Who will win 2016 Masters? Plus more predictions for Augusta National

Rory McIlroy Masters

Who will win 2016 Masters? Plus more predictions for Augusta National

PGA Tour

Who will win 2016 Masters? Plus more predictions for Augusta National

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The 2016 Masters is finally upon us.

Who will win? How will Jordan Spieth play in his green-jacket defense at Augusta National? How will the amateurs do?

Our staff answers those questions and more:

 

Who will win the 2016 Masters?

JEFF BABINEAU: Bubba Watson. A left-hander has won in 2004, 2006, 2010, 2012 and 2014. This IS an even year, is it not? As long as his back is good, and it should be, Bubba will be in the mix. Augusta rewards creativity.

JIM MCCABE: Rory McIlroy. Best player in the game, completes the career grand slam.

ADAM SCHUPAK: Bubba Watson will be fitted for his third green jacket. He’s playing some of his best golf and as one pro told me, Bubba could win at Augusta with his ‘B’ game. No argument here.

ALEX MICELI: Bubba Watson. Not only does Watson seem to win every other year, he is one of the hottest players coming into the Masters and the golf course has proven to be a perfect fit for the left-hander.

BRENTLEY ROMINE: Rory McIlroy. He gets a week off to rest and prepare for Augusta. Plus, his game is where it needs to be (fourth at the Match Play; T-3 at Doral). I think Rors completes the career grand slam and wins his first green jacket.

KEVIN CASEY: Dustin Johnson. He’s a tier below the obvious picks (a.k.a. the “Big Three”), but DJ has been under the radar this year. He quietly has two top 5s in his last three starts, and the other result was a T-14 where he sat in second ahead of the final round. Johnson’s recent Masters results have shown he’s started to figure out Augusta, too, with a T-13 and a T-6 in his last three starts there. It makes sense: Augusta has always favored long, high-ball hitters, and yeah, Johnson certainly falls under that profile. Some may be wary here because of the importance heaped on putting at Augusta, but with how much that course tests every facet of the game, performance on the greens has always been overrated there. And DJ’s a better putter than most people think anyway. I say Johnson puts on the green jacket next Sunday.

ALLEN ETZLER: This is where we see Rickie Fowler grab his first major title and officially become part of what will be the “Big Four.” Has played well in the last two Masters tournaments, already has four top 10s in 2016, and nearly won in Phoenix. I think it’s important for players to learn how to lose in those situations before they can win, and that was Fowler’s loss. His press conference afterward made you want to root for the guy and what better place for his family to see him win than at Augusta?

Where will Jordan Spieth finish in his Masters defense?

JEFF BABINEAU: He’s been a master of the Masters these past two Aprils, but his game isn’t quite there. He’ll will his way into contention on the weekend, and finish T-4.

JIM MCCABE: Outside the top 10, just inside the top 20. Not every 20-footer can go.

ADAM SCHUPAK: Top 10. I expect him to be hovering on the brink of contention, but his putter — his best weapon of all — has cooled of late. If it warms, he could join rare company (Nicklaus, Faldo, Woods) who have gone back-to-back and belly-to-belly at Augusta.

ALEX MICELI: Top 5. Spieth’s game seems built for Augusta National and even with his game not firing on all cylinders, his game will flourish this week at the Masters.

BRENTLEY ROMINE: Top 5. Spieth will look like his usual self this week, but he won’t have the stellar week he did last April. My guess is Spieth might hold an overnight lead, but he’ll have a couple of unlucky breaks that keep him from successfully defending.

KEVIN CASEY: For all of the hoopla over Spieth’s recent struggles, when you look at the actual results sheet, you see to how high a standard he’s held. Here’s the 22-year-old’s record since his win at the Hyundai: T-21, MC, T-17, T-18, T-9. Not really anything too worrisome, and as we all know, he LOVES Augusta, too. So, he’s fine. I won’t quite pull the trigger on a repeat Masters win, but put me down for a Spieth top 5.

ALLEN ETZLER: Spieth will have a strong performance. I obviously don’t have him winning but he’ll be in the top 15 I’m sure. For as much as has been made about his coming back to earth after last year, he’s still been pretty darn good. His missed cut at Northern Trust Open is his only event of the season he finished outside the top 25. And if he’s putting well he could contend on Sunday. If you need a number I’ll say Spieth ends up T-8.

Who is your sleeper pick this week?

JEFF BABINEAU: Charley Hoffman. Power player, he’s in good form, and was a top-10 finisher at Augusta a year ago.

JIM MCCABE: Chris Kirk. Drove it beautifully at Match Play, which is key for him because he already chips and it putts it well enough to win a major.

ADAM SCHUPAK: I think your winner will be a household name this go-round, but just outside the top 50 is Chris Kirk (No. 53), who can shape it right to left with the best of them. He seems fully-healed from breaking his hand and is in good form.

ALEX MICELI: Chris Kirk. Has played in two Masters and made the cut both times with a T-20 in 2014.

BRENTLEY ROMINE: Jason Dufner. Ranked 61st in the world, Dufner has been playing well of late. He won the CareerBuilder Challenge earlier this season and has made six straight cuts, including posting a T-11 at Doral. He was T-49 last year at Augusta National and has a pair of top 25s since 2012. He might not get you a win, but you could get some nice value out of Dufner when you’re filling out your fantasy-golf lineups.

KEVIN CASEY: Charley Hoffman. I mean, if it wasn’t for Spieth’s insane performance, Hoffman would have been your 36-hole Masters leader last year. Some may chalk up his T-9 at Augusta last years as a fluke, but I don’t see it that way. Hoffman is underrated and Augusta suits his style of play: good length, high ball flight and a great all-around game when things are clicking. Helps, too, that he’s thriving the week before the Masters. Another top 10 at Augusta may await.

ALLEN ETZLER: Graeme McDowell. Not the best track record here, but he did make the cut last year and was T-12 in 2012. Just a gut feeling.

Which player has the best chance to win his first major this week at Augusta National?

JEFF BABINEAU: Henrik Stenson. Sure, he has to putt well, but he can get on streaks, and his iron play is a huge asset in hitting it to the proper spots on Augusta’s segmented greens.

JIM MCCABE: Rickie Fowler. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if he did win. And dressed in orange he’ll look like the Irish flag with that green jacket on.

ADAM SCHUPAK: I’m not going to wave my index finger like Ben Crenshaw but I have a feeling Brandt Snedeker could have a special week. He’s flying under the radar due to a rib injury, but he rolls the rock as well as anybody when he’s on.

ALEX MICELI: Branden Grace. Has two top 5s last year in majors and is coming into his own as a top flight player.

BRENTLEY ROMINE: Dustin Johnson. T-6 last year at Augusta National and after the heartbreak at Chambers Bay, I think the golf gods will reward DJ this week with his first green jacket – and first major title.

KEVIN CASEY: Well, considering my pick to win would be a first-time major champion, for me it’s DJ. But besides him, it’s gotta be Rickie Fowler, right? His form has been tremendous this year. Fowler already won in Abu Dhabi and lost in a playoff at the Phoenix Open, where he should have won. He has three top-10s on top of that, too. And his last two Masters appearances have been T5-T12. Few are more talented than Fowler, and he looks ready for Augusta.

ALLEN ETZLER: Since he’s my pick to win, I’ll say Rickie Fowler has the best chance to win his first major.

How many amateurs will make the cut? Who will have the best score?

JEFF BABINEAU: One. Who will have the best score? Bryson DeChambeau, at 4-under 284.

JIM MCCABE: Two. Bryson DeChambeau playing for fun for last time; pro game starts a week later.

ADAM SCHUPAK: One. Bryson DeChambeau and I think he’ll throw a low number at the field on Friday or Saturday to grab some headlines the way Matt Kuchar and Casey Wittenberg did back in the day.

ALEX MICELI:  Two. And Bryson DeChambeau will be the low amateur.

BRENTLEY ROMINE: Three. Despite playing with new clubs, Bryson DeChambeau is good enough to make the cut. Romain Langasque beat DeChambeau at the Georgia Cup last week and made the cut at last year’s British Open. Cheng Jin is young, but the USC signee is plenty long enough and has a great short game. I’m going to go out on a limb and say Jin is low amateur, just like his friend Tianlang Guan was a few years back.

KEVIN CASEY: The last time more than one amateur made the cut at Augusta was 2012. I don’t think that will change next week. Among the amateur list, Bryson DeChambeau and Romain Langasque, Georgia Cup opponents earlier this week, are the only names I have much hope for making the cut. That already narrows the list down to two (an impressive two, at that). Langasque made the cut at last year’s British Open, but I say he misses out on the weekend this time. DeChambeau will be the only amateur to make the cut, and therefore posts the best score.

ALLEN ETZLER: Two amateurs make the cut: Cheng Jin and Romain Langasque, with Jin having the best score.

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