All-time Masters fantasy draft

Updated: December 21, 2007, 9:45 AM ET
ESPN.com

Jack Nicklaus owns six career green jackets, two more than Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods on the all-time Masters victory list. Gary Player, Nick Faldo, Jimmy Demaret and Sam Snead are next with three apiece, followed by nine others with two wins at Augusta National.

Augusta on our minds

Can't wait until the Masters? Neither can we. In the meantime, here are some links to help tide you over until April:

Our all-time Masters fantasy draft
Weekley among 14 newcomers
ESPN to televise Par-3 Contest
Masters taking first two rounds to ESPN
Masters.org: Official Web site
GolfDigest.com: Countdown to the 2008 Masters

Those are the facts, which are important. After all, as Mark Twain once wrote, "Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Of course, he also referred to golf as "a good walk spoiled," so we're not sure how much we should believe from ol' Sam Clemens.)

We asked our experts, Bob Harig and Jason Sobel, to distort the facts -- sorry, analyze the facts -- and offer their selections for the best Masters competitors of all time.

The tee landed pointing at Harig, so he's first to swing away.

All-time Masters Fantasy Draft
Nicklaus
Nicklaus
HARIG'S PICK: JACK NICKLAUS
No discussion of the greatest players in Masters history can begin without Nicklaus. The Golden Bear won six green jackets, most of any player. There might not be a more popular victory anywhere than his 1986 triumph at age 46, when a back-nine 30 energized Augusta National. He won his first in 1963 -- interrupting Arnold Palmer's run -- was the first to win back-to-back titles (1965 and 1966), and broke the hearts of Johnny Miller and Tom Weiskopf with a long birdie putt on the 16th in 1975. Until Tiger Woods at least ties him atop the list, Jack remains on top.
Golf Digest: Dan Jenkins chronicles Nicklaus' 1986 victory
Woods
Woods
SOBEL'S PICK: TIGER WOODS
If I can't take Jack, I guess I'll make do with the guy who will break all of the Golden Bear's records -- and soon. As you may have heard, Woods first won at Augusta National in 1997 as a 21-year-old; since then, he's added three more green jackets, closing Nicklaus' all-time lead to only two. The really scary thing? Tiger may just be hitting his prime. Hey, if Jack can win the Masters at age 46, so can Woods, who remains in peak physical condition. Of course, that's 15 years from now. By then, his title total could extend into double digits.
Golf Digest: Oral history of Woods' 1997 win
Palmer
Palmer
HARIG'S PICK: ARNOLD PALMER
Arnie won his last Masters 11 years before Tiger was born, but there is no denying his impact on the event. It just so happens that television coverage of golf -- and the Masters -- emerged just as Palmer was coming into his own. "Arnie's Army" first formed at Augusta, where Palmer contended nearly every year for a decade starting in 1958, eventually winning four times. His agonizing loss in 1961 to Gary Player only added to his legend. And he played in the tournament 50 straight years.
Golf Digest: Behind the scenes of Palmer's 50th Masters
Player
Player
SOBEL'S PICK: GARY PLAYER
This selection is based on talent and longevity. Player's three Masters victories spanned 18 years and he was the first competitor to boast top-10 finishes in each of four separate decades. (Nicklaus joined him in 1990.) From 1959-74, the legendary Black Knight reached the top 10 in all but two of his 15 starts, but Player's legacy at Augusta continues to be his 1978 title, in which he overcame a 7-stroke 54-hole deficit to defeat Tom Watson, Hubert Green and Rod Funseth by 1, based on the strength of a final-round 64.
Golf Digest: My Shot with Player
Watson
Watson
HARIG'S PICK: TOM WATSON
Player was part of the big three, but nobody tormented Nicklaus more than Watson. You don't need to look far to see how many of the majors Watson captured came at Nicklaus' expense, including both of his Masters triumphs. His first came in 1977, holding off Jack by 2 shots with a final-round 67. A year later, Watson finished second by a shot to Player, then lost in a playoff to Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979. In 1981, he again foiled Nicklaus, winning by 2 shots over the Golden Bear and Johnny Miller. From 1977-91, Watson was out of the top 10 just twice at Augusta.
Golf Digest: My Shot with Watson
Snead
Snead
SOBEL'S PICK: SAM SNEAD
During a Masters career that spanned six decades, Slammin' Sammy recorded 26 top-25s, 15 top-10s, three third places, two runners-up and, yes, three victories (1949, '52, '54). The final one -- the last of his seven major titles -- was the most memorable, as he defeated Ben Hogan by 1 stroke (70-71) in an 18-hole playoff. Until his death in 2002, Snead was convinced Bobby Jones had lobbied the USGA to have his croquet-style putting stroke outlawed. "I would have won Augusta again," he told the Augusta Chronicle, "if they let me putt that way."
Golf Digest: My Shot with Snead
Faldo
Faldo
HARIG'S PICK: NICK FALDO
I have to pick Faldo among the Masters greats simply because he is on the short list of players who won the tournament three times. That said, Faldo basically had all three of his green jackets gift-wrapped and handed to him. Scott Hoch missed a 2½-foot putt during a playoff in 1989; Raymond Floyd hit an approach shot into the water during a playoff in 1990; and, of course, Greg Norman blew a 6-shot lead to Faldo in 1996. You could argue that he should not have won any of them. Interestingly, those three wins at Augusta were his only top-10s.
Golf Digest: My Shot with Faldo
Demaret
Demaret
SOBEL'S PICK: JIMMY DEMARET
When it comes to majors, wins are the thing, and although it pains me to take a pass on two-time champion Hogan, I've got to take Demaret. The Texan owned only three major titles, but each came at Augusta National. He won in 1940, '47 and '50 -- and could have added even more if not for the three-year stretch (1943-45) during which the Masters wasn't contended due to WWII. History remembers Hogan, Sarazen, Nelson, Jones and Hagen as the dominant players of the first half of the 20th century, but Demaret belongs in that conversation, too.
Golf Digest: The life and times of Demaret
Hogan
Hogan
HARIG'S PICK: BEN HOGAN
One of the game's all-time greats had sort of a love-hate relationship with the Masters. He won it twice, in 1951 and 1953. But he also is tied for the most runner-up finishes in Masters history with four, twice losing in playoffs. In fact, it took him 10 appearances before he won his first. Another loss was particularly difficult, when he 3-putted the final green in 1946 to lose by 1 to unheralded Herman Keiser. Hogan is responsible for the annual Champions dinner (he conceived it in 1952 after his '51 victory) and has a bridge named for him at the 12th.
Golf Digest: A look back at Hogan's final Masters in 1967
Mickelson
Mickelson
SOBEL'S PICK: PHIL MICKELSON
When I first showed this final pick to a fellow editor and golf nut, I was chastised for choosing Mickelson over Seve Ballesteros. Well, let's break down the numbers: Each player owns two green jackets, but Phil holds an advantage in top-10s over Seve (10-8) -- and he's not done yet. I also give Mickelson an extra edge over all other multiple champions (Langer, Crenshaw, Olazabal, Nelson and Smith) for the drama of his long-awaited first major win, punctuated by that 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole and celebratory "leap" into the air.
Golf Digest: Mickelson breaks through for first major title

Honrable mention: Seve Ballesteros, Jack Burke Jr., Fred Couples, Ben Crenshaw, Bernhard Langer, Byron Nelson, Jose Maria Olazabal, Gene Sarazen, Vijay Singh, Horton Smith