2018 Masters predictions: Detailed expert picks for Augusta National, Tiger Woods
Will 40-somethings Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson actually win this year at Augusta National?
The question remains the same as the 2018 Masters inches closer to commencing: Who will emerge victorious and wear the green jacket come Sunday evening? Though the field may the smallest it's been in over 20 years with only 87 golfers playing this week, the top half is filled with generational talents looking to add one more major -- or their first -- to their collection.
Will Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson make yet another unbelievable run to the title, or will one of the young 20-something golfers tearing up the PGA Tour make a name for himself on golf's biggest stage?
The 87-golfer field for the Masters is loaded with stars, including many who have already played tremendous golf in 2018 both on the PGA Tour and worldwide. Narrowing this down to a champion and top finishers is a tough task, but we here at CBS Sports are certainly up to it.
Visit SportsLine now to see who you can bank on to win the 2018 Masters and which long shots will make a run. Plus, we predict Tiger Woods' exact finish. All from the model that nailed three 2017 majors heading into the weekend.
2018 Masters predictions
Kyle Porter, golf writer
Winner -- Rickie Fowler (18-1): He's finding form in Houston, and I trust that his putting stats will rebound at some point. He played in the penultimate pairing in 2017 despite a lousy week striking the ball. This year, his iron play is much sharper (he's currently top 15 in strokes gained on approach shots), and he has a sneaky great understanding of this course (72.3 average score here all-time, which is better than two-time champ Bubba Watson).
Sleeper – Patrick Cantlay (80-1): Picking with my heart here. This will be Cantlay's first start as a pro on this course (he was low amateur in the 2012 Masters) and just his second start at a major championship as a pro overall. He's probably one of the 15 best ball-strikers on the PGA Tour, though. Contention here would be reminiscent of Jordan Spieth in 2014 in terms of career trajectory. That was Spieth's 43rd PGA Tour event, and this will be Cantlay's 50th (Cantlay is obviously a little older than Spieth was at that time). The problem with underdogs this week is that there are so many favorites playing well, but if you're looking for long odds on immense talent, Cantlay is the place to find it.
Top 10 lock -- Justin Rose: The numbers are obvious, and they speak for themselves. He's averaging a top-10 finish in his last five Masters, has nine top 25s in his last 10 starts here (including five top 10s). It's even bigger than that, too. Once Rose plays his first two rounds this year, likely only Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson will have a better career scoring average (of golfers who have played at least 50 rounds at Augusta).
Top 5 in order: Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Paul Casey
Surprise prediction: Tiger Woods holds a lead on Thursday or Friday but ultimately fades over the weekend.
Lowest round: 66 (-6)
Winning score: 279 (-7)
Winner's Sunday score: 69 (-3)
Chip Patterson, writer
Winner -- Phil Mickelson (16-1): The confidence is oozing. Phil is very aware that another Masters win puts him in an elite four-timers club with Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods. When Mickelson heated up this spring, he promised not only a win but multiple wins were on the horizon. I think the focus on Woods' return overshadows an equally intriguing angle with Phil, at age 47, is playing some of the best golf we've seen this season on the PGA Tour. He's currently ranked No. 2 on the strokes gained total, No. 2 in strokes gained putting and No. 4 in strokes gained around the green.
Sleeper – Matt Kuchar (50-1): He's always a patron-favorite, and his head-to-head battle with Spieth at The Open last year shows he's still got the ability to contend to win at majors. Kuchar is a reliable pick to make the cut and with four top 10 finishes in the last six years, I think you've got not only some value but a great emotional pick that will be easy to pull for if he's in the mix on Sunday.
Top 10 lock -- Jordan Spieth: His lowest Masters finish is last year's T11. Until proven otherwise, I'm going to expect that Spieth will not only make every cut but likely flirt with top 10s for eternity at Augusta National. He's one of the only top golfers who has yet to create a buzz with his play in 2018 and this feels like his get-right week that will launch his major season. Spieth might not win, but you can guarantee he's going to near the top of the leaderboard by the end of the weekend.
Top 5 in order: Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Jordan Spieth, Paul Casey
Surprise prediction: Fred Couples shoots a 65 on Thursday or Friday. Couples has finished in the top 20 six of the last seven times he's played in the Masters. There is going to be an incredible buzz at the start of this tournament with so many top players bringing intrigue, it only seems right that we'd look up from the craziness of it all to see the 1992 champion on a heater, posting (or tying) the low single round score of the week.
Lowest round: 65 (-7)
Winning score: 277 (-11)
Winner's Sunday score: 67 (-5)
Adam Silverstein, assistant managing editor
Winner -- Justin Thomas (10-1): Let's be clear, I wanted to continue my trend of picking Rory McIlroy or going for the Hail Mary with a . But here's the thing: Thomas is the hottest golfer on tour right now. He has finished in the top 10 in each of his last four events and has not finished outside the top 25 this season. After winning the Honda Classic, he came in 2nd at the WGC Mexico Championship after shooting a 126 (!) over the weekend. I've also spent the better part of the last few months trying to convince Kyle that Thomas may well be better than Jordan Spieth when all is said and done.
Sleeper -- Matt Kuchar (50-1): Yes, he has never won a major, but Kuchar had three (three!) top 10 finishes a year ago and has only finished outside the top 30 at the Masters once since 2010. In fact, he's placed inside of the top 10 in four of the last six years with a T4 finish in 2017. It's been a feel-good year of golf with Mickelson ending his non-winning streak and Woods looking solid. The time is right for Kuchar to get it done.
Top 10 lock -- Rory McIlroy: Heartbreak again for The Ulsterman, who nets his fifth consecutive top 10 finish without the green jacket he has needed to complete his career Grand Slam. My options here were firmly between McIlroy and Spieth, who has four top-11 finishes in as many career Masters with one victory and two second-places, but Spieth's early "struggles" this season give me legitimate pause on his chances of contention.
Top 5 in order: Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar
Surprise prediction: Tiger Woods is among the final five groups on Sunday. We are all thrilled with Tigers' play since returning, and I think he has a legitimate shot at a top-five placement. With such a loaded field, however, I think his struggles with driver get the best of him and keep him out of the top 10 when all is said and done.
Lowest round: 65 (-7)
Winning score: 275 (-13)
Winner's Sunday score: 68 (-4)
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