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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

My 5 for the Masters

I've been hinting at some possible trends I saw as we neared the Masters but now that I'm ready to make my picks, I find those trends have made things difficult.

Let's face it -- most of the "chalk" choices are either injured and/or not playing OR they seem a bit off their games, and over a quarter of the field is first timers. (There are 24 noobs among the 97 players, in case you're counting.) Things like that really affect the potential outcome. And the odds makers are little or no help, since you can be sure they don't want people to bet on players that will cost them money!

Oh well. I'm going to give it a go anyway. This Masters is so wide open that it's hard to make a bad choice... but that means I can't pick all the players I'd like to pick. Angel Cabrera is one of those players who I really like at Augusta but I already have 5 picked. *sigh* Sergio's in that group as well. Anyway...

Jason Day

Back in February, back before his thumb got injured, Jason Day was my #1 choice. After much debate, he remains so. Day got a cortisone shot a couple of weeks ago and says he's feeling no pain, although he has his thumb wrapped as a precaution against hyperextension. I saw some video of him hitting full shots and he seems to be swinging normally... so I'm throwing caution to the wind. He's played well in the last few months, even when coming back from extended layoffs, and he's played well at Augusta.

I also like Adam Scott, despite the odds against him repeating. Adam's game remains rock solid and he's proven that losing a big tournament right at the end doesn't keep him down for long. How can I not take the highest-rated player in the field when he's given me no reason to doubt him?

And I have to take Phil Mickelson, who finally seems to be healthy. And in good humor, I might add -- when Todd Lewis asked him what finally clicked last week, Phil said, "Let's not go overboard, it was only a T12." The man's got 3 Green Jackets, for Pete's sake! Enough said.

With so many noobs in the field, I have to take a couple of them as well. I'm taking Harris English as one. Harry has played Augusta as an amateur at the University of Georgia, so he has a little knowledge of the course. He doesn't seem phased by big moments. His game is remarkably similar to Adam Scott's, and we all know how well his game fits Augusta! And as if that wasn't enough, Harry aced the 12th during a Sunday practice round. An omen, perhaps...?

Finally, I'm taking Patrick Reed. How many players win 3 times before they get to go to a major? Reed has more wins in the under-25 group than anyone except Rory (who I haven't picked because I think his game is still a bit off.) And he has a particular advantage over most of the first-timers -- like Harry, he played Augusta as an amateur. However, while attending Augusta State he played Augusta National several times. Granted, that's not the same as seeing it under tournament conditions, but it does give him a leg up on the other noobs.

I suppose I should explain why one particular player didn't make my list. It seems like Dustin Johnson is on just about everybody's short list except mine. I know what the stats say, but here's what the results say: Dustin hasn't figured out how to use his skills effectively yet. I know everybody says that it's just one bad shot that costs him tournaments, but here's the way I see it: When Phil hits a bad shot and it costs him a title, he finishes 2nd or 3rd. But when DJ hits a bad shot and it costs him a title, he finishes 8th or 9th or 15th. That's a strategy problem and I've seen no reason to think he's got it fixed. That 80 last week didn't help things. Therefore, no DJ on my list.

So here are my picks:
  • Jason Day (main pick)
  • Adam Scott
  • Phil Mickelson
  • Harris English
  • Patrick Reed
But Rory probably said it best. Except for some of the older players and amateurs who are there as invitees and won't be able to compete, just about anybody can win this week if they just put 4 good rounds together.

The photo came from the dailytelegraph.com.au site.

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