Tour Confidential: Who’s your pick to win the Masters?

April 5, 2014

SI Golf Group convened a special panel of experts, including a PGA Tour player who asked to remain anonymous, to tackle several Masters-related topics. Every Sunday night, conducts an e-mail roundtable with writers from Sports Illustrated and Golf Magazine. Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.

1. Who's your 2014 Masters pick and dark horse?

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@AlanShipnuck): This is the most wide-open Masters since 1996. There really isn't a favorite. That makes it fun. Tiger and Phil have been the default favorites for so long. Scott and Rory McIlroy have shown flashes but haven't closed. Jimmy Walker and Patrick Reed have been the season's best players, but both are making their first appearance at Augusta.

John Garrity, special contributor, Sports Illustrated (@jgarrity2): I need to pick Adam Scott so I can remind everyone that I picked him last year and I was right. I've never had a chance to say that before. My dark-horse pick is Sergio García. Nobody remembers that he finished in the top 10 last year, and nobody takes him seriously. That could be the opening Sergio needs.

ANONYMOUS PRO: I'll take Rory because I think he's back. I'd feel better if he'd won the Honda Classic, but that 5-wood he hit to the 72nd hole was unbelievable.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@GaryVanSickle): If Rory makes that eagle putt and wins, he's probably the clear favorite.

ANONYMOUS PRO: My dark-horse pick is Harris English, a Georgia guy who has putted phenomenally in his wins. He's got serious game, and he drives it really straight.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I like Charl Schwartzel because he plays the course beautifully and has no apparent blood in his veins, which is excellent for a major. My dark horse is Reed, an Augusta State guy who I like for the same reasons. I also like his confidence. If a first-year guy can win the Masters, it's Patrick Reed.

VAN SICKLE: The winner is a guy who has played his best golf the last few years and gets no respect because he's not a basher — Zach Johnson. He's going to peck Augusta National to death, again.

SHIPNUCK: Jason Day has been hurt and had a month off, so I think that makes him a dark horse. I like Angel Cabrera to win his second Masters. This is one of those weeks you don't know what to expect. Angel is the ultimate lurker. Don't forget, he put on a hell of a show last year.

2. In light of his stumble at Bay Hill, is Adam Scott going to win multiple majors?

GARRITY: He's a big-stage player, and like Phil Mickelson, he just needed that breakthrough Masters win. He's going to win several majors. He's 33; he's in his prime.

VAN SICKLE: Perhaps you missed his horrible putting in the final round when he fumbled away the Bay Hill tournament.

GARRITY: Yes, but I also saw what he did the first three days. Everyone has a bad day on the greens. He's playing great golf. Did I mention that he's only 33?

SHIPNUCK: What's more relevant is that at 35 he's going to lose the ability to anchor his putter. He's got eight more majors with this putter. He'd better win a couple to cement his legacy.

BAMBERGER: Don't forget, he's won a Players, too. That's a major, as best I can tell, in PGA Tour-sanctioned Hall of Fame voting.

SHIPNUCK: Bay Hill was Adam's career in microcosm. Nobody makes it look easier when things go well, but when it starts going the wrong way, he often can't turn it around. He should've beaten Phil last year at the British Open. Really, he could have four or five majors in his pocket.

ANONYMOUS PRO: He's always been a poor putter. He's better with the long putter, but I think his method is flawed. The guys who are good with the long stick, like Bernhard Langer, Michael Allen and Kevin Stadler, have their right elbow against their side. Adam's elbow is six to eight inches away. He's too much over the top, and that makes it easy to pull putts. Adam hits it too well to be a one-major guy, but I know this: The guys who win majors make putts.

3. What should Augusta National do about replacing the Eisenhower Tree at 17?

GARRITY: Why is this a debate? It costs like $50,000 to transplant a tree as wide as a house, and I'm pretty sure Augusta National has 50,000 bucks. Pebble Beach replaced that big Monterey pine in front of the 18th green with an even bigger tree. It's no trick at all.

ANONYMOUS PRO: It'll take 50 years to get another tree to look like that one. You could try deep fairway bunkers, but I'm not sure you want guys chipping out sideways on the 71st hole. I could see a grouping of trees a little farther up or adding 10 yards to the hole.

SHIPNUCK: Maybe this is part of a larger philosophy. Under Hootie Johnson they planted trees everywhere and made the course tighter and more penal. Meanwhile the rest of the golf world is taking out trees to open more angles and let the grass breathe. Maybe this is an admission: We overdid it. Maybe this is how Billy Payne puts his own imprint on the course.

BAMBERGER: If Billy Payne wanted to do that, there are 60 trees right of 13 he could take out and another 100 on the 11th.

GARRITY: I'm surprised it didn't happen overnight, that they didn't move the old tree out and put a new one in before they even sent out a press release.

4. If you could travel back in time, which 21st-century Masters would you like to revisit?

ANONYMOUS PRO: It was pretty cool in 2004 when Phil Mickelson finally won his first major. A lot of people were wondering if he was ever going to win one. The Masters was right up his alley, though, and he has won two more since.

SHIPNUCK: Yeah, Phil beating Ernie Els is a good choice, but how about 2011, when eight guys had at least a share of the lead on Sunday until Charl Schwartzel blew them away with birdies on the last four holes?

BAMBERGER: There was the whole Martha Burk episode in 2003. Mike Weir won, and I still feel Len Mattiace's pain from that playoff. It was a wild, deeply weird and highly entertaining week.

GARRITY: I liked 2010 when Phil won his third Masters and hit the 6-iron off the pine straw between the trees at the 13th. It was the year of the great reversal because Tiger had overshadowed Phil for a decade. With Tiger's scandal, plus Phil's victory and his wife and mother battling cancer that year, Phil was effectively on top of the world. That soap opera dynamic puts it atop my list.

SHIPNUCK: That was one of Tiger's greatest performances that no one talks about. His life was in embers, he hadn't touched a club for months, and yet he made two eagles on Sunday and hit three or four of the best shots I've ever seen him hit. He had a chance to win.

VAN SICKLE: I'd go back to 2001 to watch the completion of the Tiger Slam. Mickelson and David Duval botched the 16th hole, or it could've been a classic finish. It would be a treat to see Tiger's swing and his game at its best again. It's easy to forget how special he was.

The Tour Confidential roundtable continues Monday on our new weekly show hosted by Jessica Marksbury. Tweet her your questions @Jess_Marksbury.