The 82nd Masters Tournament Preview: Winner, Contenders, Dark Horses, Low Amateur

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The 82nd Masters Tournament Preview: Winner, Contenders, Dark Horses, Low Amateur

Plenty of big names will be competing in this year's Masters.

Plenty of big names will be competing in this year's Masters.

courtesy of Google Images

Plenty of big names will be competing in this year's Masters.

courtesy of Google Images

courtesy of Google Images

Plenty of big names will be competing in this year's Masters.

Matthew Wreden and Kevin Johnson

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This is the week every golf fan craves. The one they’ve been waiting for since last August. The week that means golf is truly back. Masters week.

Over the course of the next four days, the PGA tour will crown the first major tournament winner of the year. This is when legends are born.

But this is not just any Masters tournament. This year the field is filled with in-form talent, from young bucks like Justin Thomas to old dogs like Phil Mickelson.

One of those old dogs has won at Augusta National four times in his career. His name is Tiger Woods, he’s back and he’s ready to win. There are many interesting storylines at this year’s Masters Tournament, and here are the Oak Leaf’s predictions:

Winner: Tiger Woods

Tiger is a 12-1 favorite to win and our pick for Masters Champion. It’s been a long road back for Tiger. He underwent fusion back surgery in 2017 and missed all of the previous PGA tour season. But with five tournaments already under his belt this year and three top-15s to show for it, the 4-time Masters champ is looking to end his nine year major drought with a win this week. This year Woods has been visibly more laid back on the course, smiling, signing more autographs and even playing a Masters practice round with long-time rival Phil Mickelson. The other thing Tiger has going for him is the sheer support of the gallery. People love a comeback, and this year Tiger will be competing with the support of a crowd resembling Arnie’s army at his back. Heading into Thursday Woods is fifth on tour in scoring average, third in putts per round, 11th in strokes gained putting and 17th in scrambling. His short game has been stellar so far this year, and he has yet to miss a putt within three feet. Tiger knows Augusta well which rewards good putting. Tiger’s biggest challenge will be what it always has been: his driving. If he can keep the ball in the fairway and avoid the big number hole, he will be a strong contender for this year’s tournament.

In contention: Rory Mcilroy

The Irishman is a four time major champion and has the purest swing in the game. He’s also in good form, with his recent win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational coming just three weeks ago. Rory ranks eleventh in putting on tour this season and fifth in driving distance. If the past few years tell us anything, it’s that Rory will look to take advantage of every par-5. The most fascinating thing about Rory this year is that he is once again competing to capture the career grand slam. He has won every major tournament but the Masters and if he wants to be revered as one of the game’s all-time greats he’ll have to add a green jacket to his legacy.

Justin Rose

Justin Rose aka “Mr. Consistent” is always a threat to come away with the win. Rose has four top-10 finishes this season, including a World Golf Championship win in China. He ranks seventh in birdie average (4.54) and eighth in scrambling. Let’s not forget that Rose, a seasoned veteran, was tied for the lead after 72 holes of last year’s Masters tournament only to lose in the first playoff hole. This will be Rose’s thirteenth time at Augusta so he knows the course and has proven he can play it well.

Jordan Spieth

Jordan Spieth has already captured the green jacket in 2015 and almost had one in 2016. His blow up in 2016 made for one of the strangest endings in tournament history. Jordan has always played well at Augusta and is a clear favorite. He will be competing with his one his best friends and hottest golfer playing right now: Justin Thomas.

Justin Thomas

Justin Thomas is coming off one of the most incredible seasons of golf in recent memory. He has picked up right where he left off and is always in contention. He is seen on Sundays in contention in every competition.

Dark Horse: Bubba Watson

It’s hard to call a guy who has already won the Masters twice a dark horse, but we’re picking Bubba Watson (16-1) as our guy to watch out for this week. His natural game of shaping the ball left and right suits Augusta National and he’s already won twice this year. Bubba ranks sixth in strokes gained off the tee and third in total driving distance (316.2 yards) so watch for him to be aggressive on the par-5s.

Sergio Garcia

Sergio earned his first major victory at this tournament last year, an achievement that had long eluded him. Now that the monkey is off his back, look for Sergio to repeat this week. Year in and year out Sergio is one of the best ball strikers in the game. He currently ranks first in strokes gained off the tee and sand save percentage. He also has the tour’s lowest scoring average at 68.71. Sergio’s success at Augusta this week will rest on his putting. He currently ranks 173rd in total putting, so if he plans on repeating he will need to hole some birdies.

Low amateur: Yuxin Lin

This 17-year-old left-handed Chinese amateur has got some serious game, and he’s looking to put it on display for the world to see this week. Lin won the Asia-Pacific Amateur championship last fall to qualify for this year’s Masters. He will be the youngest player in the field and if he can stay out of Rae’s Creek we think he can take the silver cup.  

Each year the Master’s Tournament is a time to reflect on a great game’s storied history. So sit back, grab a cold one and let Jim Nantz’s voice transport you on a magical journey through the budding Dogwood trees and blooming Azaleas of a timeless American tradition.

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