ernie Els, who proved he can still win majors. McIlroy has won two majors by eight shots. Why not a third?
Still, it's the putter, the putter, the putter. If they can keep out of the trees, Schwartzel, Mickelson, Cabrera and McIlroy have everything they need to win the Masters. They hit it high. They have incredible short games. They can putt. And they already know they can win at Augusta National.
Hopefully, no one was uncategorized, and if so, they are probably the winner!
Kathy Bissell is a Golf Writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand or from official interview materials from the USGA, PGA Tour or PGA of America.
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