Expert predictions: Our staff picks Masters winners and sleepers

April 2, 2018

The first major of the year will have more hype surrounding it than ever, as the Masters touts a field loaded with young talent and, of course, two fan favorites in Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods.

Mickelson, who had been winless since 2013, picked up his 43rd career PGA Tour victory at the WGC-Mexico Championship in early March, and Woods, who hasn’t played the Masters since 2015, seems healthy and in good form. He recently finished T2 at the Valspar Championship, his best finish since 2013.

But will a rejuvenated Mickelson or surging Woods be able to put on yet another green jacket? Or will Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Co., emerge from the pack? Our experts make their picks below.

The Masters is April 5-8 at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga.

The Masters is here! Pick your winner, runner-up, sleeper to crack the top five and winning score.

Josh Sens: Winner: Justin Rose. He’s in great form and has a great track record at a course where past performance means so much. We’ll end up looking at last year’s painfully close call as the necessary prelude to his getting it done. Winning score? 11 under. Runner up: Jason Day. Yeah, I know, back issues but Augusta for him is like the briar patch for Br’er Rabbit. He’s at home there. Top five: Patrick Reed. Isn’t it time for that match-play swagger and success to spill over into a big event? Plus, he’s been very much in the mix of late.

Dylan Dethier: Winner: We’re not going to see the old Tiger Woods, but we’ll see the new one will his way around the course to victory. Runner-up: Justin Rose, who remains relentless (if unexciting) and has been on a heater since last fall. Sleeper: Ryan Moore, who hits a nice draw and could mess up everyone’s storylines come Sunday.

Jeff Ritter: I’ve also been on Rose for a while, but now that we’re here, I have this funny feeling about McIlroy. He’s had terrible mojo at Augusta ever since his crackup on Sunday in 2011, but at some point he’s bound to win on a course that plays straight into his strengths … isn’t he? Winning at Bay Hill a few weeks ago surely bolstered his confidence, and maybe with much of the attention this year on Tiger and Phil, his career slam quest flies a little under the radar and he gets it done, clipping Rose and Phil by two and winning at 12 under. Sleeper? Paul Casey has quietly gone 6-4-6 in his last three Masters and won the Valspar a few weeks ago. Watch out.

Sean Zak: Phil Mickelson is somehow going to win the Masters at 47-going-on-48, and unlike Jack doing so at 46, it won’t actually be that surprising. Hopefully we’re all able to enjoy it along the way when he shoots 12 under. Justin Rose will finish runner-up for the second straight year as Phil gets payback for Merion. Cracking the top five is Rafa Cabrera-Bello, one of the greatest ball-strikers on the planet who gets hot with the putter this week.

Jessica Marksbury: Tiger wins, completing the most epic comeback the game of golf has ever known. His final tally of 10 under par edges Bubba Watson by two shots, and manages to hold off a charging Bryson DeChambeau, who was the early afternoon clubhouse leader at eight under par after shooting a final round of 66.

Josh Berhow: Tigermania does little to rattle Justin Rose, who finishes eight under and edges Justin Thomas by a shot. My sleeper to crack the top five was Kevin Chappell, but after WD’ing from the Match Play I’m hedging my bet. Give me Patrick Cantlay, who played there way back in 2012 and will turn some heads this time around.

Michael Bamberger: Winner: Rory. Runner-up: A. Noren. Sleeper top-10: Herr Langer.