Masters 2013: Ranking the Most Clutch Golfers Entering Augusta

Ron Juckett@ronjuckettContributor IIIApril 10, 2013

Masters 2013: Ranking the Most Clutch Golfers Entering Augusta

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    At some point on Sunday at the 2013 Masters, we will see an unbelievable shot from the eventual winner that will be looked at later as the defining moment of the year at Augusta National Golf Club.

    That clutch shot will not be an accident.

    It will be the culmination of years of hard work and the faith in yourself to deliver the goods when the most is on the line.

    Whether it is a long, bold birdie bid, going for a green in two or knocking home a wobbly eight-foot par save after getting into trouble, the major championships are designed to test those skills and separate those that try and those that deliver.

    In order, here are nine players with the skills and the game to deliver those clutch moments to be forever etched in history. 

9. Bubba Watson

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    What Makes Him Clutch: For as long as Watson is off the tee, he is equally gifted around the greens. His soft touch and amazing creativity make him a threat to score from any lie off the green.

    X-Factor: Bubba takes an artisan’s approach to a precision game. His ability to improvise on the fly was the main factor behind last year’s Masters championship.

    Case In Point: In the second hole of a sudden-death playoff against Louis Oosthuizen, Watson had pulled his drive well off the 10th fairway. From 140 yards on a lie of solid pine straw, Watson hit a hook shot with a wedge that found the center of the green. Watson’s ability to see that shot won him the Masters.

8. Ernie Els

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    What Makes Him Clutch: Like Matt Kuchar, Els is extremely cool under pressure. The four-time major champion rarely will beat himself and has won in the past on his composure.

    X-Factor: At this point, his biggest asset is his experience. Winning golf is like solving puzzles. Once you know where the pieces go, you can put it together. Els knows where his shots should be landing and how to turn that into a low score.

    Case In Point: As Adam Scott frittered away a four-shot lead with four holes to go in last year’s Open Championship, Els fired a two-under 68 in the wind to earn his second claret jug. After not earning a spot in last year’s Masters, Els turned that bitter disappointment back into the game that could win.

7. Webb Simpson

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    What Makes Him Clutch: Like Els, Simpson has the ability to stay composed when the pressure is the greatest. He also is extremely accurate off the tee and on his approaches.

    X-Factor: Simpson has learned to trade length for accuracy. The fact he can hit more greens in regulation than most gives him more chances to make putts.

    Case In Point: Last year at the U.S. Open, Simpson fired back-to-back 68s to win. Five-over par to start the weekend, Simpson applied a fairways-and-greens approach to the last 36 holes and survived to take his first major.

6. Charl Schwartzel

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    What Makes Him Clutch: Schwartzel plays well on older tight golf courses. He hits the ball straight and is very good at navigating hazards.

    X-Factor: A player that rarely puts himself in a position not to make par or better, Schwartzel has four top 25s on the PGA Tour this year. He knows where he is on the leaderboard and can adjust his game plan.

    Case In Point: When he won the 2011 Masters, he birdied the last four holes to do it. While 15 and 17 are easier to score on, birdies are very rare at the tight par-three 16th and the steeply uphill 18th. Schwartzel passed a fading Rory McIlroy and won a green jacket.

5. Matt Kuchar

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    What Makes Him Clutch: You need to get up pretty early in the morning to actually rattle the steely Kuchar. Under the happy-go-lucky persona lies a resolve that cannot be worn down.

    X-Factor: Kuchar is the definition of a jack of all trades. With a game from tee-to-green that is above-average, he will wear opponents out.

    Case In Point: After dropping a shot in the final round on the nasty 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass, Kuchar found the fairway and green in regulation on the very tough last to win the The Players Championship in 2012. Instead of feeling the heat at the biggest non-major if the year, Kuchar thrived.

4. Rory Mcilroy

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    What Makes Him Clutch: McIlroy has that rare ability to dictate where his shots will land within a 5-yard circle. When he is on, he is lethal off the tee and on the green

    X-Factor: McIlroy looks like he is enjoying himself on the course—a sight we do not often see. With all the expectations placed on him, his demeanor and ability to compartmentalize allows him to play at a level only achieved by the very best of all time.

    Case In Point: During the third round of last year’s PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, McIlroy lost his drive on the third hole inside of a dead tree. After a drop, he saved par and ended up winning the championship by eight shots. Saving his momentum as he charged on Saturday was the key.

3. Brandt Snedeker

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    What Makes Him Clutch: When he gets hot, he gets white-hot. Over a four-week stretch this winter, Snedeker broke 70 in 15 out of 16 rounds including a win at Pebble Beach.

    X-Factor: Snedeker has the ability to go on scoring binges. He will find fairways off the tee and leave his approaches within birdie range. If the putter cooperates, he can climb leaderboards in a hurry.

    Case In Point: In what was expected to be the Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy show at last year’s Tour Championship, Snedeker fired a third-round six-under 64 and followed up with a closing three-under 68. Not only did he win the Tour Championship over the two big guns, he took home the FedEx Cup and its $10 million prize as well.

2. Phil Mickelson

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    What Makes Him Clutch: Mickelson is golf’s version of Pablo Picasso. If he can envision the shot, then he will try it. When it clicks, it is magic.

    X-Factor: The ultimate riverboat gambler, Mickelson will literally try any shot at any time. His short game is among the best of all time and his flop shot can save pars in the unlikeliest of situations.

    Case In Point: Leading down the stretch at the 2010 Masters, Mickelson pulled his tee shot to the par-five 13th hole right of the fairway in the pine straw behind a tree. Instead of laying up short of Rae’s Creek, Mickelson hooked a six-iron around the tree and finished three feet besides the hole for an eagle putt. (He missed the eagle putt.) 

1. Tiger Woods

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    What Makes Him Clutch: Tiger has the ability to see every shot in his head before he hits it. At Augusta, Tiger has been successful knowing where he can be aggressive and where he is playing for par off the tee. Tiger's encyclopedic knowledge of his game and the course gives him that edge.

    X-Factor: His ability to develop and execute a game plan. Woods knows exactly where every shot should land and what his next shot should be. His ability to script rounds is on par with how legendary NFL head coach Bill Walsh scripted plays.

    Case In Point: After missing the 16th green long off the tee in the closing stages of the 2005 Masters. Woods studied for a good minute where he wanted his chip to land. With a severe slope, hitting the wrong spot by six inches would see the ball ace 10 feet or more past the hole. Instead, he holed the shot and would win that Masters in a playoff.


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