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Monday, April 8, 2013

Masters - Power Rankings

On rare occasions, the Masters being one of them, I will stray from a power ranking and rank an entire field. I’m going to do that again this week, and the biggest reason as to why is because there are so many gaming formats out there for majors, and the Masters in particular, that it ends up being easier on me to give you a list of all 93 players in order of how I see their value.

I’ll start off heavy on the comments early, and then lessen them until I eventually just give you names. Let’s face it. When it’s down to the 76th man on the list, there just isn't that much to say. I will also put a (W) beside past winners.

All of the normal factors are in play for the rankings this week including past Masters history, current form and a very little bit of stats. And by “very,” I mainly want to make sure the guy doesn't completely suck at putting and has the distance to handle Augusta National.

The weather looks to be good for Saturday and Sunday, with thunderstorms expected on Thursday and Friday. For the purposes of this, I’m not allowing the weather to play too large of a role in my ranking since this is a typical April forecast for Augusta. I may dial in deeper for several of the more popular games when some hourly forecasts become available for Friday to see if one wave of tee times has an advantage.

Everybody clear as mud?

Here we go:

  1. Tiger Woods – Actually, the first one doesn’t require much of a comment either.
  2. Phil Mickelson – He’s got his usual pre-Masters win and seems to be clicking on enough cylinders coming out of Houston to allow plenty of optimism for the three-time winner. I actually like that he played Sunday with former Secretary Rice on Sunday and peppered her with political questions. For some, I would worry about the distraction, but Phil needs that side of his brain stimulated.
  3. Rory McIlroy – He’s not found his “A game” quite yet, but I was really impressed with his wedge control last weekend. There were a number of times where he was hitting 100-yard wedges inside six feet at TPC San Antonio. He also brought it with a final-round 66, only to be outdone by Martin Laird’s 63.
  4. Justin Rose – He’s got top-eight finishes in his last three TOUR starts in 2013, and check out his Augusta National record…..7/7, 2 top 10s, 5 top 25s. His last three starts at ANGC are T20, T11, T8.
  5. Adam Scott – Commented to the media yesterday that he’s got his work in for the Masters and will take a relaxing approach to the next few days. He knows how to play this course (9/11, 3 top 10s, 6 top 25s) and T2 and T8 in his last two trips.
  6. Dustin Johnson – He’s never missed a cut here, but never cracked a top 25 either. He is trending really well into Augusta, with a T12 and a T4 in his last two starts. Expect him to be a major factor.
  7. Lee Westwood – We know Westy has an excellent record here and his form seems to be above average coming off a T10 in Houston. Hasn’t done any better than a T9 this year, so hard to put him any higher than this.
  8. Sergio Garcia – Kind of wore himself out after a great start to the year, pulling out of Bay Hill during the rain delay. I really like his T3 at Doral, which is generally a good indicator of Masters success. He tied for 12th last year with 10/14, 2 top 10s, 3 top 25s as his overall record.
  9. Steve Stricker – I was surprised by his lack of success in Houston, but everything else this year has been nearly perfect. You could argue that this is a little high, but not much.
  10. Hunter Mahan – I mentioned yesterday that Mahan is ripe on paper to win the Green Jacket, and he is. Consider that he hasn’t missed the cut in eight starts on the PGA TOUR this year, with seven going for top 25s. His record at Augusta National is a respectable 4/6, 2 top 10s, 3 top 25s, including a T12 last year.
  11. Charl Schwartzel – Seems to be fading a bit, but I’m not putting too much thought into an average week at TPC San Antonio. He’s gone T30, win, T50 in his three starts here, so an every-other-year trend could show up this year. One thing I’ve noticed about Masters winners is that they tend to not finish inside the top 10 in the prior year’s Masters.
  12. Rickie Fowler – Making his third start, a T38 to T27 improvement could mean nice things for Fowler in  his third trip. Was T3 at Bay Hill in his last start.
  13. Bubba Watson – Tough to peg the defending champ, but I don’t see him doing much better than this with the distraction of defending. Form is good, but not excellent.
  14. Matt Kuchar – I’ve followed Kuch closely the last few weeks and he’s missing more short and mid-range putts than I remember being normal for him. He was T3 here last year and has only missed one cut in six previous trips.
  15. Keegan Bradley – Some people are going to like him a bunch this year, and given his form it’s hard to argue. I think he needs one more year. He was T27 in his only start here last year, which is similar to Schwartzel before his win in ’11. Elevate him if you want.
  16. Bill Haas – He’s been hanging around a lot of leaderboards lately, but not finishing the job. He’s never missed a cut in three previous Masters, but done nothing better than T26. I see him having a career-best trip to ANGC.
  17. Louis Oosthuizen – Hard to know what to make of Louis. He’s got three missed cuts here and a runner-up last year. He’s also slowly waking up, with a top 10 in Houston two weeks ago as his Masters lead-in.
  18. Ian Poulter – I see him being a factor in all the majors this season, and his Masters history has some bright spots, with his 7th last year the best. Overall, he’s 8/8, 2 top 10, 5 top 25s in this event.
  19. Brandt Snedeker – He would have been top three or four before his injury, but hasn’t shown anything close to the game that saw him leave the West Coast Swing with the FedExCup points lead. Was due for some hard work at Sea Island last week, so we don’t know what to expect.
  20. Jason Day – Was T2 in ’11 and missed the cut last year, but his form this season is closer to 2011 than a distracted 2012.
  21. Luke Donald – One of the favorites last year, he is flying in under the radar and could surprise some people. His record is steady at ANGC (6/8, 3 top 10s, 3 top 25s). Was T32 last year after sharing fourth in 2011. He may thrive under lessened expectations.
  22. Peter Hanson – Had a great final round at TPC San Antonio. I put a lot of stock into his T8 at Doral. Keep a close eye on the Swede, who was your 54-hole leader last year and tied for third. Probably fades to a non-competitive top 25 due to his heightened expectations, but that makes him a juicy pick in 2014.
  23. Angel Cabrera – Figured it out in Houston two weeks ago for a T16 (his best start since 2011) and credited a switch back to some older irons. His win in 2009 here wasn’t a one-hit wonder. He backed it up with T18, T7, T32 in his last three Masters.
  24. Jim Furyk – Length is a question, but his form (T3 last week) and record (14/16, 4 top 10s, 10 top 25s) make him impossible to ignore past this point.
  25. Jason Dufner – Quietly building a nice Masters resume, with a T30, T24 in his previous two starts. If his form was a little better (MC at Bay Hill and no top 10s), I’d be touting him much higher. It might be to my peril that I’m not.
  26. Padraig Harrington – Enters after notching his second top 10 of the year at the Valero Texas Open yesterday. His record here is respectable (9/13, 4 top 10s, 6 top 25s) and there is no question that he can handle major pressure.
  27. K.J. Choi – I had a hard time ranking him this week. He had a really nice week in San Antonio last week with a season-best sixth-place finish. Missed the cut here last year, but overall has a nice record (7/9, 3 top 10s, 4 top 25s) including a third-place finish. Nothing much would surprise me with Choi.
  28. Nick Watney – Cooled off after a T4 at Torrey Pines. A T27 in Houston was his best start on paper since the Match Play (T17). Never missed a cut in five trips to the Masters, with one top 10 and three top 25s.
  29. Graeme McDowell – Of all of this year’s majors, this one sets up the worst for him. He’s made just 2/5 cuts here, with a T12 last year his best finish.
  30. Bo Van Pelt – Quietly entering the Masters with just two top 25s in eight starts and back-to-back missed cuts, BVP can tout a T8 and T17 in his last two trips to Augusta National. Failed to re-create the top-10 successes of last year to this point.
  31. Henrik Stenson – Form excellent coming out of Houston and was the leader through 17 holes last year.
  32. Ernie Els – Big Easy back to ANGC, but hard to trust his putter to do much better than making the cut.
  33. Webb Simpson – He’s making his second trip after a mediocre T44 last year. Still needs some seasoning.
  34. Zach Johnson – Hasn’t had a great year and really has one of the more unimpressive Augusta resume’s of the past champions.
  35. Ryan Moore – Has the kind of record to watch at Augusta. He’s 4/4 with two top 25s. If his form was a little better and his putter more reliable, he would be a serious dark horse.
  36. Stewart Cink – He’s showed several flashes this year ,and owns a 10/15, 2 top 10s and 7 top 25s lifetime record, but T50, MC, MC in his last three trips don’t look flattering.
  37. Freddie Jacobson – Underwhelmed us in San Antonio last week, never contending. Record here is a T17 and a MC in two starts.
  38. Francesco Molinari – He’s a legitimate threat to make a little noise, with 2/3 cuts and a top 25.
  39. Fred Couples – He’ll thrill the patrons at some point early in the week, but has shown that his days of a weekend run are probably in the past.
  40. Martin Kaymer – Someone will tout how his game is a perfect fit for this course, and maybe he’ll be this year’s Louis Oosthuizen, but his record is a mere 1/5, T44 LY.
  41. David Lynn – Of all the European “rookies” on the PGA TOUR this year, Lynn may be the most pleasant surprise. He was T4 at The Honda and 14th at Valero last week. Masters rookie.
  42. Nicolas Colsaerts – The Belgian Bomber makes his Augusta debut. We know his length is a fit. Now we’ll see if the flat stick holds up.
  43. Vijay Singh – Any past champion is dangerous at Augusta, and Singh is no different. He could catch lightening in a bottle.
  44. Y.E. Yang – Don’t ignore him. He could be of value in the right game. (4/5, 1 top 10, 2 top 25s)
  45. Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano – Caught the attention of many golf fans with a T3 at Bay Hill to earn Special Temporary Status on the PGA TOUR. Made the cut here in his first trip last year, but didn’t crack the top 60.
  46. Thomas Bjorn – A good roster filler down the line, (5/9, 2 top 25s) was T37 last year.
  47. Lucas Glover – Striking it well enough to do some damage, but putter has killed him this year.
  48. Branden Grace – Has spent some time in the U.S. this year, but has made very little noise.
  49. Trevor Immelman – Hard to believe in his form, but overall record here (8/10, 2 top 10s, 5 top 25s) demands a modicum of respect.
  50. Carl Pettersson – Swede is 2/4 with a T27 his best effort.
  51. Kevin Streelman
  52. Russell Henley
  53. Michael Thompson
  54. Scott Piercy
  55. Martin Laird
  56. Kevin Na
  57. Matteo Mannassero
  58. Paul Lawrie
  59. John Merrick
  60. John Senden
  61. David Toms
  62. George Coetzee
  63. Tim Clark
  64. Brian Gay
  65. Ryo Ishikawa
  66. D.A. Points
  67. John Peterson
  68. Richard Sterne
  69. Robert Garrigus
  70. Marc Leishman
  71. Thorbjorn Olesen (remember that he’s questionable after car wreck in Texas)
  72. John Huh
  73. Jamie Donaldson
  74. Jose Maria Olazabal
  75. Thaworn Wiratchant
  76. Bernhard Langer
  77. Hiroyuki Fujita
  78. Ben Crenshaw
  79. Ben Curtis
  80. Tom Watson
  81. Mike Weir
  82. Mark O’Meara
  83. Ted Potter Jr.
  84. Larry Mize
  85. T.J. Vogel
  86. Alan Dunbar
  87. Steven Fox
  88. Nathan Smith
  89. Michael Weaver
  90. Craig Stadler
  91. Ian Woosnam
  92. Sandy Lyle
  93. Tianlang Guan

One thing to point out, I know that almost every year an amateur is part of the conversation early, only to fade late. I may be dead wrong, but I don’t see an amateur jumping off the page at me this year.

Tomorrow I’ll return to hit some of the most popular game formats. In the mean time, feel free to email me if you have specific questions regarding your format.

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