2016 Masters expert picks and analysis
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2016 Masters expert picks and analysis

The 2016 Masters is almost here, and it's pretty hard to identify a winner in the 89-player field. From defending champion Jordan Spieth, to world No. 1 Jason Day, to four-time major winner Rory McIlroy, to Players champion Rickie Fowler, to five-time major winner Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of names who seem likely to don a green jacket on Sunday at Augusta National.

We asked our Golf News Net writers and contributors to offer their 2016 Masters expert picks, and here's who they think will win:

Will Haskett -- Bubba Watson -- As I stated earlier this week here on GNN, as long as Bubba Watson is standing upright and hitting the ball in a forward direction, he will be my Masters pick every year. On a course that surrendered more eagles in 2015 than any previous Masters, Bubba's length and ability, as a lefty, to work the ball right-to-left is a huge advantage. Before we were infatuated with Jason Day and Adam Scott this spring, it was Bubba's stage. He reclaims it this week with his third green jacket. How good has he been at Augusta? The best of any golfer in the world over the last half decade.

John Lahtinen -- Rickie Fowler -- If there was even still a question, now is the time for Rickie to “officially” take his place among the elite by capturing his first major title. Why? He’s continued to play some really solid golf this season after a 2015 campaign where he won twice (The Players and the Deutsche Bank). In ’16, Rickie’s finished in the top 10 in five of his nine events, including a close second at the Waste Management (losing in a playoff to Hideki Matsuyama) and a T10 last week in Houston.

Another reason why Rickie can win? The guy has ice water – no, liquid nitrogen – in his veins. Superhero stuff. Just ask the folks at the Els for Autism Foundation. Being someone who isn’t very easily rattled is never a bad quality when making your way around Augusta National.

This could be Rickie’s week.

Jonathan Alden -- Patrick Reed -- I'm going to go with Patrick Reed this week for a couple of reasons. First of all, he has been playing great golf this year and has finally climbed into the world's top ten thanks to his tour-leading seven top ten finishes. More importantly though, I think Reed's game suits Augusta National in much the same way former champion Zach Johnson's game does. They each turn the ball almost exclusively right-to-left off of the tee, and both are streaky with their wedges and flat-stick. I look for the winning score to be double-digits under par this year and Reed can reel off a run of birdies like few others on tour can. I think he parlays his bogey-free 67 in the final round in Houston last week into more of the same in Augusta and walks away with the green jacket.

Adam Fonseca -- Patrick Reed -- Could there possibly be a better story/bigger middle finger to Augusta if Patrick Reed won the Masters? Vilified for things that may or may not have occurred at Augusta University, Reed has a chip on his shoulder the size of Georgia. He's also got the game and creativity to be a major champion, as well as the pleated pants that fully complement a green jacket.

Brad Powers -- Sergio Garcia -- I was raised to think the golfer who could hold it together best on the greens at Augusta would win. If you look at the list of recent champions as well as those who came up a few strokes short it would be hard to identify any as a "great" putter. They're all shot-makers, though. Sergio is 4th in strokes gained tee to green this season. If he can make 5-footers this week, maybe, just maybe, it's time.

Jay Flemma -- Jason Day -- He comes in the hottest player right now, peaking at the right time. He's long even by long bomber standards, hitting drives up to 400 yards at times. He's also zoning in on his short game prowess. Only Rory, equally long and strong can keep pace with Day right now.

Jeremy Schilling -- Rickie Fowler -- I'm torn between Rickie Fowler and Danny Willett.

Rickie has done everything but win a major and has looked more and more comfortable in big spots the more chances he's gotten. (I still can't believe what he did down the stretch at Sawgrass.) Willett meanwhile has flown way more under the radar than I ever thought he would. As a non-member of the PGA Tour, his only starts over here are basically in big spots. And look at what he's done with them, going back to last season: T-12 at Doral, T-29 at Bay Hill, third at the Match Play, T-6 at the Open Championship, T-3 in Shanghai, T-3 at Doral, T-22 at Tampa and T-28 two weeks ago in Austin.

He could be what Henrik Stenson was before Stenson became a known quantity and FedEx Cup champ: an international player not known by the casual golf fan who sneaks up, surprises, and maybe pulls a Charl Schwartzel and walks away with a green jacket come Sunday.

Tony Dear -- Danny Willett -- It's very easy, not to say entirely reasonable, to go for Jason Day right now. Even when injured, he looks virtually unbeatable. But I've got this feeling Danny Willett is going to surprise us all. It's hard to evaluate the benefit of becoming a first-time parent. Is he so tired it affects his performance negatively, or does it inspire him and free him up to play his best?

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