2011 Masters: The 10 Most Important Questions Heading into Day 1
Tomorrow begins the best four days in golf. Without a question, the Masters is the best tournament hosted all year. From the course to the field, everything seems to have a different feel to it.
Everybody wants a green jacket, and at most one person will join Augusta National as an honorary member.
With the potential of this week, questions are abundant about the potential the tournament and players carry.
What First-Timer Will Shine?
It is well known that Augusta does not like rookie players. Everyone says that the easiest way to win the Masters is to play in it for at least four or five years, and then try to win.
However, it doesn't mean it can't happen. There are some great names playing in their first Masters, including Jeff Overton and Rickie Fowler. Then there are the names nobody really knows that well, like Gregory Havret and Arjun Atwal.
Overall, this year's group of first-timers has no better chance than any other, but the tournament is played for a reason, you never know.
This year's first-timers (professionals only):
Arjun Atwal, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Hiroyuki Fujita, Peter Hanson, Gregory Havret, Charley Hoffman, Kyung-Tae Kim, Martin Laird, Jeff Overton, D.A. Points, Kevin Streelman, Jhonattan Vegas, Mark Wilson, Gary Woodland.
Who Will Be the World's No. 1 After This Week?
This week has the potential to be World Golf Ranking pandemonium. Of the top seven players in the world, six of them can ascend to the top ranking in the world. That list includes: Martin Kaymer (can maintain rank), Lee Westwood, Phil Mickelson, Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell and Tiger Woods.
Ironically, the sixth-ranked player in the world, Paul Casey, can not. Tiger, ranked seventh, can. Why? Casey has too many tournaments played for his average points (the determining factor of the ranking) to overtake Kaymer.
Fortunately for Woods, he hasn't played enough to put himself out of contention.
So, what's the possibility of a new top golfer? About five out of 99.
Who Will Be the Person To Come out of Nowhere?
Every year, there seems to be someone whose name jumps on the leaderboard with a vengeance. Everyone takes a second glance, just to check that they really are up there.
Last year, after round one, we saw Fred Couples and Tom Watson up there, only to have KJ Choi re-emerge into relevance.
When Angel Cabrera won in 2009, it was only in a playoff over Kenny Perry and Chad Campbell, nobody's picks to be relevant. And in fourth at the tournament? Shingo Katayama.
Every year, one person takes advantage of his experience at Augusta and vaults into the big money.
Some names who could surprise this week: Angel Cabrera, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Jerry Kelly, Davis Love III, Tom Watson, Fred Couples.
Who Will Fall Victim to Amen Corner?
Behind Quail Hollow's finishing three holes, Amen Corner is ranked second on the PGA schedule in difficulty. Couple in the difficulty with the Masters, and you are just brewing up a disaster for at least one player.
While nobody wants to see it, we will all watch the replays and wonder how it happened, and say, "I could have done that." Just so you know, you really can't.
Can Sergio Garcia Learn How To Putt?
Garcia ditched the title of "Best Player Without a Major" when Lee Westwood became the world's best golfer. However, he didn't leave his putting problems too.
While no one will deny Garcia's ball-striking ability, they will deny that he is a decent putter, because he really isn't as of now.
The most interesting thing about this week for Garcia's putting, however, is that this is his 13th Masters. He has missed the cut more than he has made the top 10, but it's like I've said: experience is everything.
Can a European Player Take the Cake?
A European has not won the Masters in this century. While it has only been a tenth of a century, that's a long time for the Euros to fail to win.
All signs point to the Euros being the favorites to bring home a green jacket. They do make up a significant part of the golfers who could be No. 1 with a win this week. However, there has always been plenty of talent there. It just hasn't performed at Augusta.
Expect an assault for the jacket from the Euros, but don't be so sure of the results.
How Will the Amateurs Fare?
Every year, the Masters extends invitations to a select number of amateurs. Matteo Manassero gave up his amateur status and qualified status when he turned pro, an unfortunate situation for the Masters, but the reality of the situation.
This year's amateurs, however, include David Chung, Hideki Matsuyama, Jin Jeong, Nathan Smith, Lion Kim and Peter Uihlein. All of these players are their country's or continent's amateur champion (Nathan Smith being the Mid-Am champion).
Only one amateur has ever won, and it probably won't change this week to two. But this week will be a great chance to see the top amateurs who will hopefully transcend into the professional ranks.
Does Phil Have What It Takes To Win Twice in a Row?
All eyes, and a lot of money, is on Phil Mickelson this year. After how he played last week, many people have declared him the clear favorite.
But, let's consider two points. In order to win this week, Phil would have to defend his title AND win in consecutive weeks. Alone, neither feat is easy. Together the odds are stacked against him.
Not to say Phil can't win, but if you think about it, if he did win, it would be an amazing achievement.
Of anyone in the field, Phil is capable of doing it, but the question still remains to be answered.
Does Tiger Have "It?"
Everyone has their own speculations, and to be honest, it's time for the tournament to start so the speculations stop.
Tiger Woods is going to be the most talked-about golfer until a different winner is crowned. What everyone wants to know is if Tiger has what it takes to win. I'm going to answer that now. He does. It's whether he uses that ability to win is the question.
While it is an interesting question, it really shouldn't be that pressing. There are 98 other golfers in the field.
The other question about Tiger: How many people will say that Tiger's game is gone forever should he not win this week?
Who's Your Favorite?
Even with all of the stats and odds out, there are going to be plenty of people picking different Masters champions. Not to mention those pools who include top five or 10 as well.
Winner: Tiger Woods
Rest of five: Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Nick Watney, Luke Donald
Yes, I know it's not the most original pick for the winner, but I think that Tiger can pull it out this week. Not too much statistically to back me up, just my gut.
So who are your top five picks?