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Punch Shot: Masters winner be under or over 30?

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Experience matters at Augusta National. Youth has taken hold on the PGA Tour this season. Which will prevail in the season's first major? GolfChannel.com writers weigh in on whether the 2014 Masters champion will be under or over the age of 30.

BY JASON SOBEL

This is an easy one: The Masters champion will be under 30 years old.

I know this because I picked Rory McIlroy to win and I know he won’t even turn 25 until next month and 25 is less than 30. So it’s simple math, really.

Even if it doesn’t happen that way, though, I’ve got boundless enthusiasm and bold aggression on my side. These young players today aren’t fearful of anything – and yes, that includes playing with a Masters title at stake.

They’ve got some chops, too. McIlroy is a stick, obviously. But in the under-30 set, you’re also giving me Keegan Bradley, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed. I like my team.

Even though the Masters is all about “experience” and “knowing where to miss,” I’m banking that a younger guy will laugh in the face of such aphorisms.


By REX HOGGARD

Over. There is a reason why Fuzzy Zoeller is the last first-time participant to lift the green jacket and only three players in the history of the event won in their maiden trip down Magnolia Lane.

More so than any other event, perhaps in all of sports, the year’s first major championship requires an understanding that goes beyond the first blush.

It’s why Fred Couples, 54, is a regular contender despite age and a baulky back; why Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods have a combined seven green jackets and why this year’s champion will be born before 1984.

Forget the trend on the PGA Tour this year of inexperienced youthful brilliance. With apologies to Harris English, Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, there is more to the former fruit nursery than can be gleaned from an X Box 360.

Adam Scott’s victory last year at 32 seems to be the new standard, with plenty of candidates to choose from. With apologies to Rory McIlroy – a bona fide favorite at 24 – Hunter Mahan (31), Justin Rose (33) and Brandt Snedeker (33) all have the game and, more importantly, the experience to end this year’s parity party.


BY JAY COFFIN

As much as I believe Rory McIlroy is going to win this Masters, I’m going over because I believe there are more opportunities to win for dudes over 30 than there are for the youngsters.

Pick a player, any player from the world ranking – Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Matt Kuchar, Justin Rose, Zach Johnson, Bubba Watson, Graeme McDowell, Steve Stricker, Jason Dufner, Brandt Snedeker and Ian Poulter.

Well, they’re all on my side of the list and all 13 men are ranked inside the top 20 of the Official World Golf Ranking. Aside from McIlroy, a recently injured Jason Day and Dustin Johnson, there aren’t as many 20-somethings who have what it takes to wear the green jacket this week.

I may change my mind next year, when some of these newbies get a week under their belts. But this year one steely veteran will add a major to his resume.


BY JOE POSNANSKI

Under.

It has escaped notice for the most part, but the British Open has taken over as the tournament for old golfers. Augusta used to be that place for the gray hairs – Gary Player, Ben Crenshaw, most famously Jack Nicklaus – to find a bit of their past. But this isn’t the same Augusta National where local knowledge mattered more than anything. It’s long and fiery and it helps to be young and steady over those bone-chilling 3-footers.

There are a bunch of young guys – including Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, Keegan Bradley, Patrick Reed, Harris English and, of course, the ubiquitous Rory McIlroy – who are good enough to win the Masters. Everybody around golf can sense that there’s a vacuum at the top – no Tiger Woods means there’s a job opening for No. 1 golfer in the world.

This is the place to take that spot, the place that launched Woods. Youngish first-time major winners took the last three Masters (Charl Schwartzel was 26; Bubba Watson and Adam Scott had just crossed 30) and that is what this tournament is becoming. Look for one of the kids to break through and try to make a play for the huge opening at the top of the game.