College Basketball has crowned its National Champions, the crack of the bat has sounded at baseball stadiums all over America, signaling the opening of the 2017 season, and now golf comes to the forefront as the first Major of the year has arrived. It’s Masters Week!
A tradition unlike any other, as CBS, The Masters broadcasting partner, so aptly refers to the tournament. The golf course, the history, the beauty, and yes, the traditions, The Masters is one special event.. and like the Spring Season and the Easter Holiday represent new life and rebirth, so does The Masters epitomize a new beginning to each new golf season. It is the only golf Major that is played at the same venue each year and from a handicapping standpoint, this allows one to look at a large sample size, tracking the tendencies year in and year out that tend to occur over and over again at these hallowed grounds in Augusta, Georgia. There have been some changes however to the course that Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie designed over 80-years ago and many of those changes have to do with Tiger Woods and how he overpowered the golf course when he burst onto the scene, winning four green jackets between 1997 and 2005. The course has been lengthened. The fairways have been narrowed, and a cut of intermediate rough has been established on both sides of the fairways. While length off of the tee, scrambling around the greens, and putting wizardry are still essential skill sets needed to win at Augusta National, more of an emphasis on solid Ball Striking has emerged with the recent changes. Unfortunately, Mr. Woods will not be participating in the 2017 Masters as he continues to recover from injury. Another legendary figure that will be missed in Augusta for the first time in over six decades, is Arnold Palmer who passed away back in September of 2016. There will likely be emotional moments throughout the week with Arnie gone but the 2017 Masters field should provide some incredible competition that both golf fans around the world and Mr. Palmer would certainly be proud to witness.
Some interesting Masters Facts..
- 8 of the last 10 winners were ranked in the Top 30 in the world
- 8 of the last 10 winners have been 35-years old or less
- 17 of the last 17 winners made the cut in the year prior
- The past 9 winners have averaged at least 290-yards in Driving Distance on Tour
- The number one ranked player in the world, coming into the tournament, has not won since 2002
- 12 of the past 15 winners were in the Top 20 in the field for Putting Average for the tournament
- 10 of the last 10 winners have been inside the Top 65 in Scoring Average on Tour for the season
- Since 2008, every winner has hit at least 68% of greens in regulation for the tournament
Dustin Johnson (5-1) Currently ranked number one in the world, Dustin Johnson has won the last three events in which he has played. He finished 4th at The Masters last year and 6th in 2015. His putting and scrambling have improved tremendously. Johnson is definitely the man to beat this week.
Jordan Spieth (7-1) Spieth owns an incredible Masters record in just three appearances at the event, finishing 2nd-1st-and 2nd last year in his title defense when he came apart at the famous Par 3 12th hole. Despite not looking entirely like the two time Major winner that he is in all instances this season, he does have a win this season at Pebble Beach back in February.
Rory McIlroy (8-1) The Northern Irishman, currently ranked number two in the world, needs only a Masters victory to complete the career grand slam. McIlroy took the 54-hole lead into Sunday in 2011 before shooting an 80 and finishing 15th. Like Spieth, in Rory’s last three visits, he has three straight Top-10 finishes.
Jason Day (15-1) With two Top-5 finishes and a 10th last year, Jason Day is obviously a contender at Augusta. The problem currently however is his health and personal issues. We have not seen much of him on the circuit this season with illness, injury, and the latest being his Mother having been diagnosed with lung cancer. Some positives have come about in Mom’s most recent treatments and Day says he’s ready to compete.
Phil Mickelson (20-1) Lefty has been playing some excellent golf this season with no missed cuts and recent Top-10 finishes at both The WGC-Mexico and WGC Match Play. He is seeking his 4th green jacket and first win in any event in nearly four years. At 46-years old, he would be the oldest Masters winner since Jack Nicklaus in 1986.
Justin Rose (20-1) This will be the 12th playing of The Masters for the Olympic Gold Medal and U.S. Open winner. He has four Top-10 finishes at Augusta including a 10th last year and a 2nd to Spieth in 2015. The 13th ranked player in the world has plenty of game to get it done but putting has always been his Achilles Heel and of course, putting is paramount at The Masters.
The Long Shots
Paul Casey (40-1) The Englishman will be trying to make it two in a row for England with Danny Willett winning last year. Casey finished 4th to Willett in 2016 and was 6th the year before that. Putting can be a concern for Casey as well but he is in great form, coming off of a 9th place finish at The WGC Match Play.
Brandt Snedeker (50-1) Despite a lack of real length off of the tee, Snedeker has always been able to get around Augusta National just fine with his superb putting. In nine appearances, he has three Top-10 finishes including a 10th last year. Snedeker has three Top-10 finishes on Tour in 2017.
Tyrrell Hatton (50-1) Another Englishman who has been storming up the world rankings in the last eighteen months. Now up to number 15 in the world, Hatton has recorded Top-10 finishes in four of the last five events he’s played. This will be his first Masters and a rookie has not won here since Fuzzy Zoeller did so 38-years ago.
Louis Oosthuizen (50-1) After losing in a playoff at The Masters in 2012 to Bubba Watson, Oosthuizen has been trending nicely the last three years, finishing 25th-19th-and 15th last year. He had two Top-10 finishes in February, at Phoenix, and in Perth, Australia. Most recently, he finished 17th at The WGC Match Play. He has length and accuracy off of the tee, can attack the Par 5’s, hits greens in regulation, and scrambles well. Louis won The British Open at The Old Course at St. Andrews in 2010 and lost in a playoff at St. Andrews in 2015. Many winners at St. Andrews have also won The Masters; Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Tiger Woods, and Zach Johnson. If Oosthuizen can putt the amazingly fast and difficult greens at Augusta this week, I believe the South African will add his name to that exclusive list of St. Andrews and Augusta National winners.