April 07, 2016

My 2016 Masters predictions

I'm not going to go through some elaborate ritual of crossing off some candidates, like ESPN does before every golfing major, confusing statistical and causal correlation.

Instead, let's just throw some names out, from the whole list.

Bubba Watson: Two-time winner, plus lost out to Martin Kaymer on playoff in the 2010 PGA. I think Hank Haney was probably partially right, even if not totally so, that the last "Tiger-proofing" of Augusta made it favor lefties.

Is it true? Well, per ESPN, Tiger-proofing started after his second title in 2001. It finished, pretty much, by 2006.

And, who's won since then? Lefty Mike Weir was the first lefty — in 2003. Philly Mick took the first of his three titles in 2004. The other two have come in 2006 and 2010, after the Tiger-proofing was theoretically completed.

And, Bubba twice.

So, again, if Haney is even half right, you can't count Bubba out of the mix. Indeed, Bob Charles in the 1963 Open was the ONLY lefty winner of a major — any major — before Weir. Others agree, saying modern club technology — much of which came along after the start of Tiger-proofing — has added to this.

Besides, like the San Francisco Giants of well-known lefty Madison Bumgarner and manager Bruce Bochy, it's an even numbered year, right?

And, maybe not Philly Mick? For all things considered, he's playing relatively well lately.

But, "all things considered" is that he'll be 46 this June. Jack's the only older Masters winner. Throwing out Old Tom Morris from the haze of golf yore, Julius Boros is the only other majors winner to do so at an older age.

Besides, if I want to root for an older player, I'll root for my man Vijay.

And, while we're on this line, Bubba is 37. And, 35 and younger wins three-quarters of majors. And, he was 35 two years ago.

Louis Oosthuizen: Don't sleep on Shrek, especially if he's sleeping on a good mattress. And, at 33, not too old, but moving toward the edge more.

Jason Day: The hot hand of recent. Doesn't mean everything, but he does seem to have his confidence groove back.

Rory McIlroy: Focused enough to skip the Par-3. But, all that really matters is can he putt.

Adam Scott: Seems OK with not anchoring the putter. And, he's done it before. Pushing the age window at 35.

Jordan Speith: Not rounded into full mental shape, perhaps, with a sophomore slump.

Players not to bet against from the field would include Branden Grace. Just Rose, at 35, is pushing the age edge. And, I like Henrik Stenson's game, but at 40, he's definitely outside the prime age window.

Not a fan of Rickie Fowler. Definitely not of Dustin Johnson. Win one first to make me less skeptical of you in other majors.

So, per the above?

Without any odds being offered, Day's my first choice.

Don't get me wrong; I'd love Rory to wrap up the Slam. But, the scores of his so far this year have been very yo-yo, and I'm doubting he's got the new putting stroke fully in hand yet.

And, there's another reason to worry about that stroke.

Winds are predicted to be at least 15-20mph, possibly up to 30mph, on Friday and Saturday. By Saturday afternoon, those greens are going to be even slicker than Gary McCord's infamous bikini wax. Not good for someone adjusting to a new putter grip.

Meanwhile, the same winds, and some chilly early morning temps, may produce the highest winning score since Zach Johnson's +1 in 2007. And may open the door to unlikely winners.

Updates after the first round: Speith looks like the man to beat now, eh? Day really slumped off near the end of his round and Rory gave away a shot at 16 and then another at 18. Well, Sergio's close enough to the lead to provide heartbreak possibilities. Tom Watson outshot Bubba. And Bernhard Langer looks almost ageless.

For the challengers, their hope has to start with the weather being at least as bad as predicted for tomorrow — starting in the afternoon, since Speith goes out late on Friday.

No comments: