2017 Masters Preview

Lucky enough to be cruising down Magnolia Lane this year? Me either. Like every other golf fan, however, I will be watching the best weekend the game has to offer. It’s an overdone statement, but The Masters gives us the most unusual tournament in golf. It’s all about tradition and odd customs that don’t exist outside of Augusta National. It looks like the usually vibrant color may be a little dull this year, but not to worry. Holes named after plants, cheap pimento cheese sandwiches and Sunday choke-jobs abound.  Alister Mackenzie’s (great golf name) ghost is sure to haunt a few favorites.   .

Let’s take a look at the contenders, sleepers and those who just don’t have a chance. Augusta is a shot-maker’s course, meaning the contemporary style of learning how to swing really well rather than play golf really well eliminates the chances of a few solid players. That’s why Phil and Bubba have had a lot of success (besides being lefties that can bomb fades). They are extremely creative around the greens and can curve shots into places others can’t. Sergio has the same type of game, but has taken so many mental beatings that unless something has drastically changed, he’s doomed. Of course great putters like Spieth can contend, as every three-footer is a tester and eliminates the chances of trouble putters like Webb Simpson. The forecast now looks clear and sunny with no rain, so let’s see who has a shot:

Favorites –

Dustin Johnson –

If he makes it four straight with a win at Augusta as an exclamation, it’ll be one of the best streaks in golf history, especially in today’s age where winning twice a year is considered a fantastic season. He has the firepower to win anywhere, and if he putts well we could see records fall.

Jason Day –

Something unfortunately always seems to come up for Jason Day. His mother is currently fighting cancer, and he’s been away from the game for a bit as he’s dealt with a difficult family situation. It would be a great story if he won. He has a perfect game for Augusta, hitting high bombs that land like bags of flour on Augusta’s nasty complexes. I don’t always root for him, but might here.

Rory McIlroy –

A shot at the career Grand Slam is once again on the line for Rory. He certainly has the pop and high ball flight to win here, but the putter can be streaky. It will take an awesome personal performance on the greens for him to best everybody, but he can ball-strike Augusta into submission if he’s on.

Jordan Spieth –

The short game gives him an excellent shot, even if he lacks in distance off the tee. He’s a fantastic chipper and putter, and that’s a weapon at Augusta. He’ll have to overcome the mental hurdle of what happened last year, but he’s mentally sturdy enough to do it.

Hideki Matsuyama –

His striking gives him a chance. He’s carrying Japan on his shoulders now, so Sunday will test his mental fortitude if he’s in it. The putter is a question mark, but if he’s rolling it he has as good a chance as anyone.

Henrik Stenson –

He has not fared well at Augusta, but can strike it with anyone. He’ll have to putt like he did in the Open last year, or hope the greens are so difficult it becomes an equalizer. His putter issue is a good segway into our next section…

Maybe?!?!?

Sergio Garcia –

It has to happen sometime doesn’t it? He has some of the best hands of all-time and the ability to shape shots either way, but as always, the putter is a question mark. Saying in 2012 he needed to play for second or third doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence, but the game is there to pull it off.

Patrick Reed –

After a tumultuous ride at Georgia, Reed played college golf at Augusta State. Yes, that Augusta State. He knows the course, he’s brash and he hits a draw as a righty. I took him in our PGA Tour Season Preview, and will do so again. I’ll be wrong.

Justin Rose –

The putter is an issue.

Adam Scott –

See above.

Louis Oosthuizen –

The smoothest swing out there, and he certainly has a chance. He’s just got to put together four rounds. Unfortunately, his weakness is his putter. See a theme here?

Jon Rahm –

This is a wildcard. It’s his debut at Augusta, but he’s playing better than everyone not named Dustin Johnson. Monster high draws off the tee and fantastic form…who knows?

Rickie Fowler –

I will not triple bogey on Sunday….I will not triple bogey on Sunday….I will not triple bogey on Sunday….

Phil Mickelson –

Knows the course too well to miss the cut, right? Will either be in the top three or not play the weekend.

Justin Thomas –

Another wildcard who tends to obliterate easy(ier) courses. Once he takes the next step, it could be off to the races. I like his chances if he starts out well.

No Chance –

Zach Johnson –

Not enough distance here to win without bad weather. You can’t hit hybrids and long irons into greens when others are hitting 8 irons over four days.

Matt Kuchar –

Will probably make the cut, but needs some lucky breaks to flat-out win. He doesn’t have the distance to hang with the contenders.

Bubba Watson –

Distance isn’t an issue, but he’s been weird mentally as of late. He loves Augusta obviously, but he can’t get off to a bad start or he’ll surrender. Not in good form lately.

Tiger Woods –

In my only correct prediction, Tiger Woods will not win because he’s not playing.

Sleepers –

Danny Willett –

No one saw it coming last year. Why not again?

Lee Westwood –

He needs to pound fairways and greens and hope he doesn’t have to rely on the short game. Age may be starting to catch up to him.

Jimmy Walker –

Hits it high enough.

Paul Casey –

Great record at Augusta without winning. Gigantic forearms give him a shot.

Brooks Koepka –

Bomber.

Predictions –

Winner – Patrick Reed

Runner-Up – Rory McIlroy (Hopefully playing against each other in the final group)

Third – Hideki Matsuyama

Fourth – Dustin Johnson

Fifth – Someone We’ve Never Heard Of

Sixth – Sergio Garcia

Seventh – Justin Rose

Eighth- Paul Casey

Ninth – Jhonnatan Vegas

Tenth – Someone Else We’ve Never Heard Of

Fun Facts –

The Masters gave us much of what we know of professional golf tournaments today. It was the first to have 72 holes spread out over four days, the first to be covered nationwide (on radio), the first to use rope galleries, the first to use an on-course scoreboard and the first to use the over/under par system (rather than total shots). It’s by far the best viewing of any major, due to only four one-minute commercial breaks per hour. The food is really cheap for a large-scale event (a pimento cheese sandwich is $1.50).. The total membership at the course is around 300, but it’s virtually impossible to become one. Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Condoleeza Rice are members (the initiation fee is only $30,000, however, which is on the low end of big-time country clubs). No one has ever won the par 3 contest and the tournament in the same year.
Augusta is its own little universe. Have a great golf weekend, and enjoy the inevitable Matt Kuchar victory.