Punch Shot: Who is the current Masters favorite?

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Rory McIlroy is currently the odds-on favorite to win the Masters Tournament. But should he be? GolfChannel.com writers weigh in with their current favorite to win, with one month to go before the event begins at Augusta National.

By RANDALL MELL

Who’s going to forget that great escape at the 10th hole in 2012, when Bubba Watson hit that amazing hook around the trees to save par and beat Louis Oosthuizen in a playoff for his first Masters’ victory.

Or Watson’s towering blast over the trees at the 13th last year, where he cut the corner with that mammoth 366-yard drive  in the final round to set up his second victory at Augusta National.

“This place suits him perfectly,” Rickie Fowler said last year. “He’s able to hit golf shots around here that some guys can’t.”

Bubba Watson makes his way around Augusta National like some caretaker’s son, like the kid who knows all a property’s shortcuts, all its nooks and crannies. We see the comfort he has there, his confident sense of belonging. So do other players. It’s what makes Bubba the favorite to win his third Masters’ title in four years. The belief he takes to that iconic golf course knowing it embraces him as much as he embraces it makes him the man to beat no matter what the oddsmakers say.


By REX HOGGARD

An angrily tossed club and more than a sleeve of lost golf balls aside, Rory McIlroy is still the man to beat at Augusta National.

The world No. 1 missed the cut in his first start on the PGA Tour two weeks ago at the Honda Classic and received more attention last week at Doral for throwing his 3-iron into a lake than he did for his game. But as McIlroy has proven in his young career, he is exceedingly adept at turning things around.

Remember, this is the same guy who struggled in 2013 - only to come back and win two majors and a World Golf Championships event in 2014.

At Doral, where he tied for ninth with something well less than his best stuff, McIlroy was particularly concerned with his inability to move the ball from right-to-left in a healthy breeze.

As a result, he will spend this week with his father and New England quarterback Tom Brady looking for answers at Augusta National.

He has plenty of time to cure what ails his long game. But most importantly, he has plenty of motivation to turn things around in time for the Masters – a chance to win the career Grand Slam.


By WILL GRAY

The oddsmakers in Las Vegas still favor Rory McIlroy, but if the Masters started tomorrow I’d give my No. 1 seed to Bubba Watson.

While McIlroy chases the career Grand Slam, Watson is in search of another impressive feat – three green jackets in a four-year span. There’s reason to think that he’ll get it, too, considering the fact that the golf course appears to be tailor-made to suit his arcing ball flight. His recent form doesn’t hurt his cause, either: Watson has a win, a runner-up and a third-place finish already this season, with each of his five starts going for no worse than a T-14 result.

McIlroy has the game to compete and win at Augusta National, but the suffocating pressure that will come with his quest for a third straight major victory will be too much for him this year. He’ll get his green jacket someday – likely more than one – but as Phil Mickelson can attest, chasing the fourth leg of the slam can prove difficult.


By RYAN LAVNER

Bubba Watson.

You may have seen the stat floated last week: The years Watson has won the Masters (2012, ’14), he also finished runner-up at Doral. Well, the world No. 2 finished third last week at Trump’s Place, so that should portend well for next month’s gathering in Augusta.

Truth is, Watson was the Masters favorite even before he bombed his way around the beastly Blue Monster. His impressive performance there only strengthened our belief.

In his last six PGA Tour starts, Watson hasn’t finished outside the top 15 while winning once and finishing inside the top three on three other occasions. The player who once was the most unpredictable force in the game has become decidedly predictable, in that he contends almost every single week.

That shouldn’t change at the Masters. Until further notice, his nuclear driver, shot-making ability and imagination around the greens will always be a recipe for green-jacketed success.