The greatest month of sports is upon us, and with March Madness coming to a dramatic close, it is now time to transition our attention to the next biggest event: The 82nd Masters.
While fan-favorites Tiger Woods and Freddy Couples will be eating pimento-cheese sandwiches behind the ropes this week due to injury, the first major of the year remains predictably filled with a star studded cast of former Masters champions, nearly every player in the top 50 of the official world golf rankings, and some rising amateurs looking to make a name for themselves.
The question is, which of them will be able to navigate their way around Amen Corner and slip on the Green Jacket come Sunday? Could it be the newly minted number one player in the world Jason Day? Will Jordan Spieth retain his title? Or will an underdog ultimately prevail?
We will have to wait and see, but here is a look at my predictions and suggestions at what to watch for in the upcoming week.
The Big Three
Jason Day: Sitting comfortably on top of the Official World Golf Rankings and coming off back-to-back victories at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and WGC-Dell Match Play, it is fairly safe to say that Day is the favorite to win this week. With four top 30 finishes in the last five years at Augusta including two top 3 finishes, Day is definitely the man to beat. Should Day come away with the Green Jacket, he would be the second Australian, along with Adam Scott, to do so.
Jordan Spieth: The reigning Masters champion has a crush and its name is Augusta National. In two professional appearances, Spieth has claimed the Green Jacket and finished in the runner-up position. While 2016 hasn’t been the dominating performance we saw from Spieth last year, this year has by no means been alarming. The 22-year-old has finished in the top 25 every time he has made the cut this season, and is coming off a solid 13th place showing at last week’s Shell Houston Open. Expect Spieth to show up in a big way this week.
Rory McIlroy: Rounding out the runaway favorites for the Masters is Rory McIlroy. The Northern Irishman has arguably the best eye for this course and comes in to the week in great form with two top 5 finishes in his last three events. A win this week would cement McIlroy’s status among the greatest ever, as he would become the 6th golfer ever to complete the grand slam of golf. Also, as a consolation prize, McIlroy would get some much desired redemption from his Sunday collapse at the 2011 Masters.
My Pick: Rickie Fowler
It is hard not to take one of the Big Three this week, especially given the way Jason Day has been playing as of late, but I am going to go on a different route and say that this is Rickie Fowler’s year to shine. The #5 player in the world has a remarkable history at the Masters including a 12th place finish last year and a fifth place finish in 2014. Ultimately, if the 27-year-old can keep his drives out of trouble and keep his putter hot, we should see the man known for his Oklahoma State Orange wearing the Green Jacket on Sunday.
The Low Amateur
Bryson DeChambeau is my pick to be the low amateur this week. The 22-year-old has had a remarkable year, winning both the U.S. Amateur and NCAA Championship, becoming just the fifth person to do so. DeChambeau will be playing with reigning Masters champion, and fellow US Amateur champion Jordan Spieth in the first two rounds.
Round 1 and 2 Groups To Watch
Phil Mickelson, Marc Leishman, Henrik Stenson – There’s no one more enjoyable to watch play golf than Phil Mickelson. Add to the fact that he’s playing at Augusta with Marc Leishman and Henrik Stenson, both of whom have had success here, and you are in for a real treat. This is definitely the group that I would watch out for to feed off each others success and get out to a fast start.
Adam Scott, Kevin Kisner, Brooks Koepka – A former Masters Champion, a Masters newbie, and a 25-year-old with serious break out potential make up this marquee group. The long-hitting Koepka is one of the under the radar players that could easily eagle his way into the Green Jacket, and with Fed-Ex Cup leading Adam Scott playing along side him, expect to see nothing but greatness from this group.
My DraftKings Lineup
Rickie Fowler ($10,900)
Hideki Matsuyama ($9,100)
Brandt Snedeker ($8,500)
Zach Johnson ($7,600)
Bill Haas ($7,500)
Charley Hoffman ($6,400)