In honor of Tuesday night's Champions Dinner, we convened a special Green Jacket Confidential roundtable of former Masters champions to talk about this year's tournament, their best Masters memories and their favorite holes at Augusta National. Special thanks to these gracious champions for their time. We hope you enjoy it.
1. Who is your pick to win the green jacket?
Billy Casper, 1970 Masters champion: Tiger. Tiger’s playing well. He’s won so many times there. He’s really playing well. It looks like Rory is starting to come into his own. With those two playing well, it would be a great Masters.
Charl Schwartzel, 2011 Masters champion: I’m sure there are a lot of bookmakers around the world filling their pockets with the money of punters trying to pick golf tournament winners. It’s definitely not easy. I always feel that if I am playing my best then I have the chance to win whenever I tee it up, but I would never say that I am going to win. There are so many contenders and I suppose top of that list now would be Tiger Woods, who has had such an impressive start to the season.
Gary Player, 1961, 1974 and 1978 Masters champion: Most people will not argue with Tiger Woods as the overwhelming favorite to win the Masters. Tiger is off to a great start this year with tons of momentum going into this year’s tournament. Plus, he is a phenomenal putter and to win at Augusta you have to putt well. Other favorites include Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy. But I like the chances of Louis Oosthuizen, Lee Westwood and Adam Scott. I would love to see Sergio Garcia win, but I personally feel that Tiger is due to have a great year.
Arnold Palmer, 1958, 1960, 1962 and 1964 Masters champion: I think there are numerous people who could take a run. I think Tiger should be the favorite, no question. If I were arbitrary about it, I would still take the field.
Bernhard Langer, 1985 and 1993 Masters champion: Tiger Woods
Trevor Immelman, 2008 Masters champion: Tiger is going to be a hard guy to bet against purely because he’s won there in so many different styles and conditions. Nothing that happens there will be catching him off guard, so I imagine he’ll be pretty comfortable and hard to bet against. There’s definitely a strategy and a formula to those greens, understanding the breaks and the speeds, and I think that’s why you see the same guys doing well there. Because once you figure that out, you can get more and more comfortable with the speed and undulation of those greens, the hole locations. It’s much easier to start to formulate some sort of strategy. At that point, if you’re playing well, you can enforce that strategy and have some shot at winning.
Raymond Floyd, 1976 Masters champion: Tiger Woods. Traditionally, the golf course suits a long-hitter, obviously. And someone who can draw the ball. The majority of the golf course favors a natural draw, not someone who has to work to make it draw. You can categorize players using that. And guys who had a good early spring or a good start to the season. You can graph it like a stock. Guys who are playing well or who have even won a tournament or could have won once or twice, they have their confidence. But again, there are guys who can win majors, and guys who can’t. There are all kinds of factors that go in there.
Ian Woosnam, 1991 Masters champion: You have to go with the form player -- Tiger.
Angel Cabrera, 2009 Masters champion: Me!
2. Which players have games that fit Augusta National or could potential be dark horse candidates?
Casper: You’ve got a whole group of them now. Snedeker has played unbelievable for some time now. If he’s over that rib section, he could be a great factor.
Floyd: It will be difficult for Snedeker, no matter the start he had. When you get put on the bench for an injury, it’s hard to come back and play as well as you did before.
Schwartzel: If I can’t win then there’s nobody I would more like to see joining me in the green jacket club than my good friend Louis Oosthuizen, who wouldn’t be much of a dark horse given that he was runner-up last year.
Langer: Rory McIlroy
Woosnam: Justin Rose. I have a good feeling about him this year.
Player: To win at the Masters, you have to know when to play aggressive and when to play the safe shot -- that generally only comes from experience. Playing well from tee to green will get you into contention, but your short game is what will make the difference between making the cut, missing the cut, or being on top of the leaderboard. I think the players best suited for the Masters are Tiger for his fierce determination, experience and putting and Phil Mickelson, who has really been wonderful at Augusta the past couple years. As far as a dark horse, I could also see Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, or Sergio Garcia rising to the occasion.