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Friday, April 10, 2009

A Look at the Top 10 at the Masters Midpoint

Through 36 holes, Augusta National has yielded some very good scores. Often, those at or near the top at the midpoint of the tournament are not the same names who are still there on Sunday evening. However, this leaderboard is very strong, so I would imagine that at least a few of the top ten will have staying power.

Here they are with number of PGA Tour and European Tour victories and major championships (unless otherwise noted):

Name / Victories / Majors
Chad Campbell 4 / 0
Kenny Perry 13 / 0
Angel Cabrera 5 / 1
Todd Hamilton 2 / 1
Tim Clark 3 / 0
Anthony Kim 2 / 0
Rory Sabbatini 4 / 0
Shingo Katayama 26 (Japan) / 0
Jim Furyk 13 / 1
Sergio Garcia 15 / 0

Though there are only three majors between these players, all of them save Anthony Kim (who is very young and had only played in five majors before this one), have multiple high finishes in majors. Famously, Sergio has been second in three majors.

Of the players within two shots of Sergio are major champions such as Vijay Singh (3), Geoff Ogilvy (1), Phil Mickelson (3), Tiger Woods (14), Padraig Harrington (3), and Sandy Lyle (2). Though I don't expect Lyle to slip on the green jacket, all of these top golfers are easily within striking distance of the lead.

Even though there are many multiple winners in the history of the Masters, it has become more and more difficult to predict the winner lately. Why? Many experts point to the changes made to the course, particularly the added length. I think that only has a minimal impact on the relative unpredictability of the winners. I would suggest that the worldwide parity in golf (excluding Tiger Woods' dominance) is greater than ever before, so many more players are capable of winning big tournaments.

Though I've rarely made a good golf prediction, if I had to wager money on two players tonight who currently reside in the top ten, I would bet on Tim Clark and Anthony Kim. Campbell and Perry haven't sold me yet, but I liked how they both birdied 18 today. No matter who wins, I just hope it's someone who makes on ton of birdies down the stretch, rather than backing into it while the rest of the leaders blow up around him.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Oliver Ross Fisher Wilson

I've been meaning to write about this topic for months, and since Ross Fisher is leading the Masters Tournament (after only 14 holes), I thought this would be the opportune moment.

I want to set the record straight about three British golfers that cause many people massive confusion. Unless you pay attention to the European Tour like I do, I can understand why people can't sort out these players.

They are:
1) Ross Fisher
2) Oliver Wilson
3) Oliver Fisher

Ross Fisher is the most accomplished player of the three. He's 28 years old, hailing from England. He's won twice on the European Tour and has had several high finishes in big tournaments, including a 4th at the recent WGC Match Play. He's currently ranked 33rd in the world. Somehow he was left off of the 2008 Ryder Cup team. He's a big guy who hits it a ton.

Oliver Wilson is the next best of the three. Also 28 and from England, Wilson has a storied amateur career and recently played very well in the Ryder Cup, going 1-1-0 in a losing effort. Though he has not broken through with his maiden victory, he's come heartbreakingly close on many occasions. I haven't counted, but I think he's been second in close to ten tournaments. It's a matter of time before the 39th ranked player in the world wins something.

Oliver Fisher is the youngest by far (he's only 20), and he may have the brightest future. He played on the 2005 Walker Cup at the age of 16 and has had some solid finishes in Europe, including a 2nd in Spain last year. He's ranked 266th in the world, but being that he's from England and has a name that's a combination of Ross Fisher and Oliver Wilson, he's going to need to play some special golf for casual fans to figure out who he is.

All three of these golfers are currently playing in the shadows of Paul Casey, Ian Poulter, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, and Justin Rose. However, if you can keep them straight, following their careers can prove to be worthwhile.