2011 US Masters Preview & Leaderboard

PHIL MICKELSON can not only claim his fourth green jacket at the 2011 US Masters come Sunday but the win would also see him realise his long held dream of being World No.1.

Mickelson will tee off at Augusta National early Friday Australian time for the first time a clear favourite over his arch nemesis Tiger Woods.

But the world rankings list is so crowded at the top these days that six of the top seven players could claim the top spot with a Masters win, and that includes current No. 7 Woods.

Obviously, any of those seven, and a host of others, have the game to win on Bobby Jones’ hallowed course.

The seven includes current No. 1 Martin Kaymer, followed by Lee Westwood, Mickelson, Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell, Paul Casey and Woods. Casey is the only player among the top seven who could not reach No. 1 even by winning at Augusta because he has played more tournaments than Woods.

Whilst an in form Mickelson is the top choice of the “experts” and the bookies, there are plenty of others who could hoist the trophy without too much surprise.

The tournament is wide open and as CBC Sports analyst Nick Faldo said this week: “I’ve got 40 names that I believe are possible winners.”

Six Australians in the field

In the mix are six Australians, and wouldn’t the nation’s golf fans love to finally have a home-grown US Masters winner.

Of the Aussies, Aaron Baddeley has perhaps shown the best form of late, with his much publicised return to his original swing already helping him to one tour win this year and he went close at the Shell Houston Open again last week.

Robert Allenby wasn’t that far behind him in Houston, only one stroke at the end in fact, but you’d certainly rather have Baddeley putting for you if the chips were down, especially on the super slick Augusta greens.

Adam Scott chose not to play in Houston and instead has been toiling away at Augusta. Maybe that has been a smart move, especially since he has had to introduce his new broomstick putter to the course.

Speaking this week, Scott was confident about his game

“This is my 10th year coming here and I should know something and not fear the golf course, like I have at times,” he said. “I feel a lot more comfortable doing things how I want and not just following the mould like everyone else. I’m itching to get out there and compete. I haven’t played for three weeks.”

Whilst Allenby has been saying he was inspired by a chat with Jack Nicklaus to plan to play the course a little more conservatively, US Open winner Geoff Ogilvy is thinking of going the other way, more in the Phil Mickelson vein.

Ogilvy has never been in contention at Augusta on the final day.

”Maybe I play a bit too cautious. The course lends itself to playing cautiously but the guys who win, they’re aggressive.” he said this week.

Jason Day is the only Australian debutante this year and the course has never been good to newcomers. But maybe Day, a young player with loads of talent, can change all that.

The final Australian in the field is the one with the most experience at Augusta.  Stuart Appleby has made 13 attempts at the title, with his best effort in 2007 when he led into the final round and ended up 7th.

Appleby is the sort of player who comes in under the radar then bobs up when least expected. People say: “Oh yeah, that’s the guy that shot 59 and has all those wins.”

If I was a betting person though, and I’m not much at the present, I’d have something on Hunter Mahan. Just a hunch really but he has had some top ten finishes at Augusta and he just looks so unflappable at times.

The good thing about the internet is that around morning tea time on Monday I could come back to this story and scrub the last bit out, especially if Mahan misses the cut for the first time in six appearances. But I won’t.

2011 US Masters 1st Round tee times

2011 US Masters Live Leaderboard

2011 US Masters Australian television schedule

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