Masters 2011: Breaking down favorite Phil Mickelson and the entire field
Augusta, GA, United States (AHN Sports) – There was no clear-cut favorite to win the 2011 Masters until Phil Mickelson came to life over the weekend in Houston. Mickelson was 16-under for the weekend, made 27 birdies over 72 holes and now comes to Augusta National as the man to beat. He has jumped to third in the world rankings and passed Tiger Woods for the first time since 1997.
Here’s our breakdown of the entire 99-man field for the season’s first major championship:
Phil Mickelson: Lefty has what it takes, he has a magnificent obsession with the Masters and the Augusta National Golf Club. This winner of three green jackets is the man to beat when play begins on Thursday. The only one who can stop Phil is Phil. This is his tournament to win or lose.
Lee Westwood: A European player has not won this event since 1999. Westwood finished second to Mickelson last year. He’s driving the ball well coming into the tournament but will have to improve his short game to win his first major.
Dustin Johnson: The long-hitter got a taste of pressure in the majors at the 2010 U.S. Open and then again at the PGA last August. He has all the tools to win here. Butch Harmon has been working hard on Johnson’s wedge play and putting and he will need both to have a chance. The only question is, can he make the right decisions on the back nine on Sunday?
Nick Watney: Winner of the WGC event in Doral, he can really get on a roll. He’s a streaky player and his putter has to get hot for him to contend. His game is perfect for Augusta National. But he’s a nervous kinda guy and like Johnson, the question on Watney is his ability to handle the pressure cooker that is the back nine on Sunday.
Tiger Woods: It’s impossible to discount a player who has four Masters titles. He knows what the winning strategy is, but he’s a huge question mark with his game currently under reconstruction. How will his short game hold up this week. If it’s working, he can contend. He finished fourth last year in an amazing display of determination.
Bubba Watson: No one’s talking about the tour’s longest hitter. Mickelson and Mike Weir have proven that the course sets up well for left-handers. Watson can hit high, towering iron shots, perfect for the greens at Augusta. If he gets it going, he’s a player the patrons would get behind in a hurry.
Hunter Mahan: He’s playing well coming into this week. Said in Houston that his game is in order and feels like he can go low at any time. Has the tools, shot seven-under last year, tied for eighth.
K.J. Choi: Tied for fourth last year, has the game and has reworked his putting, which he’ll need to contend.
Y.E. Yang: Tied for eighth in 2010 with Hunter Mahan. Has the game and the nerves to contend.
Ian Poulter: Tied for 10th last year. Has the shot-making ability and can putt well enough to win. Second best European hope to Westwood.
Luke Donald: Showed a renewed game at the WGC Match Play. He’ll need to play his best to have a chance. Missed the cut last year. Shot a 62 last week at Jack Nicklaus’ private course in Jupiter, The Bear’s Club, new course record.
Steve Stricker: T30 last year, it’s about time for him to have a good showing at Augusta.
Don’t Be Surprised:
Jim Furyk: Missed cut last year, needs his A-game to contend.
Martin Kaymer: He’s the world’s No. 1 player but has played here three times and missed the cut each time. He doesn’t know the pressure of the back nine on Sunday.
Graeme McDowell: Missed cut last year. Has a precision game to contend but admits it is difficult for him to draw the ball at times.
Miguel Angel Jimenez: Tied for 12th last year. “The Mechanic” plays a precision game without the enormous length, a pure grinder and look-alike for the “world’s most interesting man.”
Paul Casey: Has the game, the power but needs to putt well to contend.
Trevor Immelman: Former winner tied for 14th last year and his game is finally coming back to life after battling injuries and he’s picked up some length off the tee.
Angel Cabrera: T18 last year. Has the game but has not won in the U.S. since his victory here in 2009.
Matt Kuchar: Made himself a household name here as an amateur. Hasn’t performed well as a pro, but perhaps its time for him to show what he’s got.
Rory McIlroy: A pick by many as the top European contender. He’s been erratic, has the game but can he withstand the pressure of Sunday afternoon at Amen Corner?
Vijay Singh: Has finally improved his putting. Knows what it takes to slip on the green jacket.
Ricky Barnes: Strong player, T10 last year, a crowd favorite.
Geoff Ogilvy: T26 last year, has the length and the short game.
Charyl Schwartzel: T30 last year, great swing, excellent ball striker, depends on the putter.
Retief Goosen: T38 last year. Has the capability but his putting is the question mark.
Francesco Molinari: T32 last year, solid player from Italy, best of the two brothers.
Louis Oosthuizen: Great swing, hasn’t done much since winning the Open championship. Missed cut last year.
Ross Fisher: Another solid European player. May have to pull out if his wife goes into labor, they’re expecting.
Edoardo Molinari: Missed cut last year, not as good as his brother.
Ryan Moore, Martin Laird, Steve Marino, Jerry Kelly, Justin Rose: All are very capable but don’t have the track record.
David Toms, Robert Allenby, Jonathan Byrd, Ernie Els, Adam Scott: Allenby playing the best of this group. How will Adam Scott perform with the long putter on these difficult greens?
Paddy Harrington, Mark Wilson, Sergio Garcia, Brandt Snedeker, Carl Pettersson: Garcia is playing well again, world-class ball striker but still struggling with the putter, a bad thing at Augusta. Harrington had his moments in Houston.
Aaron Baddeley, Zach Johnson, Stewart Cink, Stuart Appleby, Rory Sabbatini: Solid players, Johnson won in 2007, Baddeley played well last week in Houston. Sabbatini may have the best chance of this group along with Baddeley, Johnson would be a pleasant surprise.
Fred Couples, Tom Watson, Lucas Glover, Jason Day, Alvaro Quiros: Couples made a great run last year but his back is really causing him problems coming into this week. Watson’s swing still incredible, putting is his problem.
Rickie Fowler, Ryan Palmer, Jeff Overton, Johnny Vegas, Gary Woodland: Plenty of talent but no experience factor.
Ryo Ishikawa, Bill Haas, Robert Karlsson, Henrik Stenson, Ben Crane: It would be a spirit-lifter for all of Japan if Ishikawa can contend. He has the tools and the talent.
Tim Clark, Alex Cjeka, D.A. Points, Heath Slocum, Yuta Ikeda: Clark has been plagued by injuries, the rest are what the name implies, long shots.
Davis Love III, Bo Van Pelt, Sean O’Hair, Jason Bohn, Gregory Havret: Simply guys you wouldn’t expect to see hanging around on Sunday.
Charley Hoffman, Anders hansen, Peter Hanson, Camilo Villega, Kevin Streelman: Another group that would surprise.
Anthony Kim, Kevin Na: Kim showed some life in Houston, was incredible here last year but can he show up again, perhaps the true sleeper of all these longshots.
Not A Prayer:
Amateurs: David Chung, Jim Jeong, Peter Uihlein, Lion Kim, Nathan Smith: No amateur has ever won the Masters and will not this year. It’s a major accomplishment to make the cut. They can carry home fond memories of their stay in the “Crow’s Nest” — the wonderful quarters at the top of the clubhouse.
Former champions: Mark O’Meara, Larry Mize, Jose Maria Olazabal, Sandy Lyle, Craig Stadler, Mike Weir, Ben Crenshaw, Ian Woosman: Time won’t let them, with the exception of Mike Weir, whose game is in total shambles.
Arjuan Atwal, Hiroyuki Fujita, Hideki Matsuyama, Kyung-Tae Kim: Astronomical odds.
There you have it, the 99-man field for the 2011 Masters.