The 2014 Masters Form Guide
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2014 US Masters | Preview | 05 Apr 2014
With the withdrawal of Tiger Woods, defending champion Adam Scott heads into this week’s Masters as the favourite to not only successfully defend, but to become the World number one if he is to do so. It might be that he only needs to finish inside the top three to claim that mantle but that is only one of a series of sub stories to golf’s most watched major championship.
I take a look at the leading players in the field and assess their chances.
Scott will play his 13th Masters in 2014, an event many felt would be the one for him to excel in much earlier in his career given that on debut there in 2002 he finished 9th. The defending champion, Scott arrives at Augusta National off the back of a final round hiccup at the Arnold Palmer Championship but he still managed to finish 3rd against a relatively strong field in only his 5th start of 2014. He plays sparingly these days, in fact his win last year was in just his 5th start of 2013. His form is not dissimilar to that he produced prior to his historic victory last year, although he has played a slightly different schedule this season. Adam Scott can potentially claim his second major championship and the world number one mantle with victory on April 13th.
Stenson has yet to record a top ten in eight attempts at Augusta National which is the real concern for a player of his class and for those who fancy his chances. There is little doubt his current form overall is good enough for him to contend but his apparent inability to handle the layout bothers me. Only just made the cut in Houston this past week and eventually finished well back
Day’s record at Augusta National is outstanding. On debut he finished runner-up and then after being forced to withdraw in 2012 he came back to finish 3rd last year. Day comes into the event under an injury concern, not having played since his magnificent win at the Accenture Match Play Championship in late February. He has been protecting a thumb injury so there is a lot of concern about Day’s preparedness for the task at hand. Having said that, if he has been able to work hard away from the tournament scene and his thumb does not cause any concern then he must be a factor given his obvious liking for the layout and the manner in which it suits his eye. He managed to win the Accenture under duress of sorts from the thumb injury.
The question mark over Mickelson’s fitness is a real concern for the countless fans who might otherwise have fancied his chances. With eleven top ten finishes in addition to his three victories Mickelson has been, along with Woods, the standout performer at Augusta National over the past twenty years. There was still concern heading into this week’s Houston Open but he has played quite well. After one of his worst starts to a season he appears short of where he needs to be but his record at Augusta National is impeccable and if fully fit that record will carry him a long way.
McIlroy comes into calculations as a result of his overall good form at Augusta National and his good recent form. He led this event into the last nine holes by a good margin in 2011 before compounding but he has become a two time major winner since and when good he is very good. He appears to be good at present and if he was to add a third different major to his CV this week then few would be surprised. His final round of 65 at the Shell Houston Open is just the boost he needed.
Rose has never missed a cut at Augusta National in eight starts with a best of 5th in 2007. He had not missed a cut anywhere in his last fifteen starts of late until doing so at the Arnold Palmer Championship. Given that this will be just Rose’s fifth start of 2014 it appears he might be a little underdone and on that basis his chances of contending seem limited.
Garcia is perhaps now the best player over the past fifteen years never to have won a major. Can that change this week? Well Garcia has played the Masters on 15 occasions for a best of 4th in 2004 and did finish 8th last year. His consistency is his great hallmark now, having not missed a cut in nearly 20 months, a period which has also included four victories. He arrives off the back of six top ten finishes in his last eight starts and I can see him contending at stages and perhaps to the death. His 3rd place finish in Houston further enhances his chances.
Has nothing to prove at Augusta National having won the Masters in 2004 and has been playing some great golf this season. Interestingly there has been only one other top twenty in eight other starts at the Masters so he does not regularly play Augusta National well but his form for much of 2014 gives him at least some sort of chance.
Before his withdrawal from the Arnold Palmer Championship due to an allergy problem, Bubba Watson had been in superb form and in 2012 produced a shot that has gone down in major championship folklore when wining the playoff against Louis Oosthuizen. The allergy problem appears restricted to warm season grasses which should not be a problem at Augusta National. Not out of this by any stretch.
Plays the Masters for the fifth occasion, recording a best of 13th last year. Has played only five events to date this season but has been very good overall with four top tens. Is playing the Houston Open in his lead up and has made a horror start and has subsequently withdrawn. Still no word as to the reason behind the withdrawal but it is cause for concern.
Kuchar’s entry to the elite over the last few years has also seen him play the Masters very well in the last two years. Has put together some good tournaments despite letting a couple of opportunities slip including last week in Houston. If he can put that behind him then one of the game’s best without a major could get that tag off his back this week.
Bradley has only played this event twice and although making the cut on both occasions has finished well back. Seems to be finding form again and everybody needs a few tries at Augusta National before getting it right. After a very good start in Houston he finished midfield.
Dufner is sneaking along under the radar as he so often does but an analysis of his current form and his efforts to date at the Masters suggest he might be a greater chance in 2014 than his low profile suggests. He has improved in each of his three starts at Augusta National and if he was to improve again few would be surprised. Very good longer odds bet.
Really quite amazing is Steve Stricker given his very limited schedule these days. Even allowing for that he continues to play well although the Masters will be just his fourth event of the year. He is going well enough in Houston to have his game in close to top shape by the time he drives down Magnolia Lane. His record at Augusta National is not great with just two top tens in 13 starts but while winning a first major might be beyond him he could again finish inside the top ten.
McDowell is playing well enough but his record at Augusta National leaves a lot to be desired and on that basis it is hard to get enthusiastic about his chances.
Spieth is the only Masters debutante in 2014 amongst the leading world ranked players in the field. He has been one of the great finds of professional golf over recent times and seems capable of anything. You need to be a quick learner if you expect to do well on debut at the Masters but there is little doubt that Spieth is just that. Disappointing missed cut in his lead up event in Houston is some cause for concern. Perhaps too much against him to see him contending.
Furyk has made every cut since the Open Championship last year and has made every cut but two in seventeen starts at Augusta National. Probably can’t win but capable of a top ten in his current form.
The winner in 2011 seems to be peaking at the right time. A 9th place finish at Doral has been followed by a solid 19th in Houston last week. Schwartzel will play the Masters for the 5th time this year having won it at just his second appearance in 2011 which in itself is an achievement. He has made all three other cuts there also.
Three top tens in nine Masters starts is an indication that Donald has the game to handle Augusta National, a fact that was probably evident from his debut 3rd there in 2005. Donald has begun to put some good tournaments together of late including top tens at the Valspar and Honda events. He finished a reasonable 24th last week and might be in for a good week in Augusta as he too chases his first major championship.
Mahan played well enough in Houston after withdrawing from Bay Hill. That back injury, which caused concern at Doral also, now seems to be under control. Prior to that however his form in 2014 in general had been very good and with several good finishes at Augusta National he will not be out of his depth.