83rd Masters Tournament Preview

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On Thursday morning, the golf season’s first major will commence at Augusta National as the 83rd Masters Tournament will begin. In 2018, American Patrick Reed emerged victorious on Sunday afternoon to capture his first major championship. Reed was not amongst the pre-tournament favorites but still went on to claim victory and he enters the week of the 2019 edition not in great form so we will see if he can lean on the memories of last year to put forth a solid performance in defense. Players Champion, Rory McIlroy, enters the week as the pre-tournament favorite (+700) as he looks to erase the demons of previous Masters weekends and complete the career grand slam this time around at Augusta. Although arguably in the worst form he has ever been entering a Masters week, 2015 champion Jordan Spieth seems to be showing a few signs of life the last few weeks and the grounds of Augusta National always seem to bring out the best of him so do not be surprised if he finds himself again in contention on Sunday. Canadian Corey Conners is the last entrant into the field at Augusta with a victory last weekend at the Valero Texas Open, the first PGA Tour victory of his career. Rickie Fowler, the 2018 Masters runner-up, seems to be in the best form that he has ever been entering a Masters week with a victory at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and a tied for second at the Honda Classic. Matt Kuchar, a frequent contender at Augusta National, has two victories already on the season and seems on a collision course with contention over the weekend at The Masters. World number one Dustin Johnson comes into the week a bit under the radar even with a victory earlier in the season at the WGC-Mexico Championship and he has had moderate success around Augusta National, so he will presumably be a factor again this weekend. The winner of two of the last three major championships (and 3 of the last 7 that he has played in), Brooks Koepka again comes into a major week flying under the radar, a spot that he will relish and I believe makes him most dangerous. Koepka missed the 2018 Masters with a wrist injury but then went on to claim victory at the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills and the PGA Championship at Bellerive. Below I will list my top-10 power rankings for the Masters Tournament, along with a group of “dark horses” or under-the-radar players who could contend and I will conclude with my expectations for Tiger Woods at Augusta. Let’s go:

10. Francesco Molinari

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  • 2018 Open Champion at Carnoustie
  • Best finish at Augusta: T19 in 2012
  • In 2019, winner at Arnold Palmer Invitational and third at WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play
  • Big time player with elite ball striking ability and clutch putting
  • Will never be amongst the media favorites but at 7th in the World, a victory at Augusta would surprise no one
  • Consistent enough that anything outside of a Top-15 finish would be surprising

9. Tommy Fleetwood

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  • All of his highest finishes in major championships were recorded in 2018
  • T17 in 2018 at Augusta National
  • 4th in strokes-gained off the tee, 6th in strokes-gained tee-to-green and 5th in total strokes gained
  • 16th in strokes-gained around the green
  • T3 at Arnold Palmer Invitational and T5 at THE Players Championship
  • Has developed a trend of getting in prime position after 36 holes but struggling a bit over the weekend
  • A complete 72 holes could give Fleetwood his first major championship

8. Justin Thomas

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  • T17 in 2018 at The Masters
  • 3rd at Sentry Tournament of Champions, 3rd at Waste Management Phoenix Open, 2nd at Genesis Open and 9th at WGC-Mexico Championship in 2019
  • 3rd in Total strokes gained
  • 10th in strokes-gained around the green
  • Top 5 in proximity to the hole
  • Length off the tee and improved short game should make Thomas a threat to win the season’s first major

7. Justin Rose

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  • Best finish at Augusta: 2nd in 2017 and T2 in 2015
  • Winner early in the season at Torrey Pines
  • Great track record at Augusta National without recording victory
  • 2nd in the World
  • Has played a light PGA Tour schedule in 2019 in hopes of peaking at The Masters
  • Top 10 finishes at the THE Players and Dell-Match Play
  • Top 15 in total strokes gained
  • Due for a second major championship
  • Any finish outside of the top 10 would be considered a major disappointment for Rose

6. Jon Rahm

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  • 4th in 2018 at The Masters
  • 8th in the World
  • Winner of the unofficial Hero World Challenge in December
  • In 2019, Top 10s recorded at: Sentry Tournament of Champions, Desert Classic, Farmers Insurance Open, Waste Management Phoenix Open, Genesis Open and Valspar Championship
  • 2nd in strokes-gained off-the-tee
  • Seems destined to claim first major championship soon
  • Needs to keep emotions in check both positively and negatively to claim first major this week

5. Jordan Spieth

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  • This pick will be questioned given Spieth’s recent struggle in form
  • There is no place in the world where Jordan is more comfortable than Augusta National
  • Has played The Masters five times and finished: T2 in 2014, Win in 2015, T2 in 2016, T11 in 2017 and 3rd in 2018
  • Does not matter what form he is in, until proven otherwise, at Augusta National, Jordan Spieth has to be considered a favorite
  • Has dropped all the way to 32nd in the World
  • Only one finish in the Top 25 in 2019
  • 3 missed cuts on the season
  • All of these signs say Spieth should be no where near the top of the favorites list but his adoration and success of Augusta National will keep him here
  • Two rounds of 68 at Valero last week had him feel a little bit of positive energy heading to Augusta
  • Regardless of form, betting on Spieth to finish outside of the Top-10 would be a mistake

4. Rickie Fowler

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  • Might just be Rickie’s time for a breakthrough major
  • Winner earlier in the season at TPC Scottsdale
  • T2 at PGA National in March
  • Runner-up to Patrick Reed in 2018
  • T5 in 2014, with Top-15s in 2015 and 2017
  • I consider Rickie to be the best putter in the world (officially 8th on Tour)
  • In great form after playing four solid rounds at the Valero Texas Open last week
  • 9th in the World and 8th in the current FedEx Cup standings
  • Needs to avoid the “big number” that he is prone to making in order to succeed
  • I expect nothing less than a Top-10

3. Dustin Johnson

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  • World Number 1
  • Second betting favorite (+1000)
  • T6 in 2015, T4 in 2016, T10 in 2018
  • Winner at 2019 WGC-Mexico Championship
  • 15 career Top-10 finishes in major championships
  • 2nd in strokes-gained total, 14th off-the-tee, 5th tee-to-green
  • 2nd in PGA Tour scoring average
  • T5 at THE Players, T6 at the Valspar in recent weeks
  • Has the firepower to win on any course at any time and has the correct shot shape to succeed at Augusta
  • Key for Johnson will be making timely putts and to stay within striking distance after each round and look to overpower the course on the weekend
  • If the putts fall for D.J., he will be the winner

2. Brooks Koepka

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  • 2018 PGA Championship and 2017 and 2018 U.S. Open Winner
  • T11 at Augusta in 2017
  • Missed 2018 due to injury
  • Starting with 2017 U.S. Open, results in major championships have gone: 1, T6, T13, DNP, 1, T39, 1
  • T2 at PGA National last month
  • Winner early in the season at CJ Cup
  • Has struggled somewhat with the putter in 2019 but he is among the greatest clutch putters in recent memory
  • Again flying under the radar even while holding 2 of the last 3 major championship trophy
  • Important for Koepka to just be within striking distance because he remains the biggest threat to win a major when in contention on the weekend
  1. Rory McIlroy

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  • 54-hole leader in 2011 before collapse on Sunday to finish T15
  • T8 in 2014, 4th in 2015, T10 in 2016, T7 in 2017, T5 in 2018
  • Betting favorite at +700
  • Only win missing on McIlroy’s resume is a Green Jacket
  • Has not finished outside of the Top 10 in a PGA Tour event in 2019
  • Winner at THE Players Championship
  • Has not had a four day total higher than -8 in 2019
  • 1st in strokes-gained off-the-tee, tee-to-green and total strokes-gained
  • 6th in driving distance
  • 3rd in scoring average, 2nd currently in FedEx Cup Standings
  • Only thing holding McIlroy back from winning is the demons of past trips on Sunday afternoon at Augusta National
  • If he plays to his potential, he will not finish outside of the Top-5 but anything less than victory will be a tremendous disappointment for him

Top 5 “Dark Horses”

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  1. Matt Wallace
  2. Brandt Snedeker
  3. Branden Grace
  4. Eddie Pepperell
  5. Gary Woodland

“Dart-Throw” Pick

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Keith Mitchell – Winner earlier in the season at Honda Classic. Former Georgia Bulldog will be feel right at home in Augusta. Prodigious power off of the tee and insane ability to perform in high-stakes environments. Could be a potential player that is near the lead early on in the tournament. Makes for a solid bet to finish within the Top-25 in his first trip to the Masters Tournament.

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Tiger Woods projection:

Woods has played only average this season so far and although he is amongst the betting favorites at Augusta National, I do not seem him that way. The four-time Masters champion is coming off of a solid performance at the Match Play but I just have not seen enough solid golf this season from Woods this season to rank him among the games elite. Woods has been phenomenal around the greens in 2019 but his putting has let him down a bit and I think that trend will continue around Augusta National. Tee-to-green he has been quite good but I think the driver will also continue to give Woods trouble in the big moments this week. I believe he will make the cut and maybe sniff the top-10 but a finish in the middle-of-the-pack around the Top 25 seems to be more reasonable. He has proven wrong quite often recently so we will have to wait and see if he can so again this week.

Enjoy the action,


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