The Masters experts' picks

April, 3, 2012
Each week of the season, our experts will share their insights into which players fit the criteria for our four categories: Horse for the Course (a golfer who knows the track inside and out), Birdie Buster (a guy who could take it low this week), Super Sleeper (a player who could unexpectedly contend) and Winner.

This week's tournament: The Masters at Augusta National Golf Club.

Horse for the Course

Farrell Evans, senior golf writer: Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson
It's a toss-up between the two Californians, who have won a combined seven Masters. Since his first Masters as a pro in 1997, Tiger has never missed the cut and has finished outside the top 10 just three times. Although Mickelson has one missed cut as a professional in '97, from 1999 to 2010 he finished in the top 10 in 11 out of the 12 years.

Bob Harig, senior golf writer: Tiger Woods
Even when he doesn't have his game together, Woods seems to contend at the Masters, where he has tied for fourth in each of the past two years. Woods, who has won the tournament four times, has not been out of the top six since his last victory in 2005. He has 12 top-10 finishes in 15 appearances as a pro.

Kevin Maguire, senior golf editor: Jason Day
Because I bet everyone else will go with Tiger or Phil here, to change things up a bit, I'm going with Jason Day. Sure, he's played only one Masters (at which he finished T-2), but conventional wisdom says that if you understand this course, you never really lose that. I don't suspect he'll win in start No. 2, but another top-10 finish is probably likelier.

Birdie Buster

Farrell Evans, senior golf writer: Hunter Mahan
The 29-year-old former Oklahoma State standout is the only player to win twice in 2012. He's had some success at the Masters with back-to-back top-10s in 2009 and 2010.

Bob Harig, senior golf writer: Hunter Mahan
He comes to Augusta National off his victory at the Shell Houston Open, where he became the first player this year to win twice on the PGA Tour and vaulted to No. 4 in the world. He has two top-10 finishes at the Masters.

Kevin Maguire, senior golf editor: Bubba Watson
The long bomber with the pink driver can play any shot shape in the book and a few the author left out. The only reason I'm not picking him to win is he's so much of a feel player, and when those feelings go south, there's no telling where they'll stop. Let's just say I wouldn't be stunned if he dropped a 64 or a 65 out there this week. A 77 or 78 isn't out of the realm of possibility, either.

Super Sleeper

Farrell Evans, senior golf writer: Robert Garrigus
The long-hitting 34-year-old with one PGA Tour win is making his first trip to the Masters. But with his length -- 306.9-yard driving average in 2012 -- he should take advantage of the par-5s. He's also a guy with the ability to make birdies in bunches. He's had two second-place finishes this season, including a playoff loss to Luke Donald at the Transitions, where he shot a 7-under 64 in the final round to get into that playoff.

Bob Harig, senior golf writer: Keegan Bradley
He won the PGA Championship in a playoff to become just the third player in 100 years to win a major in his first attempt. It's a lot to ask Bradley to do it again at the Masters and go 2-for-2. He has that first-time Masters thing going against him, too. But Bradley is a battler and has worked hard to familiarize himself with the course.

Kevin Maguire, senior golf editor: Webb Simpson
It's not often one can pick the guy who finished No. 2 on the previous year's PGA Tour money list as a sleeper, but it is Augusta, and it is Simpson's first Masters. Not since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979 has a Masters rookie won there, but Simpson does have an experienced hand on the bag, which will certainly lessen the learning curve around those tricky Augusta National greens.


Farrell Evans, senior golf writer: Rory McIlroy
This is his year. He knows what he has to do. He knows what he can't do after his debacle on Sunday last year. He's rested and full of confidence and ready to take on all comers, including Tiger Woods.

Bob Harig, senior golf writer: Luke Donald
The Englishman has been pointing toward the majors this year after a record 2011 season that saw him win both the PGA and European tour money titles. He's had two weeks to prepare since his Transitions Championship victory, where he bounced back after a slow start to the season. He tied for fourth at a thrilling Masters last year and looks to get it done this week.

Kevin Maguire, senior golf editor: Justin Rose
Sean Foley's students have won four of the past eight tournaments on the PGA Tour, and Rose's second win of 2012 would make it 5-for-nine. Rose's greens in regulation so far this season is impressive, as he's hit more than 70 percent, and he's seventh in the all-around ranking. It would be the first Masters victory for a European since 1999.





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