How will Sunday at the Augusta National pan out?

Going into Sunday there are still plenty of guys in The Masters field who will believe they are in with a shout.

Bubba Watson Masters win

Who will succeed Bubba, and receive the green jacket from him tonight?

It seems unlikely that anyone will muster a round of any better than 66 under the weight of the pressure that comes with the territory of being in the dog-fight for the green jacket on a Sunday.

It is also unlikely that all of the top three will buckle, and you would have to expect at least one of them to get round in level par given the form they’ve shown so far this week.

By that logic then, the lowest the winning total will be, come later tonight, is six under par, and more likely at least seven under par.

The combination of someone a few shots back pulling a Sunday 66 out of the bag, and the potential winning total being around the seven under mark, would suggest that anyone who is starting the day any worse off than two under will not mount any serious challenge.

Two under then, appears to be the score which all players need as a minimum requirement going into this evening’s action if they are to have a realistic chance of winning within the regulation 72 holes of play.

This means then that Angel Cabrera, Brandt Snedeker, Adam Scott, Jason Day, Marc Leishman, Matt Kuchar, Tim Clark, Tiger Woods, Lee Westwood, Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk, Bernhard Langer and Rickie Fowler are the only players worth any serious consideration.

The following are only hunches, but it’ll be interesting to see how they pan out…

I personally can’t see Langer, Furyk or Stricker challenging at the last and neither can I see Tim Clark, who starts the day at three under, maintaining a serious challenge throughout. I will therefore discard them from consideration.

I have a feeling that Woods, Westwood, and Fowler all still have a good score in them. I’m going for Woods to shoot 68, Westwood a round of 70, and Fowler a 69.

I think Matt Kuchar will tickle along nicely, and that he will muster a useful 70, to see him finish on six under for the tournament.

Of the rest of the non-leaders I think Marc Leishman’s challenge will fall by the way-side with a battling 74, but I think that fellow Aussies Jason Day and Adam Scott will go under par. I think Scott will shoot 70 and Day a 69.

Now then, the leaders… It’s a tough call really, but I can’t quite see Angel Cabrera pull another round out of the bag. I wouldn’t be surprised if he came home one over for the day and six under for the tournament.

As for Snedeker, I think he will go under par. I think the shaggy-haired Nashville native will score a tidy 70, and will win the tournament by a single shot, bagging his first green jacket and a first major title of his career.

Given his early season form, and his form throughout 2012 there is no one out there who deserves to win The Masters more, and I think Brandt will do just that. I do though expect this evening to take both him, all other competitors, the patrons at Augusta and us, the viewers, through the full ringer of emotions.

If the scores go the way I’ve predicted, the leaderboard will look a little like this come midnight tonight (it is Sunday at the Augusta National though so forgive me if they wind up being horrifically inaccurate!):

1. Snedeker -9

T2. Scott -8

T2. Day -8

4. Woods -7

T5. Cabrera -6

T5. Kuchar -6

7. Fowler -5

T8. Westwood -4

T8. Clark -4

T8. Olesen-4

T11. Leishman -3

T.11 Furyk -3

T.11 Haas -3

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Masters 2012: Bubba bags the Green Jacket on Super Sunday

For a man born in Bagdad, winning arguably golf’s most glamorous and high profile major tournament ain’t half bad as achievements go.

Bubba Watson Masters 2012

Bubba, one of the game's real characters, was totally overwhelmed by his tense play-off triumph

This is Bagdad, Florida of course rather than a certain location which the American nation is a little less fond of but still, for a man of such humble beginnings and of such immense personality this was one hell of a win.

Not only has he bagged a Green Jacket, which by the way I think would go awfully well with a pair of dungarees (see attached video evidence) but the fashion in which he did so was enormously admirable.

Play-offs in any elite level golf competition, let alone The Masters, are arguably most suited to those who are composed, accurate, consistent and cool-headed. Bubba Watson though is a man hardly synonymous with any of the above, well, not until now anyway…

The manner in which he plays the game is, generally speaking and quite frankly, extraordinary. His temperament as we saw very clearly when he had a “mudball” on the first fairway is raw and unkempt at the best of times, his swing is in almost no way at all ‘technically sound’ and his game is renowned far more greatly for it’s staggering length rather than it’s deadly accuracy.

In nearly every way imaginable Bubba is an outstanding golfer and, perhaps a little unfairly, I mean that in terms of his character and his persona on and off the course rather than his game. Somehow though he has managed “without a lesson” to become one of the finest golfers on the planet and one of the finest players of his generation within a nation which is arguably historically the strongest golfing nation on the planet.

Bubba Watson Masters 2012 winner

If the Jacket fits...

Few lucky people can call themselves a major golf tournament winner and now Bubba has defied the odds and certainly some golfing logic to become one of this privileged bunch and as much as my previous tone might suggest that he is a little bit of a shock winner I don’t actually find his victory that much of a surprise. In fact, I did have enough faith in his abilities to place the princely sum of £2 on him to win the tournament after he had got himself in position after day one and it made me several quid richer. Thanks Bubba.

Though he may be unorthodox, and he may be pretty hot-headed and at times he may even be a little rash, it is these characteristics which have made him a major winner and that mean he could be a constant threat in the big four tournaments of golf’s calendar year for the foreseeable future.

Such character traits may not be befitting of a man who would reach the top of the world rankings (ie. a Luke Donald-esque player), or that of a man that always delivers when in position to charge to victory but they are the hallmarks of several players that have become icons of the game, most notably, Seve Ballesteros.

The likes of Seve have of course become the best player in the world and have topped the rankings and that is perhaps because they aren’t in the same league as someone like Bubba, they are in no uncertain terms the cream of the unpredictable crop.

Watson is indeed almost certainly more streaky and more unreliable than some of the game’s huge, exciting and at times over-the-top characters but it is his temperament and his playing quirks which give him the X-Factor which certain players lack.

On this, the day of his most significant golfing triumph to date, Bubba did keep a fairly cool head though and he did play pretty straight and pretty sensibly. There were no eagles, no long range hole-outs, but his relentless, punishing length of the tee was crucial as was the imagination and sheer outrageousness of his ‘tournament winning’ hook out of the woods with the wedge in the play-off.

Whether Bubba ever wins another major or ever has such a satisfying day in his career again is unclear but I think one and all can accept that he was a deserving winner and that he is now a Green Jacket holder because he showed extraordinary bottle, class, skill and character throughout the overwhelming majority of the four days at Augusta.

As per, The Masters have once again delivered a week of marvellous entertainment and the nature of Bubba’s win is something that most of us distant viewers won’t forget for quite some time so just imagine how Mr.Watson is feeling right now. The only problem now is that we and Bubba have to wait another year for it to come around again…

The Masters 2012: Who can produce their Sunday Best?

With just a day to go at ‘The National’ the Green Jacket is still well up for grabs as ‘Moving Day’ in Augusta more than lived up to it’s infamous billing.

Peter Hanson and ‘Big Phil” came storming through the field after starting the day three back on just 2 under, Louis Oosthuizen played beautifully en route to fine round in the sixties and Hunter Mahan and Matt Kuchar were amongst those that came out of anonymity on the first couple of days to find a decent launch-pad for Sunday glory. The likes of Bubba Watson and Henrik Stenson too played themselves right into the thick of things with further examples of why they are two of the best players to watch in world golf.

On the other hand though, the likes of Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy shared a totally miserable day in what most would have expected to be the best pairing to watch on the course. Others who endured a miserable day included Justin Rose who at one point had looked like being the story of the day when he shot himself up into the top three but coming home he made error after error and ended back on level for his round and for the tournament. Golden Oldie, Freddie Couples, too had a miserable day out there playing himself out of contention after starting the third round right on top of the leader board and another notable failure on ‘Moving Day’ was World Number One Luke Donald who had a shocker leaving himself way, way adrift at 7 over par for the tournament.

Many of the field made significant moves on Saturday whether it was up or down the leader board, so many in fact that it would be take a lifetime to mention them all but I have taken a look at the board going into the final round and picked out a few of who I think will be the main contenders.

Peter Hanson:

World Number 25 going into the Masters and with a best finish at Augusta of tied 64th who would have thought that the Swede would lead going into the final round?

Peter Hanson Masters

Well, if you did, and you wagered a couple of quid on him then hats off to you as I imagine his odds were pretty decent. It says something about the surprise nature of his challenge that I hadn’t even registered his pre-tournament odds but he is at the top and after shooting a superb round of 65 is amongst the favourites now to win.

If you’re capable of shooting a 65 on ‘Moving Day’ at Augusta then you’re capable of winning The Masters, all Hanson has to do is keep calm and carry on.

Score: -9     Position: 1st     Likelihood of winning The Masters: 8/10

Phil Mickelson:

‘Lefty’ had yet another day to remember on Saturday and like Hanson came out of nowhere, he was three back at the start of the day on 2 under and stormed his way round in just 66 blows seeing him shoot through to 8 under for the tournament.

Mickelson Masters 2012

Other than the one shot difference in their rounds and the one shot difference between their overall scores for the tournament, one of very few differences between Phil’s round and Hanson’s round was that no one was surprised by Mickelson.

He has such an aura around him when he starts to pick up a couple of shots around Augusta and arguably only Woods can rival him for his ability to build momentum over the weekend in Georgia. Phil has put himself in position and now all he needs to do is convert.

Score: -8     Position: 2nd     Likelihood of winning The Masters: 9/10

Louis Oosthuizen:

Saturday was further evidence of why Louis Oosthuizen is already a major winner and why he could go on to win a few more.

Oosthuizen Masters 2012

His beautifully balanced swing was used to it’s full effect right the way through his third round and a score in the sixties has seen him going into Sunday as one of the standout favourites. If he shoots a similar score on Sunday then I can’t see many going with him.

Score: -7     Position: 3rd     Likelihood of winning The Masters: 8/10

Bubba Watson:

You could watch mad-cap Bubba play all day long couldn’t you?

Bubba Watson Masters 2012

The man with arguably the most rubber-like wrists and digits on tour once again lit up Augusta with one of the quirkiest ‘solid’ rounds of 70 you’re ever likely to see. This useful Saturday score has thrust him to 6 under for the tournament and with the way he plays it could easily end in ecstasy or in misery for Bubba come midnight-ish on Sunday. Whether he charges right into contention or whether he bombs it is sure to be a great round to watch and I have a sneaking suspicion that he could be the man to come from behind and push the current leaders right to their limits.

Score: -6     Position: 4th     Likelihood of winning The Masters: 6/10

Lee Westwood:

Saturday may well have been one of Lee Westwood’s most frustrating days at Augusta.

Westwood Masters 2012

He may not have played himself right out of contention but boy did he try. For every birdie and every moment of positivity there was a slack chip shot and shocking short range miss with the short stick. He may not have managed to build any momentum but he did manage to get himself round and leave himself in OK shape going into Sunday. Those who have watched a fair amount of Westwood throughout his career both in majors and outside of majors know that he is more capable than most of going really low and it is simply a case of whether he can get some putts to drop.

Score: -4     Position: Tied 6th     Likelihood of winning The Masters: 4/10

Hunter Mahan: 

One of the best rounds of Saturday was Hunter Mahan’s sweet 68.

Hunter Mahan Masters 2012

This round saw the in-form American rise from mid-leader board mediocrity and up into the glare of a Sunday evening charge for the Green Jacket. His metronomic putting and recent tournament successes will hold him in very good stead as he tries to make up the five shot deficit between him and Hanson who leads the way and I think he is one of the most likely to break from the chasing pack  and  to post a decent clubhouse lead at some stage on Sunday.

Score: -4     Position: Tied 6th     Likelihood of winning the Masters: 4/10

Others to keep an eye on…

Matt Kuchar: 5th (-5). He has the steadiness of swing and of mind to put himself in contention but I think he’ll slump a little on Sunday.

Padraig Harrington: Tied 6th (-4). A wonderful back nine in round three has put the three-time major winner in amongst the chasing pack but I don’t think he’ll make a serious charge.

Henrik Stenson: Tied 6th (-4). Another entertaining round from Stenson saw him bag his best score of the tournament so far and he is one of those players that can rip a course to shreds when he is bang in form. For a player of his considerable talents he has been struggling along for far too long now and it would be great if he could get himself in the mix.

Ian Poulter and Nick Watney: Tied 11th (-2). Both Watney and Poulter are capable of scoring a hat full of birdies when they find their best form and if either of them can steer clear of any concentration lapses then I think they could post something like a 67 which could put them up there in the top few places when the heat is on tomorrow. For me, Poulter in particular is one of the players stuck seven or eight back who could get round in a low score and post a challenging clubhouse lead.

Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy: Out of the running… This may well be the case, but both men are capable of going very low on Sunday. They were poor on ‘Moving Day’, McIlroy in particular, but just keep an eye on two of the most talented players in the field as they play without the shackles of being in contention. It could be very fun to watch indeed.

The Masters 2012: Who’s up for the Green Jacket?

A year on from Charl Schwartzel’s under the radar capture of his first Green Jacket and Rory’s infamous back nine collapse, we have just one day to wait until the start of this year’s Masters.

Schwartzel Masters

With such a huge field competing and all the unpredictabilities of the Augusta National as a course it is hard to pin down just a few favourites or ‘Ones to Watch’ but Golf’s most glamorous major has people rushing to the bookies and their online betting accounts looking for some nice, tempting long odds to have a punt on.

Below I have made picked some categories and within these bounds have chosen some decent looking options to throw a couple of quid at.

The top two favourites:

Going into the tournament it is perhaps no surprise that Tiger Woods (Betfair 5/1) is the favourite with the bookies given his history at Augusta and his recent win at Bay Hill but last year’s nearly man, Rory McIlroy (Betfair 15/2), is arguably the people’s favourite going in.

Both Woods and McIlroy would relish a fourth round face-off with each other on Sunday

McIlroy’s record since his Augusta meltdown this time last year has been superb. In the twenty+ events that he has contested since he has finished in the top 10 about three quarters of the time, bagging himself four event wins, four second places and four third place finishes. This is a staggering level of form and consistency that Rory has shown over the past twelve months and when compared with Woods’ record in the same time period it is almost comical that Woods is favoured by the bookies.

Woods does of course have the most memorable of histories with the National but even he might admit that Rory’s the one to beat on current form.

Verdict: If you’re backing one of the top two favourites then go for Rory.

The Brits:

Aside from McIlroy there are some other attractive British options including the two players either side of Rory in the world rankings; world number one Luke Donald (Betfair 15/1) and world number three Lee Westwood (Betfair 22/1).

Other options include former US Open champion Graeme McDowell (Betfair 85/1) who has shown some encouraging recent signs that he might be re-finding some of his best golf, Paul Casey (Betfair 260/1) playing his first major since injuring himself snow boarding in Colorado, three-time former major winner Padraig Harrington (Betfair 110/1) who leads the par 3 contest as I write and Ian Poulter (Betfair 110/1) who has decent form at the Masters and is as confident as ever.

Other Brits in the field include Simon Dyson (490/1), Ross Fisher (370/1) 15th at Augusta in 2011 and Martin Laird (170/1) who perhaps wouldn’t be a bad shout for a top ten finish given his usually very consistent showings on the PGA Tour.

Rose golf

Justin Rose appears to be coming of age on the PGA Tour

Perhaps the canniest of all British bets though would be to put a fiver of Justin Rose (Betfair 33/1) who’s brilliant form has seen him win at Doral a few weeks ago as well as charging into the world’s top ten. He is in ship-shape at the moment and he has plenty of experience at Augusta where he has on a couple of occasions come flying out of the traps.

Verdict:

Back Rose at very generous odds, could look at Each Way bets on the likes of Casey, Laird, Poulter or McDowell as each would give a fair return. Or… back ‘Luuuuuuuuukkkkeeee’ Donald for a top 5 finish.

Long Shots:

As previously mentioned Paul Casey is well worth a look at on an Each Way basis and he isn’t the only one offering more than generous odds with Betfair…

Johnson Wagner (Betfair 200/1) may well not be a household name with us Brits but his season on the PGA Tour has been superb. He is currently second in the FedEx cup points list courtesy of some fantastic form which has seen him bag a PGA Tour win, a second place and two further top 10 finishes and at those odds he is a handsome Each Way option.

Wagner

Johnson Wagner is in great form on the PGA Tour

The mercurial Alvaro Quiros (Betfair 200/1) is also worth a real look.

Verdict: All worth a shout with an Each Way bet

Best of the rest:

Day Golf

Jason Day has a great recent record in majors but does have a niggling ankle injury

Other big name players that have been given generous odds by Betfair and several other bookmakers include Jason Day (45/1) who has three top ten finishes and two second placed finishes from the last five majors including last year’s Masters, Nick Watney (65/1) who likes it at the national, the only two-time winner on the PGA this year Hunter Mahan (37/1) and finally Adam Scott (33/1) who tied for second place with Day last year. One other decent option is reigning champion Charl Schwartzel (Betfair 45/1) who’s odds to win the tournament are staggering given how marvellously he played en route to victory last year.

Verdict:

Jason Day at 45/1 is my star bet for the whole tournament, he is also well worth a look at for a top ten or top five finish given his recent record in major tournament golf. He is a slight injury doubt though so beware… If Day doesn’t float your boat then look at Hunter Mahan as an Each Way option.