10 picks for the 2014 Masters
Post by golf journalist Nick Bonfield
Fancy a flutter or need some inspiration for your fantasy picks for this year's Masters? Check out these picks from Nick Bonfield:
Dustin Johnson 20/1
If you look at the statistics, Dustin Johnson is someone who simply can't be ignored. This season on the PGA Tour he ranks first in the all-around ranking and scoring average, second in both driving distance and greens in regulation and 17th in total driving. That is an absolutely sensational set of figures. The total driving figure is hugely significant and the combination of length and accuracy off the tee at Augusta is deadly. What's more, he also ranks 4th in par 5 birdie average - another key statistic on a golf course with four very reachable par 5s. He recorded a career-best tie for 13th at last year's Masters and I've got a good feeling about him this time around.
Ian Poulter - 50/1
Augusta National is the complete golf course. In the past, it would have been fair to say you could get away with wayward driving, but it’s a completely different beast in today’s day and age. In fact, Adam Scott even came out this week and labeled driving accuracy as the most important attribute in the Masters. For that reason, amongst others, I like the look of Ian Poulter. He’s one of the straightest hitters on tour and, what’s more, he’s added some yardage over the past couple of months. His putting prowess needs no further discussion, he’s solid from tee to green, he’s virtually unstoppable when he gets on a roll and he’s notched two top 10s and one top 27 in his last four visits to Augusta.
Luke Donald 40/1
Luke Donald’s golf swing is undoubtedly still a work in progress, but that certainly shouldn’t preclude him from a place on the list of Masters contenders. The Englishman sandwiched a top 25 at the WGC-Cadillac with a pair of top 10s at the Honda Classic and Valspar Championship. He’ll need to be on top of his game to compete – especially given his comparative lack of length off the tee – but his putting and chipping stats remain exemplary and his record at Augusta, where he finished fourth in 2011, is very good. You could do far worse than backing Donald at 40/1.
Patrick Reed 50/1
Patrick Reed turned a number of heads with his assertion that he’s one of the top five players in the world. Although it was a rather rash and, as yet, unverifiable statement, his career record certainly vindicates his self-assurance, if nothing else. Reed – who enjoyed a sterling amateur career – has won three times on the PGA Tour before his 24th birthday, including the WGC-Cadillac Championship – a tournament with the world’s entire top 50 in action. He’d never played a WGC before and his victory made him the youngest ever winner of a World Golf Championship. I know he’s making his debut at Augusta, and there have only been three first-time winners in the history of the tournament, but if anyone has the confidence and ability to make it four, it’s Reed.
Rickie Fowler 50/1
I’ve been a huge Rickie Fowler fan ever since watching his tremendous performance in truly atrocious conditions at the 2011 Open. That day helped convince me there was some serious talent beneath the flashy façade, and whilst he certainly hasn’t fulfilled his potential, I’m expecting big things over the next year or two. What’s more, all the talk of a new, exciting generation of fresh-out-of-college Americans should serve as inspiration to a man who has now been on tour for a number of years. Fowler has been in decent form this year and his ball striking has been impressive, so look out for a strong performance from Rickie at Augusta.
Angel Cabrera 60/1
Well, what can you say about the enigmatic Argentinian? He goes missing for months at a time and shows absolutely no form whatsoever coming into the Masters, but somehow manages to produce his best golf. He won in 2009, threatened in 2011 and lost out to Adam Scott in a play-off last year. He has a special relationship with Augusta National and that affinity could well translate to another challenge in 2014.
Jamie Donaldson 100/1
Jamie Donaldson has been quietly impressive this season on the PGA Tour, notching a series of good finishes in events with strong fields on a circuit he’s relatively unfamiliar with. The Welshman came of age with victories at the 2012 Irish Open and 2013 Abu Dhabi Championship, and his days of languishing on the Challenge Tour are a distant memory. He’s a legitimate Ryder Cup contender and someone more than capable of springing a surprise. You could argue – given his recent form – that a prospective challenge at the Masters shouldn’t be deemed surprising. But, either way, 100/1 looks a very good price for a player of his caliber.
Russell Henley 125/1
I’ve been keeping a close eye on Russell Henley ever since his brilliant, record-breaking victory at the Sony Open on his first PGA Tour start. He went quiet for a period after that, but he showed at the Honda Classic he’s a player with a strong constitution and the ability to mix it with the best. He wasn’t overawed playing alongside Rory McIlroy in regulation play and came through in the subsequent play-off when everyone was expecting a routine victory for the Ulsterman. Henley is solid from tee to green and an excellent clutch putter, and he played Augusta a number of times during his college days at the University of Georgia.
Francesco Molinari 150/1
Francesco Molinari is at the stage of his career where he really needs to push on, and I think he's got the tools and form to feature prominently at Augusta. The Italian seems to be more and more comfortable on American soil and he recorded a top five at Bay Hill on his last outing. This will be his fifth Masters appearance, and his form, exceptional tee-to-green game and increasing experience in America could all combine to facilitate a Major challenge this year.
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