US Masters: Five players to watch

Proven winner Bubba Watson can master Augusta again

 Bubba Watson:  has arguably the best game tee-to-green with his monster drives giving him an edge on the field. Photo:  Harry How/Getty Images

Bubba Watson: has arguably the best game tee-to-green with his monster drives giving him an edge on the field. Photo: Harry How/Getty Images

 

In this week of weeks on tour, it is hard to find inner calm. But that is what all players want, so that their focus is on one thing: securing a green jacket!

Bubba Watson’s week, so far, hasn’t gone so well. A television documentary screened on Sunday night revealed his deepest inner fears – crowds, strangers, the dark, heights and of buildings falling on him – and, then, on Monday, he was confined to bed suffering from a sinus infection.

Will his illness affect his bid for the Masters? Only time will tell, but Watson got back playing yesterday – a practice round alongside JB Holmes – and appeared none the worse for his confinement.

“He hit it fine,” acknowledged Holmes; and, certainly, Watson is at his most content when out on the golf course bombing drives and getting creative around the greens.

He’s done it before and could be the man they all have to beat!

Five to Watch

The Contrarian 
Bubba Watson

The man who does things his way, the originator of “Bubba Golf” is looking to keep his biennial streak going.

Winner in 2012 and 2014, Watson – troubled by a sinus infection earlier in the week – has arguably the best game tee-to-green with his monster drives giving him an edge on the field. It is what happens on the greens with putter in hand that will define whether or not the left-hander can claim a third green jacket.

Watson has made all seven cuts so far this season, including a victory in the Northern Trust Open and leads finding greens-in-regulation on the PGA Tour.

He is also among the top-five in scoring averages on Par 3, Par 4 and Par 5 on tour which makes for an impressive cocktail. Odds: 11/1

The Old Reliable
Phil Mickelson

There’s something about smelling the azaleas that inspires Mickelson, who usually turns up with his A Game for this examination. A three-time winner – in 2004, 2006 and 2010 – Lefty has missed the cut only twice in 23 appearances and a runner-up finish behind Jordan Spieth a year ago provided further proof that aching bones seem to disappear once he arrives here.

So far this season, Mickelson has shown sufficient form – three top-five finishes, including a runner-up placing at the Career Builders Challenge – to indicate that his game is sharp and he is primed to challenge again. Odds: 18/1

The Aussie
Adam Scott

Although Jason Day is the Aussie with the tag of favourite, Scott is the one with the history of getting the job done. His play-off win in 2013 ended whatever hex there was on an Australian winner and, if there were concerns that the anchoring ban introduced on January 1st would prove penal to Scott, his re-embracing of the short putter at the expense of the broomhandle has been a marriage made in heaven.

Scott’s back-to-back wins in the Honda Classic and the WGC-Cadillac Championship last month were hugely impressive, a combination of superb ball-striking and putting. Odds: 11/1

The Traditionalist
Bill Haas

Nothing like a bit of family history to stir the senses, and Haas – his grandfather Bob Goalby won a green jacket and his father Jay had three top-five finishes – has an affinity with the hallowed turf. He is his own man, though. And, in six previous appearances here, has shown he has the game: Haas has never missed a cut, with top-20 finishes the past three years and a best finish of tied-12th last year. His low round is a 68, in the first round of the 2014 tournament.

The last of his six PGA Tour wins came in last season’s Humana Challenge and he has three top-10 finishes on tour so far this season. Odds: 80/1

The Spaniard
Rafa Cabrera Bello

There hasn’t been a first-time winner of the Masters since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979, but the in-form Spaniard – who gatecrashed his way into the world’s top-50 on the back of a third-place finish in the WGC-Dell Matchplay to earn his ticket to Augusta – is not the type of player to suffer from nerves. Such self-confidence is an attribute in these parts, and his length off the tee should make the Par 5s fair game.

Cabrera Bello has also used his friendship with Jose Maria Olazabal to garner some inside knowledge on how to play the course: he has been talking and texting with injured Olazabal. Odds: 100/1

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