The Masters preview with Skeeter McGillicuddy
Finally its here…after what has seemed forever its Major time. Augusta will wallow in melancholy as usual and on steroids this year now that Arnie has gone. A bit like the PGA the field has plenty of no hopers. What is does have is lots of the top players in top form and it’ll surprise me if one of Dustbin, Jordan or Rory don’t win it.
Yes there are plenty of contenders but this year these big three are all winning or close to it.
That being said I can’t have Dustbin at the price gunning for four on the trot. He’s killing it right now but that swipe under pressure with the putter will be exposed on these greens and while I expect him to be in contention the mental fatigue of winning may just be taking its toll.
Spieth has played this course over 200 times and it shows. He sent out a defiant message after missing the cut at the Shell and were it any other player I’d say he was mentally gone. Aside from some patchy recent form and the uncharacteristic outburst he’ll have to put up with the repeated, boring, inevitable questions about his meltdown on the 12th last year. All that aside I think he’s the toughest player mentally and his form here is outrageous – 2,1,2 thanks very much – but again it’s the price.
Rory, thanks to Speith’s demise last year and his prickly comments, comes here still seeking the career grand slam but with far less focus on him now. He leads the scoring average, kills it off the tee, leading that category, and murders par fives. Simply put with the expected wet weather and the practice of limiting run by cutting the fairways into the grain the course will suit, even more, the power players. No one hits it higher and carries it like Rory. Three top tens here on the trot and a string of them this season – his exit at the match play is irrelevant and a blessing – indicate the premier player of his generation is primed to perform.
Of the rest you could make a case for many. Justin Thomas was in fine form then fell away but that profile often appears in Masters winners. Day will probably be ill and looks off anyway. Hideki looks to have the same profile as Thomas. Henrik never wins and has a very ordinary record around here. Bubba loves it here but is scratching around for from. Rose is the English Henrik. Rickie is in top form but his price reflects that and his Augusta record is ok but very inconsistent. Milky is mad as a box of crackers but he’d be favourite in the over 45 category. Tyrell Hatton is a volcano but he sure can putt leading that category. Matthew Fitzpatrick did well last year and has added 20 yards off the tee and seems unfazed by anything. Willet would seem to be running on memory were he to contend. Debutants Rahm and Pieters are monster hitters but the former struggles under pressure and the later hasn’t been great, or not recently. Another big hitting debutant in good form is Hudson Swafford.
Rory McIlroy 5 pts win @ $9 with
Brooks Koepka 1 pt e/w at $81 with
Emiliano Grillo 1pt e/w at $126 with
Brooks Koepka gets my vote despite hitting it less than wonderfully for a while now. I’ve documented his mini crisis so why get on him now? Augusta rewards power hitters and, to a degree doesn’t penalise wayward (ish) driving. No you can’t hit it sideways but the rough is non-existent and while his driving has been questionable he did find something at the matchplay and if nothing else has had time off to work on it. This will be his third visit and he’s made steady progress, while becoming a better player, with a 33 / 21 profile. Critically he’s second in the par five birdie or better category and you have to play the 16 par fives well at Augusta to stand a chance and he can putt posting some nice strokes gained putting stats. Before this slump Koepka would have gone off 25/1 or less but now he’s 80/1.
Emiliano Grillo was soaring into contention last time out until he imploded with a quadruple at the par 5 sixth at Bay Hill. He showed some guts to then play well but the putts wouldn’t drop. He’s not in the top power category so there is a risk of contradiction. Take that 3rd round score out at Bay Hill and his 5 previous rounds averaged 68.2. Straws and clutching come to mind but these scores are impressive in isolation and yet very recent. As a second season player this is all part of the journey. If he can temper his emotions and eliminate the stinkers he has the game to win anywhere and while he hardly set the place alight last year T17 was commendable. 125/1 seems a nice price to see if he’s trained on.