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The Masters - an International affair

by Donald Crawley

Contributing Golf Writer and Director of Instruction for The Boulders Club Voted as a TOP 100 Teacher in Golf Magazine, and Director of Instruction at the Boulders Golf Academy, Carefree, AZ.

Donald Crawley Hatboro, PA (Sports Network) - I can't help but get excited about golf and watching The Masters at this time of the year. The weather is great... at least it is here in sunny Scottsdale, AZ... spring is upon us and the best in the world of golf are gathering at Augusta. As flowers bud and the azaleas come alive, who is going to wake up the crowds, media and TV viewers at \that heralded event this year?

I believe it will be an international affair for the green jacket. Just look at the PGA Tour and see how many different nationalities are bumping shoulders seeking out the top positions in the lucrative playing field. Here are my top picks, those from among whom one may grace the Butler cabin at the close of the event and have a new, fitted (how do they do that so fast?) sports jacket in resplendent grass-green slipped on their broad, able and very willing shoulders.

I am going to give you seven good reasons to prove my point about the international flavor of the gathering - two Aussies, two Brits, two Americans, one Latino. The only way to win at Augusta is have a great week putting. So many remember the Greg Norman collapse in 1996 when he blew a six stroke lead playing in the final group with Nick Faldo. What a lot of people don't recall is that Nick shot 67, the low round of the day, against Greg's 78. What has this to do with putting? Faldo went the entire 72 holes without a three putt. That is what is needed to win this year. Who's my pick to do that? Our current #1 putter on the PGA Tour, my neighbor and "brother," Aaron Baddeley. Badds also has laser like irons and adequate length to win his first major.

"Nah!" you say, especially when Tiger Woods is back in the mix, Phil Mickelson is at the top of his game and there are other challengers on the prowl...accepted, but let's stay with the Aussies for awhile and look at #4 in the world rankings Geoff Ogilvy. He won a World Match Play event earlier this year and out-jostled Jim Furyk, Colin Montgomerie, Mickelson and Tiger to win the 2006 US Open. He is cool coming down the stretch and has the nerve to handle the butterflies on Masters Sunday.

Padraig Harrington
Padraig Harrington will enter the 2009 Masters as the defending champion.
Talking about length, Augusta now favors the longer hitter, he who can get home on the par five's in two. That means seeking out a long hitter and a good putter. We now move from Australia to Ireland. Yes Padraig Harrington, who has won the last two majors, has got to have a chance. He's long off the tee and, as reported in a past article here at The Sports Network, Paddy is a great clutch putter when it comes to making those 6-footers, the ones no one can afford to miss.

Staying across the pond, this is a sentimental pick but the Englishman, Luke Donald, is recovering nicely from a wrist injury. This year he is #2 in scoring average, 69.41. If he could pull off four rounds of 69 he is likely to be the 2009 Masters champ. I don't think he is quite long enough on paper, but a past winner, Zach Johnson, never went for any of the par five's in two and made his birdies with his wedge and putter. Luke could do the same. And, by the way, he has had three top-10 finishes in six starts this season. Jolly good form ol' boy!

How about a Columbian winner, Camilo Villegas.? With two tour wins under his belt he is improving all the time. A significant stat is that he leads greens hit in regulation, landing on them 73.26 % of the time. He's long and hits greens. If his unique green reading style helps him figure out the Augusta slippery slopes, he has a chance.

What about an upset and a win from the Indian continent or Asia? Not this year.

Back to home soil, who can rule out the top two players I the world? Phil and Tiger. Phil is playing great this year, with two wins in 2009. We know he has the talent, two past Master wins, a new buffed body and the desire to take the number one spot. He will be in the hunt.

Tiger? What an incredible win at the Bay Hill! His back nine scramble and skill separated him from the field. He overcame a five shot deficit and drained a curling 16-foot putt to seal the cap. His wedge play on the 16th, his 70th hole, was nothing short of brilliant. A 95-yard wedge with no spin, using the bank to roll the ball to three feet and save par. Incredible! Everyone in golf has learned to admire Tiger. He is still the favorite but has great players from many nations chasing his tail, most of whom are not intimidated by his presence.

Yes, it is going to be an international affair throughout the week.

Donald Crawley
Donald Crawley

Donald Crawley, Director of Instruction at the Boulders Golf Academy at the Boulders Resort & Golden Door? Spa in Carefree, Ariz. Crawley, a veteran of 29 years of teaching experience, is the newest contributor to The Sports Network with regular features that range from tips on improving your game to etiquette at the course. He has established 40 golf school sites in the United States since 1980,previously as vice president and director of instruction at John Jacobs' Golf Schools, consultant to the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia, and presently at the Boulders Golf Resort in Arizona.

Crawley is recognized among the "Top 100 Teachers in America" by Golf Magazine and one of the "Best Teachers in Arizona" by Golf Digest. As both a Class A U.S. PGA member and a British PGA member, Crawley has been recognized for his outstanding teaching abilities. In 2002, he won the Southwest Section PGA's Teacher of the Year Award. He also received the Horton Smith Award for education in 2000. In addition to teaching over 60,000 students, Crawley has co-authored video instruction tapes with John Jacobs and BBC/ABC golf telecaster Peter Alliss.

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