Mark my words. This is going to be a Masters for the ages. Step back and think about it for a moment and its easy to see where I'm coming from. Bubba Watson is playing exceptional golf and looks poised to become just the fourth player to win back-to-back at The Masters and the ninth to win three. Rory McIlroy is threatening to become just the sixth player to complete the career grand slam and set the stage for a Rory-Slam. Jordan Spieth, at just barely over 21 years old, is the hottest player on the planet right now and, given his runner-up at Augusta last year, could steal the show. Overshadowing all of them is the return of Tiger Woods in search of his 15th major championship and fifth green jacket. All of that without mentioning the likes of J.B. Holmes, Jimmy Walker, Henrik Stenson and more.
While the WGC events typically ensure that the Top 50 in the world are present, none of them carry the gravitas of the Masters. My Power Rankings hit on just 15 players in the nearly 100 man field and covered only as low at number 35 in the world, Brandt Snedeker. There are definitely some dark horses in this field, and with roughly one-fourth of the field consisting of past-champions and amateurs who aren't likely to contend, the remaining field is still likely to see this tournament through to the end.
I've pegged five stats for player selection this week: Par 5 Scoring, Putting Average, Scrambling, Bogey Avoidance, and Greens in Regulation. Par 5 scoring is absolutely essential at the Masters. Players have won without scoring under par on the 3s and 4s, but none in recent memory have won without taking advantage of the Par 5s. Putting Average covers the ground between Strokes-Gained: Putting and 3-Putt Avoidance, two critical stats for success. Scrambling is valuable because the tight lies around the greens at Augusta demand a skilled wedge player and someone coming in with poor short game isn't going to suddenly find it here. Bogey Avoidance is obvious - Augusta will punish more than it rewards and par is a good score on most holes. The last makes scrambling moot, but being skilled at hitting greens and scrambling will save a ton of headache at the Masters.
My Power Rankings draw on statistics only, while Risk and Reward draws more on gut feel and intuition about players who missed my Top 15. In this column, you'll find "Lay-Up", "Going For It", and "Hazard". Look for more subjective analysis here, as opposed to the Power Rankings, where I rely strictly on data. Lay-Up may contain players who, barring a Great Flood, will bank you some points. Going For It is where I'll have players that may have missed the Power Rankings or who I feel present an excellent opportunity to pick up a win, but carry some considerable risk. Lastly, Hazards, where I often find myself on any given Sunday, should be avoided.
Hideki Matsuyama - TA: 41.38, CHG: (+11.4) - Let me start with his statistical credentials: 23rd in Par 5 scoring, 23rd in putting average, 11th in GIR, 19th in scrambling, and 6th in bogey avoidance. He's practically built for this course. He's added on a win and tons of experience since he low-amateur 27th place finish here in 2011. With all the noise about grand slams and power-fading lefties, Matsuyama is quietly poised to steal one and become the first Japanese player to win a major.
Chris Kirk - TA: 64, CHG: (+4.8) - It isn't often that a player with an Aggregate of 64 makes the Lay-Up section, but Kirk deserves the rare accommodation. Struggled through much of January and February before getting the train back on track at the Valero Texas Open where he finished 8th. He plays a draw when gives him some help here at Augusta. Sits 19th in Par 5 scoring and finished 20th here last year.
Paul Casey - TA: 48.75, CHG: (+18.2) - If his ninth place finish at the Shell Houston Open wasn't enough for you to believe, check back to his second and third place finishes at the Northern Trust Open and Honda Classic. His game is is good shape right now and he's a good match for this week, sitting at 5th in Par 5 scoring, 23rd in putting average, and 24th in greens in regulation.
Tiger Woods - TA: 54.25, CHG: (-15) - If you've written him off completely, I don't blame you but it'd be equally as foolish as starting him in every lineup. The fact is, no player in the last 20 years has been as good at Augusta as Tiger. He's finished outside the Top 25 just three times in his many attempts here and has missed the cut just once. When you hear him talking at press conferences about how to play this course, there are few out there, if any, that know Augusta as well as he does.
Webb Simpson - TA: 51.75, CHG: (+2.4) - Here's the thing about Webb Simpson and Augusta - they don't seem to like each other much. He's 1-for-3 and has managed a paltry 44th place in that lone made cut. On paper, he's a solid fit: 2nd in Par 5 scoring, 8th in bogey avoidance, 10th in scrambling, 13th in GIR, and 35th in putting average. Why he hasn't had any success here is beyond me since he's already won a major.
Louis Oosthuizen - TA: 43, CHG: (-18.6) - I'm not sure how many more creative way I have to say that this guy has a back more brittle than America's crumbling infrastructure but I keep finding one more every time. Oosthuizen looks to be on the mend, and if he is, he'll be looking for revenge for his playoff loss to Bubba's ridiculous wedge shot in 2012. Plays the Par 5s well enough and hits tons of greens but struggles some with his short game. If he's on point around the greens this week, watch out.
Trevor Immelman - TA: 87.5, CHG: (0) - Mr. Immelman's 2008 victory still defies Masters reasoning. Not only did the South African go wire-to-wire, a rare enough feat, he did it while scoring a combined 10-under par on the Par 4s, some seven strokes better than his Par 5 scoring, a feat that no one has been within even a stroke of since 1997. He's still a fairly active player, but he's not worth the risk.
John Senden - TA: 71.75, CHG: (-10.2) - I'm not sure even John Senden knows what happened to last year's John Senden. Wherever he is, he's not on Tour right now. His eighth place finish last year looks tempting, but his whole season has been fraught with missed cuts and poor finishes. Use your picks for someone with more upside.
PGATour.com - 153rd of 816 - PGATour.com Experts League - 6624 points
- Jimmy Walker
- Jordan Spieth
- Jason Day
- Bubba Watson
Yahoo! - 4th of 50 - Reddit/r/Golf League - 87th Percentile - 8,586th overall
- Bubba Watson (S)
- Rory McIlroy
- Jimmy Walker (S)
- Jordan Spieth (S)
- Jason Day
- Paul Casey
- Kevin Na (S)
- Louis Oosthuizen
Golf Channel - 16th of 100 - Reddit/r/Golf League - 5854th overall
- Bubba Watson
- Jimmy Walker
- Paul Casey
- Tiger Woods
Thanks for reading!