The Masters: Martin Kaymer names Luke Donald as favourite
America's focus will inevitably fall on the groupings involving Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, but in terms of the world rankings there is only one marquee pairing in the first two rounds of the Masters. Martin Kaymer, the world No 1, will face off with the No 2, Lee Westwood.
Kaymer replaced Westwood at the top of the order after reaching the final of the World Match Play in February. Yet interestingly, it is another Englishman who the German believes presents the biggest threat to him capturing a second successive major.
"Luke Donald's short game is unbelievable," said Kaymer. "Obviously he's not the longest, but he is very straight, so I think he has the best chances."
Westwood may seek to disagree, particularly as he believes a lesson from his father, John, on Monday night has eradicated the putting problems which caused him so much frustration at last week's Houston Open.
"It wasn't very good last week, but I spent an hour and a half on the putting green with my dad last night and sorted quite a few things out," said Westwood. "I've been struggling with my alignment a little bit, so we worked on that and getting a bit closer with my eyes over the ball a little bit more. My dad's watched me the most over the years and the path the putter is now making is better."
Westwood finished second to Phil Mickelson last year and will probably be relieved not to be partnering the left-hander after shooting a 74 to his 63 in Houston on Saturday. Mickelson has been paired with the Australian Geoff Ogilvy and, as tradition dictates, the US Amateur champion, Peter Uihlein. Mickelson confirmed yesterday he will repeating the strategy of 2006, when he won his second Green Jacket, by putting two drivers in his bag.
"Because it's going to be warm I won't need a three-iron or a hybrid," he explained. "The longest iron I'll need is a four-iron. That frees me up to have a second driver. It has an inch longer shaft and a different loft. It goes about 15 to 20 yards farther and allows me to carry the bunkers on the second and eighth."
If that sounds ominous to the rest, then the defending champion was in sharp form with his one-liners. When told that Kaymer had said how he wished he was left-handed because it's such an advantage at Augusta, Mickelson replied: "I would love for Martin to play this tournament left-handed." And when asked what it meant finally to pass Woods in the world rankings for the first time since 1997 he responded: "It would have meant a lot if he had been No 1 at the time."
Elsewhere in the draw, Rory McIlroy is part of an attractive three-ball also featuring the American young gun Rickie Fowler, while Donald will begin his challenge for a first major alongside the former champion Fred Couples and another American in Steve Stricker. Meanwhile, Paul Casey, the world No 6, will have to contend with the big-hitting of Bubba Watson. One of the more prevalent advertisements on the US networks sees Watson extolling the virtues of his driver, saying: "Don't just be long. Be Bubba long."