Masters Predictions 2014: Breaking Down Expert Picks for Augusta

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistApril 8, 2014

Masters Predictions 2014: Breaking Down Expert Picks for Augusta

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    A year ago, Adam Scott was just another up-and-coming golfer hoping to have his breakthrough in the Masters.

    When he found himself tied with Angel Cabrera at the conclusion of 72 holes, the Australian and the Argentinian found themselves in a memorable playoff duel. Scott found a way to survive that battle and he earned his green jacket and moved into the top rank of golfers in the world.

    That victory has earned Scott some support this year as the experts make their predictions at golf's first major of the season. Here's a look at how some of the sport's experts look at this year's event.

Golf Channel's John Hawkins Likes Rory

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    In 2012, Rory McIlroy was the darling of the golf world, ready to take the throne that belonged to Tiger Woods for so long. But in 2013, McIlroy was troubled from the start of the year to the finish, and he was advised by experts and past champions to get his act together if he wanted to regain his status as one of golf's elite players.

    Label Golf Channel columnist John Hawkins as a true believer. In his "Hawk's Nest" April 7 column, Hawkins gave McIlroy his vote as the golfer who will be wearing the green jacket on Sunday evening. Hawkins cited McIlroy's closing 65 in the Houston Open as one of the reasons for his support.

    "He’s too talented and too driven to not contend at some point, and he comes into the week a little under the radar, at least by the usual standards," Hawkins said in his column.

    Hawkins also pointed out that McIlroy's great length off the tee and his ability to hit long irons high and short irons low also will work in his favor at Augusta.

Matt Kuchar Makes It to Winner's Circle, According to Adam Schupak

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    Matt Kuchar had a tough finish at the Houston Open, losing in a playoff to Matt Jones. However, that defeat did not discourage golf writer Adam Schupak of Golfweek.

    The defeat to Jones helped Schupak make his choice because winning in back-to-back weeks is rare on the PGA Tour, especially when the Masters is the second tournament in the pair. Phil Mickelson did it when he won in 2006, but it's a tough historical accomplishment. 

    Schupak went with Kuchar because of his excellent recent form. 

    "He nearly won the last two Tour events and has five top-10 finishes in his last nine starts," Schupak said in his Golfweek prediction. "His game appeared a little shaky on the back-nine the last two Sundays—and that’s where the Masters really starts if you haven’t heard—but I think he’ll lay down the hammer at Augusta."

Scott, Rory, Dufner and Dustin Make Up Ray's Fearsome Foursome

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    ESPN's Justin Ray was not content to give his readers just one pick in this year's Masters.

    Instead, Ray crunched the numbers and came up with the foursome of defending champion Adam Scott, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jason Dufner as the four golfers who have the best chance of wearing the green jacket.

    Ray said that Scott has been the most consistent golfer in the four major events. Only three players have made the cut since the start of 2012 in all eight of the majors—Dufner and Tiger Woods are the other two—and Scott has performed the best of all.

    Johnson had been the hottest golfer on the tour prior to a disastrous showing in Houston last weekend. Prior to that event, he had finished no worse than sixth in any tournament he had entered in 2014.

    McIlroy showed that he was on top of his game in the final round of the Houston Open as he fired an eye-catching 65 that included just 11 putts on the back nine. If he can come close to repeating that performance in the first two rounds at Augusta, he should be able to build a sizable lead.

    In addition to making the cut in the last eight majors, Dufner is coming off a victory in the most recent of those tournaments. He won the 2013 PGA, and he has a propensity to perform well in the big events. Dufner also maintains a sense of cool under pressure as well as any golfer on tour, and that could provide the difference on Sunday.


Scott Gets His Second Masters, Says SI's John Garrity

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    John Garrity may not be one of the most famous sports journalists, but his pick is worthy of consideration for two reasons.

    No. 1: He picked correctly last year, and that made him a rarity. While most of the golfing world was selecting Tiger Woods to win the 2013 Masters, Garrity had Adam Scott.

    No. 2: He works for Sports Illustrated, and that publication has long worn the crown as the top journalistic outpost for sports journalism in the United States.

    So, Garrity has credibility, and his pick deserves respect.

CBS's Kyle Porter Gives Rory the Nod

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    You have to respect CBS's Kyle Porter as one of the hardest-working golf writers in the business.

    If you go to CBS Sports' Masters page, you will see that Porter has written four headline stories. Each one of those stories is informative and well-written

    Perhaps the most interesting piece is a story in while Porter ranks all 97 participants in the field and gives a cogent reason why he ranks the golfer in the position that is assigned. 

    Porter has selected McIlroy as the No. 1 golfer in the field and doesn't mind the short odds that the bookmakers have assigned to him because he's a big believer that the Northern Ireland native is on top of his game.

Colin Montgomerie Says Justin Rose Is Top European Contender

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    British golfer Colin Montgomerie is long past his prime, but he is is still a beloved figure in the United Kingdom and a well-known golf analyst all over the world.

    He is an unabashed supporter of European golfers, and he gave a half-hearted vote of confidence to Justin Rose. Montgomerie acknowledged that top European golfers like Rose, Lee Westwood and Henrik Stenson have not found their top form yet.

    However, he still believes a healthy Rose can win.

Golf Channel's Will Gray Likes Two Dark Horses

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    Will Gray of the Golf Channel knows that a lot of golf fans are like horse players who are looking for longshots when they go to the track.

    Instead of handing out a favorite like Scott or Rory, Gray told his Twitter followers that Louis Oosthuizen and Angel Cabrera are worth following. 

SI's Michael Bamberger Selects Charl Schwartzel

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    Sports Illustrated's senior writer Michael Bamberger is not one to play favorites. He offered up South African Charl Schwartzel as his top choice to win.

    Schwartzel has two top-10 finishes this year, and he has regularly played well at Augusta. Bamberger also thinks that Schwartzel is cool under pressure because "he has no apparent blood in his veins."

    Bamberger also offers up cocky tour rookie Patrick Reed as a dark horse to come away with the Masters championship.