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April 8, 2010 6:34 AM

Picking Winner With as Little Payne as Possible

a els.jpgNow that Billy Payne has put the stamp of disapproval on Tiger Woods, I guess everybody's job is done now, and we can go back to fawning over the great Tiger as he begins his quest for another green jacket.

Nice to know the wise and all-knowing Chairman of the Augusta National Golf Club is a guy who believes in second chances, even if he doesn't believe in first chances for perspective members of his club -- especially if they went through the unfortunate circumstance of being born a yucky woman.

Way to go, Billy. Thanks for that annual reminder that pompousness at your otherwise exquisite golfing venue knows no bounds.  

But we got kind of hung up on that one yesterday in the Grill Room, so it's time to move on to more practical things, like picking a winner of the tournament. And not a moment too soon as things are mere hours away from getting ceremoniously started...

Over the years, we've found there's really only one way to pick these things in the Grill Room:
If somebody put a gun to my head and demanded I reveal the winner or die, who would I pick...?

I really think this cuts to the heart of it, and produces a choice with as little bias behind it as possible.

Any other year, I'd pick Tiger. He was by far the surest thing out there, even if he has been one of the biggest victims of all this Tiger-proofing that has gone on at the course the past decade. And, you're welcome for the 'victim' reference, Tiger. Bet you haven't heard that one in a while.

Thing is, now that he's allegedly off the babes, and going through some unidentified mind-altering treatment, who knows what's inside that once-calculating head of his?
Nah, can't trust all that psychological mumbo-jumbo with my life...

This year, the surest thing out there is Ernie Els.
Els has always had as much talent as Woods, but wasn't raised like a robot, so his tendency to act like a genuine good guy and please everybody always got in the way of more winning.

But age brings urgency, and Ernie is a more focused guy armed with a new, sure-fire putting stroke that is producing victories this year.  

And let's dispense with the Ernie-has-the-game-for-the-Masters crap. Darn near everybody in the field has the game for the place, or they wouldn't be here.

Ernie just has more game, and this year he shows it.

If the gun-toter said he might offer a reprieve if somebody other than Els won, who would we pick?

OK, in this order:

Lee Westwood: Now this is lot like literally taking your life in your hands, because if we have learned one thing about the Brit golfers since Nick Faldo grabbed a handful of microphones, it's that they are choking dogs. Poulter, Casey, Rose and Westwood all have the talent to win anytime, anyplace, but not the onions. Of the four, Westwood looks most likely to grow a pair.

Padraig Harrington: The toughest guy out there. Over the past few years, nobody has made more big putts than Paddy.

Anthony Kim: When he's hot, he's hot and right now he's hot. He's also fearless. Hear that, Lee?

Dustin Johnson: OK, a bit of a long-shot, but the dude has a ton of game. He's Davis Love with a putting stroke.

Now go on and enjoy this tournament unlike any other...

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