AUGUSTA, Ga. – Who will win the 82nd Masters Tournament? Will the winner be inside or outside the top-20 in the world? Who from the big names will have a disappointing week? Our team of writers at Augusta National debates these topics.
Who can win from outside the top-20?
REX HOGGARD: Brian Harman. There’s a reason why southpaws have had so much success at Augusta National, particularly on tee shots like the 10th and 13th holes. While he’s not a bomber, Harman hits it far enough to make the most of that advantage. He’s also one of the PGA Tour’s best putters and the type of gritty competitor who can make Sunday interesting.
RANDALL MELL: Thomas Pieters. That T-4 finish last year in his first Masters start showed us something. His practice round Tuesday with Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Fred Couples won’t hurt him. The big hitter showed us all what he can do on a big stage at the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine.
RYAN LAVNER: Louis Oosthuizen. Hasn’t been his best season, but King Louie is a big-game hunter. Last year, seemingly out of nowhere, he tied for second at both The Players and the PGA Championship. In his career he has six top-10 finishes in majors, including a playoff loss here in 2012. He knows how to play Augusta, and he should contend.
JAY COFFIN: Ian Poulter. Hey, ride the guy who’s hot and playing some of the best golf of his career. Four days ago he wasn’t in this field, but now that he is, Poulter has a legitimate chance to contend. His Masters record is much better than you’d expect, with six top-20 finishes in 12 appearances and only one missed cut. He has as good of a chance as anyone else outside the top 20 to win this thing.
Who will disappoint?
HOGGARD: Dustin Johnson. The world No. 1 was the runaway disappointment last year when he missed the year’s first major following an injury, and after a few scratchy weeks it’s shaping up to be another letdown. As his early exit from the WGC-Match Play proved, he’s just not firing on all cylinders at the moment.
MELL: Hideki Matsuyama. He’s back from a wrist injury, but he hasn’t found his form quite yet. In his two starts since withdrawing from the Waste Management Phoenix Open, Matsuyama has tied for 49th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and failed to get out of his group at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship.
LAVNER: Jon Rahm. Not in the best of form entering the Masters, and that’s a shame, because the world No. 3 has all of the tools to be successful at Augusta. Since his 1-2-1 stretch around the start of the year, he doesn’t have a top-10 finish in his last five starts. This is only his second career start at the Masters, too, after a tie for 27th a year ago when he shot over par in all but one round.
COFFIN: Rickie Fowler. There’s so much hype over many of the top guys playing well, but it’s just not reasonable to think that all are going to play well here. Won’t happen. Fowler hasn’t had the best year so far – two missed cuts and nothing inside the top 10 since early January – and he only has one top-10 at the Masters. He will get lost in the shuffle and continue to be the best player in golf without a major.
Who will win?
HOGGARD: Justin Rose. Although the list of legitimate contenders this week can realistically roll a dozen deep, the Englishman’s record at Augusta National, where he’s finished runner-up twice in the last three years, and his current form are impossible to ignore.
MELL: Phil Mickelson. His confidence is high, usually never a problem, and he is on form. Add that to his Masters’ advantages, and we’ve got some history-making to do this week. At 47, Mickelson will eclipse Jack Nicklaus’ record as oldest winner of the Masters.
LAVNER: Justin Rose. Last year’s runner-up will get his revenge. He’s in arguably the best form of his career, and his track record over the past decade is as strong as anyone, with five top-10s in a dozen starts. Ball-strikers like Rose thrive at Augusta, and his improved putting – he’s 13th this season in strokes gained: putting – should push him across the finish line.
COFFIN: Justin Thomas. Hard to imagine how the No. 2 player in the world is under the radar here, but it seems that way. He loves Augusta National so much, and hasn’t finished outside the top 10 on Tour in two months, since a T-17 in Phoenix. In fact, Thomas’ worst finish this year is a 22nd-place tie at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. I just don’t see how he isn’t in the mix on Sunday.