PGA Preview: The Masters

The Masters is this week and I couldn’t be more excited. The season’s first major will get extra special attention and I’m looking forward to golf getting some much needed attention from the recreational fan. The sport is as strong as it’s been in a long time and this tournament will bring out the best of the best.

The Course: Augusta National Golf Club

ANGC10a

The course is beautiful and is perhaps more impressive in person. The slopes and undulations of the course are in stark contrast with what you’ll see on TV. The course is a par-72 and is over 7,400 yards. The course undergone changes since  (mostly due to Tiger Woods) and played at a much shorter distance (typically around 6,900 yards) during the tournament’s history. The course has so many unique and spectacular landmarks that I can’t possibly name them all in a concise way. Perhaps more to the point, there were five holes averaged under-par in 2015. The par-5’s and the par-4 3rd hole provided plenty of scoring opportunities. The toughest hole (based on the 2015 averages) is the par-4 11th hole. Greg Norman and Nick Price share the course record at 63 (9-under par).

Storylines:

  • The most impressive shot I’ve ever seen at the Masters on television was Tiger Woods‘ chip on the 16th hole in 2005. You’ve probably seen it.
tiger-woods-chip-2005-masters-480.gif
Tiger Woods wins the 2005 Masters
  • Rory McIlroy needs to win this week to complete the career grand slam. Jason Day needs to win this week to earn his 7th win in his last 14 starts and two consecutive majors. Jordan Spieth is seeking to defend his title and Under Armour is releasing a new line of golf shoes next week. A win for Spieth would mean big sales numbers for the company.
  • Adam Scott is going to have a new caddie on the bag this week. He’s replacing his current caddie with Steve Williams. Williams was on the bag for Tiger Woods for much of his dominant run and was on the bag for Scott win he won the Masters in 2013.
  • This is the casual fan’s favorite major and I’m just happy that people will actually be watching golf this weekend.

pga2015insputtingjordanspiethstr-3710216-3710221-640x360

  • I don’t know if Jordan Spieth is going to be a real contender this week unless he gets really hot on the greens or makes a big improvement in how he’s hitting the ball. He is not hitting the ball as well as he did last year, with the exception of his driver. Spieth had a historic season by making lots of putts from the 20 to 25 ft. range. He was so much better than everyone else on the PGA Tour from this range that I worry it was a fool’s gold approach to the game. Is it realistic to expect that to continue for years to come? Can a player be a dominant OWGR #1 with so much riding on putting from that range? I don’t think we can be sure of anything just yet.

Levi’s Picks 

I didn’t make any picks for the WGC-Match Play and I opted to wait out this weekend’s Shell Houston Open. I’m back this week and I’m feeling great after a great start to making picks this year. I’ve picked tournaments and my picks have earned $4,295,746! Here’s who I’m taking this week:  Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott, Dustin Johnson, Paul Casey, Matt Kuchar and Ryan Moore.

I think the Masters is going to tilt toward the favorites and I’m going heavy on those guys this week. I opted to go with Rory over Jordan Spieth and Jason Day for a few reasons. First, I think Spieth isn’t playing especially well and the likelihood he successfully defends his title is low. In the last 20 years only Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods have won the Masters in consecutive years. Day has not historically played that well at Augusta and he’s a huge favorite. I think the pressure and his back issues are scaring me away. I like Rory’s game and he’s coming in this week somewhat out of the spotlight. I think he’ll do well on a course that should set up really well for him. He needs to putt well, but not necessarily great.

Adam Scott has been a solid at Augusta in the last six years and won in 2013. He’s played exceedingly well this season and there are plenty of people taking him to win this week. He’s putted well without the use of the long putter and he’s already got two wins this season. Dustin Johnson played well here last season and he’s got the length that the Masters champion is going to need on a long course like this. He’s the best in terms of birdie average and I think he’s got to believe he’ll at least card four birdies each round. I do worry about his mental game on Sunday.

Paul Casey is a steady player and I’m going to play it safe and take him. I think he’s a really reliable choice to score well and earn a solid check. I don’t think he’s got the game to win the event. Kuchar is an excellent putter with a great record at the Masters. He’s been in a position to win a few times and I think he’ll probably at least threaten the top of the leaderboard at one point this week. Moore has had a hot hand and I’m willing to forgive an inconsistent slew of performances at the Masters. He finished T-12th in 2015, but has missed the cut several times as well. I think he’s playing well right now and that momentum will carry over.

The Winner: Rory McIlroy

278843_m16

So I’m convinced Rory is going to win this week and I am not going to talk myself out of this pick now. I think he’s coming in to the tournament playing very well and he actually made 5 birdies and 0 bogeys against Jason Day when he lost in the WGC-Match Play. McIlroy is yet to win this year and he’s not coming in to this tournament with as much pressure as he did last season. The course sets up beautifully for his game. He hits the ball with a high-trajectory and hits a lot of draws off the tee. The pressure isn’t really there for him this week and I like that.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s