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Preview of the 77th Masters

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Bubba Watson is just one of 17 players to have two green jackets as he wins the Masters for second time …

The 77th Masters

Augusta National Golf Club

Augusta, Georgia

Augusta National Golf Club

Yards: 7,435

Par: 72 (36-36)

Greens: Bentgrass; 6,486 square feet on average

Stimpmeter: 13+

Rough: perennial ryegrass playing at 1.38”

Bunkers: 44

Water Hazards: 6

Course Architect: Alister MacKenzie and Robert Tyre Jones, Jr., (1933)

Purse: $8,000,000 (2012)

Winner’s Share: $1,440,000 (2012)

FexExCup Points: 600 to the winner

Defending Champion: American Bubba Watson defeated South African Louis Oosthuizen in a two-hole playoff to win his first green jacket and first major.

Dates:  April 10-13

Notes: Darren Clarke WD on Monday with hamstring injury so the field will play 31 threesomes Thursday and Friday to accommodate 93 players.


SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT    

As a bonus, Rob Bolton will be hosting a live chat during the final round of the Masters. (Despite how weather has dogged the PGA TOUR this year, we'll go ahead and assume that will be on Sunday.) The time of the chat will depend on tee times, but count on around lunchtime to settle in.

Come share your fantasy misery; come share your joy. We can all be together as one, big, happy, dysfunctional fantasy golf family on this special afternoon!

History Lessons

This is the 77th edition of the Masters

The only players to defend their titles over the years are Jack Nicklaus (1965-66), Sir Nick Faldo (1989-1990) and Tiger Woods (2001-2002).

No Australian player has ever won this tournament.

Jose-Maria Olazabal (1999) is the last European to win the Masters.

Nick Faldo (1996) is the last Englishman to win the Masters.

Mike Weir is the only Canadian to win the Masters.

Angel Cabrera is the only South American (Argentina) to win the Masters.

Since 1994 (Olazabal), the first-time major winners include Mike Weir (2003), Zach Johnson (2007), Trevor Immelman (2008), Charl Schwartzel (2011) and Bubba Watson (2012). Four first-time winners in the last six years are quite interesting.

Tiger Woods is the only multiple winner on TOUR in 2013.

Wednesday is the Par-Three Tournament. Nobody has ever won the Par -Three title and the Green Jacket.

Rank and File

According to the OWGR, 54 of the top 58 players are entered this week.

Of Course

Augusta National Golf Club was built in the early 1930’s by Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie on the old Fruitland Nurseries. Jones wanted to create a tournament where the greatest players annually graced the grounds and a place where golf could be played at its highest level, not at its most difficult. The course has been set up to reward players that play aggressive, scoring golf. To win the Masters, you must do just that, win it. There are too many opportunities on the back nine to par it into the clubhouse. Birdies will be made, balls will find Rae’s Creek and there will be drama on Sunday, just as Jones envisioned 77 years ago.

Mark Twain once remarked something to the effect that golf is a good walk spoiled. I would venture to guess he’s never been to Augusta. It’s gorgeous and I will never forget my one trip to the hallowed grounds. Sure, it was just a practice round, but heck, I’m just a fantasy golf writer! The green grass is immaculate and there isn’t a blade out of place. The course is hilly and the greens undulating. The players will have to use just about every shot in their bag this week if they are going to don the Green Jacket.

Reading every article, quote and tweet and the same truisms keep coming through loud and clear: Players must have course knowledge, short game magic and they must be able to have the confidence and skill to putt lightning quick and undulating bentgrass greens. Augusta, with its light “first cut” will play as a second-shot course. Some of those shots are blind while some are draws and others are fades. Players who are a bit wild off the tee will still have plenty of chances to hit GIR and those who don’t must be able bump-and-run, flop, hybrid, putt, pitch, check-and-spin their way to the hole. Hitting the green is the first battle.

The players who have been around the block will know which pins to attack and which pins to leave alone. The young and fearless might be sucked in to locations that look great but, if they miss, might find themselves in more trouble than it’s worth. You will also here over 100 times this week that “it breaks towards Rae’s Creek, the lowest spot on the course.” I know this. You know this. The first-timers and young’uns don’t always trust it; the veterans do. The veteran players at Augusta won’t let the slight misreads ruin his day.

I’m looking for guys who are premium ball-strikers, slick-green putters and short game sensationalists. You must have one of these three traits plus the ability to take advantage of the par-fives and have experience around these parts. Current form will have more of an influence in long-shots selections but guys who play well here and are playing well are welcomed!

Let’s see who makes the list.

The One Plus 11 More

Tiger Woods: Last year was his worst finish, T40, since his maiden voyage in 1995 when he finished T41. In the other 16 events he’s played here he’s won five times and hit the top 10 a staggering 12 times. He’s never missed the cut. His wedges are dialed in. His putter is heating up. He’s won three times already in 2013. He’s long, strong, and his short game is in out of this world. He dominates par fives. Mother Nature might be the only force to slow him down this week. Green Jacket No. 5 on the way.

Phil Mickelson: Since 1995 as well, Mickelson has three green jackets and 14 top 10 finishes. His worst finish in that time is T27 in 2011. He’s never been cut. He finished T3 last year with TWO triples! TWO! He sets his entire spring schedule around peaking for this event and it has shown to be the right formula over the years. Mickelson will relish the challenge with the healthy Woods.

Justin Rose: His three stroke-play events this season have resulted in finishes of T4, T8 and second. He’s seven-for-seven at Augusta and has finished T11 (2011) and T8 in his last two starts here. Another horse in the stable of Sean Foley, Rose has been excellent in WGC and major fields over the last few years. He’s looking to become the first Englishman to win here since Faldo.

Rory McIlroy: Some will tell you his second place finish last week means absolutely nothing because he didn’t win. I’ll agree that he’s not firing on all cylinders but what the hell is wrong with 66 on Sunday ANYWHERE? Some people are quite hard to please. If he hits 78.6% GIR on Sunday this week, he’ll be in the conversation around 6 pm. At least he won’t have to answer questions about winning the week before Augusta. He is having his lady friend caddy for him in the par three. If he wins THAT, we’ll all know he has NO CHANCE of winning this week.

Adam Scott: He’s lightly raced, just as most years heading into the first major at Augusta. His ball-striking has been his calling card as he’s made nine of 11 cuts here. He finished T8 last year, T2 in 2011 and T18 in 2010 so he’s found early season balance and knows his way around this track. He should have won his first major last year at The Open but we all know how that ended.   His worst finish in a major last year was T15 so you know where he’s the most focused.

Lee Westwood: For a guy who supposedly has a suspect short game and cannot putt, Westwood has fared pretty well over the years around these parts. He has been working over the last few years to get more consistent around and on the greens and he is also looking for that first major. Time is running out as not many guys start bagging majors in their 40s and Westwood turns that magic number in two weeks. The Englishman will be playing in his 14th Masters and has made six straight cuts. The last three years he’s finished T3, T11 and second.

Louis Oosthuizen: Before his P2 last year, Oosthuizen had never shot lower than 73 in his first six rounds around Augusta. The 2010 Open Champion scrambles it, stripes it and showed last year that he knows he has the game to add another major to his trophy cabinet. His 65-70 finish at SHO shows his game is rounding into shape and South Africans have had successes on this track.

Ian Poulter: We are constantly reminded how well he plays in match-play format but gamers have been waiting for Poulter to take center stage in the majors. We had a taste last year as he finished seventh here, T9 at The Open and T3 at the PGA. He’s hit the top 10 here two of the last three years and has no problem on or around the greens so I’m back on board in 2013 as well.

Dustin Johnson: Last year he missed Augusta with a back problem but this will be his fourth start in the last five years. He finally broke into the 60s in 2011 with a second round 68. His length never hurts and his short game has been significantly improved since he’s sought out Butch Harmon as his coach. After winning the season opener at HTOC, Johnson cooled off as his love life heated up. He’s found a way to manage both now evidenced by his T12 at WGC-Cadillac Championship and T4 his last time out, including 65 on Sunday at SHO.

Charl Schwartzel: The 2011 champion will be happy that the spotlight is not on him this week as defending champion so he can go about his business as usual. He admitted in interviews that being the defending champion was a distraction and it affected his game last year. He’s proven that he can handle the speed of these greens and is a fantastic putter (T11 total putting). After seven straight major finishes of T18 or better, Schwartzel’s best finish of 2012 was just T38. I look for him to rebound this week on a course that suits his game.

Matt Kuchar: His T3 finish last year proved to me that he knows what it takes to compete here on the weekend. If you remember, on Sunday, he lipped out a few putts on the back nine that would have had him in or around the playoff. His short game has been on point this year and after winning THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP and WGC-Match Play in the last 11 months, he should feel the confidence on the big stage this week.

Bubba Watson: Last year, Watson bought the General Lee, rocked out with the Golf Boyz and adopted a baby before winning the Masters. This year, he’s cruising around in a new hovercraft, bought Tiger Woods’ old house, rocked out with the Golf Boyz AND is in the process of adopting another kid. Ok, then! He’s made five cuts this year and his worst finish in those events is T18. His worst finish in the last 16 months, where he’s made the cut, is T33. He’s said he’s physically and mentally in the right place. I’m not counting him out. Sounds like he’s in a happy place!

Don’t Overlook

Hunter Mahan: Another player who has improved his short game tremendously, Mahan will have no problem finding fairways and greens this week and his history at Augusta suggests that he could contend. In five events, all in the last five years, he’s made three cuts and they have all resulted in T12 or better. His worst stroke play finish this season in a full-field event (eight of nine cuts made) is T25. If his chipping cooperates this week, he can contend.

Keegan Bradley: His all-around game entices me this week and he showed last year that he’s a quick learner as he finished T27 in his first time here. In his last four tournaments in 2013, he’s finished T4, seventh, T3 and T10 so his game is primed and ready. With one major in Georgia already, the 2011 PGA Championship, under his white belt, Bradley has shown if it gets hairy on Sunday that he’ll be up for the fight.

Rickie Fowler: After accumulating three finishes in the top six already in 2013, Fowler has shown he’s ready to build on his 2012. He showed last year at Wells Fargo that he had the mettle to knock out Rory McIlroy in a playoff but come Sunday, he might have to be tracking Tiger Woods. In his last two Sundays with Woods, Fowler has fired 84 and 73. The 73 at API was good enough for T3 and gamers would take that in a heartbeat this week. His short game is electric as he’s 14th in total putting and eighth in scrambling. This will be his third trip around Augusta so he should have an idea of what this course has in store.

Jim Furyk: He’s only been cut twice in 16 events at Augusta so you like the fact that he’s comfortable around here. Last week in San Antonio it was great to see his solid iron play return but his putter didn’t cooperate. Another player who can really scramble, Furyk has hit the top 14 eight times in 16 tries here.

Graeme McDowell: As he mentioned via his Twitter account, Augusta might not fit his game perfectly because he plays a fade. So did Jack Nicklaus. This will be his fifth time around Augusta so he should be familiar on when to pick his spots to attack and lay back. He’s 12th in strokes gained-putting and first in scrambling. Plus, he’s a major champion and that never hurts around here or anywhere else when big stakes are on the line on Sunday.

Bill Haas: He has five top 10s in eight events this season. He’s first on TOUR in GIR, 14th in scrambling and that is necessary around this course. He would be ranked higher this week except that his lowest round here is 70 in three trips. He’ll have to go lower this week and his 2013 form suggests he will.

Brandt Snedeker: After his hot start to the early season, Snedeker was mentioned as possibly being one of the favorites this week. Nobody argues that Snedeker is a great putter but he’s down here because of his performances after his rib injury (MC, MC). He’s shown in the past that this should NOT be a concern but with a field this deep, I’m not going to stretch to get him. If he’s healthy, he’s shown a penchant for playing here as he’s racked up finishes of T3 (2009), T15 (2011) and T19 last year.

Freddie Jacobson: Speaking of guys who can really roll it, not to mention get up-and-down, in three events at Augusta, Jacobson has finished T17, T19 and MC. He was also T14 and T15 in the last two U.S. Opens so it’s time to take a closer look at Jacobson. In his six tournaments where he’s made the cut this year, he has three top 10s and three other top 25s. He’s playing well and has had successes in the past here so I’m on board this week.

Peter Hanson: After holding the 54-hole lead in only his second time at the Masters, Hanson proved that solid form leading into this tournament can be meaningful. His Sunday recovery (66 after 78 on Saturday) at Valero showed me his game is rounding into form for another run at Augusta.

K.J. Choi: He was T4 and T8 before bombing out last year (MC) but the entire 2012 was a dud for Choi. He’s close to being back on form and his short game and ball-striking has been the key. Those are handy traits to have around here, plus this will be his 11th time competing for a Green Jacket.

Jason Day: Phil Mickelson holds the tournament record with 23 birdies. Jason Day made 21 in his first visit here in 2011 when he finished T2 to Charl Schwartzel. He hits it a mile and his short game is as tidy as they come. After a fast start, three top 10s in his first four starts, he’s cooled off with finishes of T33, T43 and T45 but I cannot ignore that he likes it here. He withdrew last year after spraining his ankle.

Off the Beaten Path

Either “horse-for-course” or guys off the radar

Angel Cabrera: In his last four he’s finished T32, seventh, T18 and WIN. He has an additional three top 10s in 13 starts to go along with his recent purple patch. Cabrera is the first horse in the stable this week.

Fred Couples: The term “horse-for-course” was invented in horse racing and perfected at Augusta by Couples. No matter how bad his back is or how what his current form maybe, he shreds it here. He has 11 top 10 finishes in 28 starts including T12, T15 and sixth in his last three.

Padraig Harrington: All or nothing. In his last six events he’s missed three cuts and has finishes of T7, T5 and T8 last year. He’s high risk yet potentially high reward.

Trevor Immelman: Since his victory in 2008, Immelman has backed up those performances with T20, T14, T15 and 60th last year. Now that he’s gotten rid of those Transition lenses, LOOK OUT AUGUSTA! He’s made four cuts from eight this year with his best finish being T38 so he’ll probably beat Woods in a playoff this week…

Bo Van Pelt: He was an automatic pick every time he teed it up in 2012, no matter the venue. This year, we’ve seen rounds of 81, 79 and 78 so maybe a trip to Augusta will knock BVP out of his funk. He’s finished T8 and T17 (2012) in his last two trips to the Masters. His all-around game is very solid and he will be under zero expectations or pressures.

Deep Sleepers:

Matteo Manassero: Young Italian can really putt. The name of the column is DEEP SLEEPERS, relax.

Francesco Molinari: Italian can really strike it and has a T30 and T19 in three trips.

Thorbjorn Olesen: Another youngun’ who’s weapon of choice is the flat stick. He WD at SHO after a car accident but he sounds like he’s okay on Twitter.

Brian Gay: He lives off his short game and grew up in Georgia for a bit. At least has TOUR pedigree with multiple victories and he can really putt.

Henrik Stenson: He was hanging around last year before a Sunday 81 knocked him back. His game has been coming together nicely this spring but he has more rounds in the 80s (three) than in the 60s (zero) at Augusta so he fits here.

John Merrick: He was T6 here in 2009. That’s better than most deep sleepers can claim. He also has a top 10 at a U.S. Open and a PGA. Again, not terrible.

Pack Lightly

These players either have struggled recently or struggled at Augusta over their careers.

Steve Stricker: He said in an interview earlier in the week that he believes his game “is not good enough” to win at Augusta. Ok, then. If HE doesn’t believe, I’m not going to do it for him. He’ll watch his putting pupil win instead…

Zach Johnson: Since his victory here in 2007, his best finish was T20 in 2008. He was 42nd, MC and T32 in the next three. He’s missed three of eight cuts this year and his best full-field finish is T23 back in January. Guess we found our winner…

Luke Donald: I’ll catch some flack here but he’s only had one top 10 in his last five tries at Augusta. His T32 last year was thanks to a final round 68 and that was coming off a victory at Tampa Bay. I can’t connect the dots beyond his fantastic short game.

Martin Kaymer: He finally made the cut last year in his fifth try and finished T44. He’s broken par exactly once in 10 rounds here. I’ll let you prove me wrong on this one.

Sergio Garcia: Who has more top 10s at Augusta, Garcia or David Toms? Toms has three and Garcia has two. This was the scene last year where Garcia, after finishing T12, stated he couldn’t win a major. He went on to finish T38, MC and MC in the final three majors of the year. Maybe he’s right.

Ernie Els: After narrowly missing out last year and not getting a special invite, Els played himself into the 2013 edition by winning The Open Championship. His last top 10 was second in 2004. His best finish in the seven Masters he’s played since was T18 and has three MCs in that stretch. I could argue that he might just let it rip this week but he has one top 25 in five events in 2013.

Rookie of the Week Last Week

I keep an eye on the youngin’s each week to see who is making the most noise.

Sony: Russell Henley WIN

Humana: David Lingmerth P2

Farmers: Brad Fritsch T9

WMPO: James Hahn T16

AT&T: James Hahn T3

NTO: Luke Guthrie T21

WGC-Match Play: Russell Henley 2nd round

Honda: Luke Guthrie 3rd

WGC-Cadillac: Russell Henley T28

Puerto Rico: Jordan Spieth 2nd

Tampa Bay: Jordan Spieth T7; Shawn Stefani T7; Ben Kohles T7

Arnold Palmer: Ben Kohles T14

Shell Houston Open: Robert Streb T22

Valero Texas Open: Ben Kohles T37

Masters:

One-and-Done

SEASON TOTAL: $2,065,030

HTOC: Steve Stricker (2nd; $665,000)

Sony: Charles Howell III (T3; $324,800)

Humana: Tim Clark (MC)

Farmers: Rickie Fowler (T6; $204,350)

WMPO: Jason Dufner (MC)

AT&T Pebble: Hunter Mahan (T16; $94,250)

Northern Trust: Bill Haas (T3; $343,200)

WGC-Match Play: Charl Schwartzel (T33; $46,000)

Honda: Lee Westwood (T9; $156,000)

WGC-Cadillac Championship: Matt Kuchar (T35; $68,500)

Tampa Bay: Jim Furyk (T7; $148,892)

Bay Hill: Sergio Garcia (WD after three rounds)

Shell Houston: Jimmy Walker (T50; $14,838)

Valero: Cameron Tringale (MC)

Masters: Phil Mickelson. I’m saving Woods for later. Quiet. Play Woods then.

GolfChannel.com Fantasy Challenge

Masters

(I play as “Glass” for all fantasy games)

Mike Glasscott (Rank: 10,855; $7,248,381)

Group 1: Tiger Woods

Group 2: Lee Westwood

Group 3: Jason Day

Group 4: K.J. Choi

Ryan O’Sullivan (Rank: 9,915; $7,414,221)

Group 1: Tiger Woods

Group 2: Dustin Johnson

Group 3: Rickie Fowler

Group 4: Angel Cabrera


Ned Brown (Rank: 5,610; $8,299,318) “Pure Spin”

Group 1: Tiger Woods

Group 2: Charl Schwartzel

Group 3: Padraig Harrington

Group 4: K.J. Choi

Rob Bolton (Rank: 12,944; $6,898,567)

Group 1: Tiger Woods

Group 2: Lee Westwood

Group 3: Nick Watney

Group 4: K.J. Choi

Ned said, “…

Ned Brown is a long-time contributor for Rotoworld Golf.  He’s had documented success in Yahoo!’s game for years.  Even if you’re confident in your selections for that game, give his insight a read. Ned also provides us with his GolfChannel.com Fantasy Challenge selections as well!

GROUP A

Tiger Woods-- It's almost too perfect. Tiger has regained the world's number one ranking after his third win of the season at the API, and he is the prohibitive favorite this week. I think he at least has to be on your roster this week and I will probably end up using him in all four rounds.

Rory McIlroy- I think this spot is a real toss-up between McIlroy and Phil Mickelson.  Mickelson has a wonderful history at Augusta, but McIlroy looked good last week at the VTO where he finished in second place. I reserve the right to change to Mickelson, but for now I'm going with youth and form.

SUPER SUBS

Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Brandt Snedeker

GROUP B

Justin Rose-- He is coming into this week red hot with three consecutive top 10s on the TOUR. His recent history at Augusta is solid, with a T11 in '11 and a T8 last year.

Keegan Bradley-- He is also red hot right now with a streak of four consecutive top 10 finishes on the TOUR. Last year was his first start at the Masters and he finished in a tie for 27th place.

Jim Furyk-- I thought last week that if Furyk could have dropped any putts in his final round that he would have won the VTO. He has four top 10 results in 16 starts here and he makes a nice dark horse this week.

Matt Kuchar-- This spot is the toughest to fill this week because there are at least a half a dozen players to choose from. Kuchar gets the nod off his T3 finish here last year and for some reason I can picture him wearing the green jacket after this week.

SUPER SUBS

Louis Oosthuizen, Dustin Johnson, Luke Donald, Peter Hanson, K.J. Choi

GROUP C

Adam Scott-- It's hard to have a real good feel where his game is because he has played a very light schedule this season. He did look good at Doral, where he finished tied for third place, and his recent history at Augusta is very good with a T2 in '11 and a T8 last year.

Charl Schwartzel-- He came into to this season red hot off the off-season events and his only poor event in the season was at the Match Play where he lost in the first round. Schwartzel has only three starts at Augusta, but one of those was a championship in '11.

SUPER SUBS

Rickie Fowler, Jason Day, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter

“Pure Spin”

Points last week: 173

Points this year: 2,282

Overall Ranking: 382

Coming Wednesday

And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat WEDNESDAY at NOON ET. We will be breaking down the field at the Masters and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter. In the meantime, follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GlassWGCL. You can find Rob at www.twitter.com/RobBoltonGolf.

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