Our Experts Make Their Picks

1 of 8 Chris O'Meara/AP
Alan Shipnuck Senior Writer, Sports Illustrated Pick: Tiger Woods Dark horse: Paul Casey Tiger, Tiger, Tiger. It's gotta be Tiger, right? Picking anyone other than Woods just doesn't make sense. His success rate at his last six Masters is 50 percent, and since he didn't win last year, that means he's due. No course demands length and rewards touch quite like Augusta National, and Woods is the most potent combo of power and finesse the game has ever seen. The only potential bugaboo is the great man's putting. When he doesn't win a major, the flatstick is usually to blame, and his work on the greens has been inconsistent so far this year. Keep an eye on his stats on Thursday. If he takes less than 30 putts, you can start stitching together another green jacket for Woods. OK, I know it's a boring pick, so if Tiger gets three-jab-itis, who takes advantage? Watch out for Paul Casey. He's overdue for a breakthrough on the world stage, and his ball-striking and short game are tailor-made for Augusta National. The only question is whether he has the cojones to close the deal, and I believe he does. Hopefully Casey believes, too.
2 of 8 Chris O'Meara/AP
Cameron Morfit Senior Writer, GOLF Magazine Pick: Tiger Woods Dark horse: Aaron Baddeley Tiger's the pick to win because he knows more about winning than the rest of the field combined, he loves Augusta and he doesn't have the specter of his father's imminent death hanging over him. Aaron Baddeley is my darkhorse because Baddeley is playing well, having won the FBR Open earlier this year, and he's a great putter. He said Wednesday that he's kept his momentum going from the CA Championship at Doral, where he tied for 6th. He also told me he's thrilled to have been paired with Tiger (and Paul Casey) for the first few days, and I believe him.
3 of 8 Sam Greenwood/WireImage.com
Jim Gorant Senior Editor, Sports Illustrated (Golf Plus) Pick: Ernie Els Did you ever have one of those relationships in which the other person continually abused your trust, toyed with your emotions and generally broke your heart, but you couldn't stop yourself from going back for more? Well in the words of the hugely underrated David Coverdale (Whitesnake), here I go again. At the risk of waking up without an ounce of self-respect, I'm picking Ernie Els to win the Masters. Double E is healed from his knee injury and coming in as far below the radar as a player of his stature can. He's still got the total package — he's long, he has a great short game and he's a great putter. His only problem is his inability to close deals, especially at Augusta when Tiger Woods is in the hunt. But I'm thinking Els gets in the top 10 early, drops back a bit on Saturday, then goes out Sunday thinking he's got as little chance of winning as he does of becoming No. 1. By accident he throws up a 66, and several hours later, while he's sitting at the clubhouse bar downing "imports," some old codger comes to drag him out to the 18th green. When he sees the creepy white glow of Phil Mickelson's smile as Lefty approaches with the green jacket, Els faints. Don't think so? All right then, just pick Tiger and get on with it.
4 of 8 John Biever/SI
Josh Sanburn Assistant Editor, GOLF Magazine Pick: Phil Mickelson On the practice greens Wednesday, Phil was stroking it, and he was knocking in sand shots and pitches from multiple locations. The man not only looks determined, but he looks as physically fit as he has in a long time, and he's the player to beat on Sunday. Mickelson is most comfortable playing here, and on Tuesday he said he couldn't think of a time when he was more relaxed going into a final round than last year, when he took the green jacket by two strokes over Tim Clark. Forget about his stumbles at Winged Foot. This is Augusta, where Phil feels at home and where he'll have much of the gallery behind him. He's taking the much-ballyhooed two-driver approach — a square-headed one for distance, a standard one for feel — which will give him an advantage off the tee that most players aren't even considering. And his putting has been superb this year — Mickelson is currently ranked fourth in average number of putts. Look for (finally) a head-to-head match-up with Tiger on Sunday, but by the afternoon, Phil will be donning a third green jacket.
5 of 8 Harry How/Getty Images
Gary Van Sickle Senior Writer, Sports Illustrated Pick: Tiger Woods Dark horse 1: Geoff Ogilvy Dark Horse 2: Jim Furyk Nobody ever made money betting against Tiger Woods. He's the obvious and overwhelming favorite to win his fifth Masters — and his third straight major championship — for the obscure reason that he's the best player in the game today by a mile. Woods at his best is a runaway winner. Woods at a B-plus level probably wins by two. Woods struggling with his putter on occasion is in contention. He's that good. Geoff Ogilvy (left) is one player who seems poised to interrupt the growing Tiger-Mickelson dynasty at Augusta. He fits the Masters profile — a long hitter with a great short game and a sweet touch with the putter. Plus, he's got experience. His clutch finish on the final nine at Winged Foot last year won him the U.S. Open. That gives him an edge over other would-be contenders such as Henrik Stenson and Paul Casey, who have great games but haven't been tested on a stage as big as the final round of a major. If you're looking for a dark-horse contender, look no further than Jim Furyk. No, he's not even remotely a dark-horse. Yet has anyone ranked No. 2 in the world ever received less attention? He won a U.S. Open, he's a Mr. Consistent-type ballstriker, he's got a great short game and he's as mentally tough as anyone on any tour. A true dark-horse? No. A real threat to don a green jacket? Absolutely.
6 of 8 Chris O'Meara/AP
Alan Bastable Senior Associate Editor, GOLF Magazine Pick: Retief Goosen Retief Goosen hasn't done much in four starts on the PGA Tour this year, but he does have a win on the Euro Tour and three other top-five finishes, good for second on the Order of Merit. More important, he's as comfortable as both Tiger and Phil at Augusta, with T3s in the last two years and no finish worse than T13 since 2002. Look for this goose to cook.
7 of 8 Rob Carr/AP
Michael Bamberger Senior Writer, Sports Illustrated Pick: Mark Calcavecchia The likely winner of the 2007 Masters is so obvious I'm shocked — shocked — more people aren't talking about him: Mark Calcavecchia. He's 46, the same age another Floridian, Jack Nicklaus, was when he won the Masters in 1986. Calc has won this year, he's won a major, he's as long as ever, and he lag putts beautifully with the claw putter grip. Winning the Masters isn't going to change his life, just improve it. If you're looking for a golf tournament to change your life, you're looking for too much. His win goes something like this: fourth-to-last group Sunday, shoots 65, wins by a shot while sitting in Butler Cabin.
8 of 8 Andrew Redington/Getty Images
David Dusek Deputy Editor, GOLF.com Pick: Paul CaseyTrying not to pick Tiger Woods to win the 2007 Masters is like trying not to eat more than one bite of the peach cobbler at lunch inside the Augusta National clubhouse. Impossible. That said, Paul Casey is flying under the radar and has the tools to win here. Casey won three times on the European Tour last year and had a solid Ryder Cup performance, including a hole-in-one during Saturday's foursomes competition. He also won the 2007 Abu Dhabi Championship. Sure, the Englishman missed the cut here last year in his second Masters appearance, but he came in T6 in 2004 when he was paired with his Ryder Cup captain, Bernhard Langer. If Casey can hang around until Sunday, look for him to break through and be the first European winner of the Masters since Jose Maria Olazabal in 1999.