April 05, 2017

My 2017 preview for The Masters

OK, we're at the start of real golf season.

1. Fans called "patrons"?
2. CBS pumping in fake bird sounds on the broadcast?
3. Augusta National Country Club with blue-dyed fake water?
4. Overrated, overhyped (but not overpriced) pimiento cheese sammiches?

Check, check, check and check.

We're at the home of The Masters Toyynement. Golf Digest ranks 10 traditions, including partially riffing on 2 and 4.

So, who wins? The hot Dustin Johnson? Rory McElroy completing his Grand Slam? Jon Rahm or some other hot up-and-comer? Jordan Speith with his second in three years, overcoming last year's final-round demons? Someone else?

My heart hopes that Rory gets some green clothing — and in the process, before, during and after, relaxes. Think Aaron Rodgers, Rory!

My mind puts him at second on the odds, behind DJ, but ahead of Jordan, Jon and the field.

Meanwhile, the snakebitten (definitely with his putter last year) Ernie Els will bid a likely farewell here.

I assume Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus will do the honorary starting by themselves, with some tribute to Arnold Palmer.

(I'd like to see Tom Watson and/or Nick Faldo worked in there next, and maybe they'll take over from Jack and Gary in a few years. I'm sure both of them still want to regularly play, and have hopes for the weekend, for a few more years, though.)

Per ESPN, plus Golf Digest, here's a few opening-rounds pairings to watch:
  • No. 1-ranked Dustin Johnson is in the final starting time at 2:03 p.m. along with PGA champion Jimmy Walker and two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson.
  • Jordan Spieth, runner-up to Willett a year ago after winning the Masters in 2015, begins play at 10:34 a.m. along with Martin Kaymer and Matthew Fitzpatrick.
  • Three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson follows at 10:45, with Rafael Cabrera Bello and Si Woo Kim.
  • Second-ranked Rory McIlroy tees off at 1:41 p.m. along with Jon Rahm and Hideto Tanihara.
  • Third-ranked Jason Day plays with Brandt Snedeker and Justin Rose at 10:56 a.m.
  • Sergio Garcia, Shane Lowry and Lee Westwood at 1:19 p.m.
Now, it’s a mug’s game (which is why Vegas makes big money on golf bets) to bet one player against the field, but, given DJ’s hotness, Spieth’s Master’s history to date, Rory’s lust to complete the Grand Slam, and Bubba’s own history, I’ll bet those pairings against the field. And contra Jason Sobel, I will NOT bet Rickie Fowler.

Full list of tee times is here. To caveat my bet of the above groups vs. the field, Hideki Matsuyama at 10:12 on Thursday and Branden Grace at 10:23. Just for fun, the 12:46, with Pato and Stenson together, would be a good watch, maybe?

Finally, about halfway down this longform from Golf Digest about advantages and disadvantages at Augusta, the majority of anonymous commenters agree with Hank Haney that in Tiger-proofing Augusta National, the Masters folks also largely righty-proofed it. Going back to 2003, when the Tiger-proofing arguably had started, past champions of the lefty bent include short-hitting Mike Weir, all three of Philly Mick's, and both of Bubba Watson's. That's seven lefty wins in 14 tries.

That said, it's a very interesting assessment of who could win or not, and who's more likely to win or not; top individual golfers are discussed in detail halfway down. A fair amount don't like Rory's chances, and several of them think, in no uncertain terms, that he needs to ditch his caddie.

Interesting.

That said, would Tiger have won all of his 13 non-Fluff Cowan majors without Steve Williams on his bag? I bet not.

And, that's another bit of testimony to Jack Nicklaus, who had several different bagmen for his 18 majors — and that's not taking into account that most of his Masters wins were when players still had to use club caddies.

Weather update, noon Wednesday: Rain today and Thursday, with cool and windy conditions Thursday and somewhat on Friday make for a long track before the cut.

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