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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

My "5 to Watch" at the Masters

Last week I made some absolutely awful picks for the women's first major of the year. Can I do any better with the men this week?

Defending Masters champion Bubba Watson

I really don't know the answer to that one. Let's face it, folks -- this Masters could be won by any number of players if their games just got a little bit better this week. So, at least theoretically, almost any of my picks should be good ones.

And then again...

First, let me give the same caveat I gave last week. I am NOT saying that the players I don't pick will play horrible golf; many of them will play extremely well.  However, I only get 5 picks so I'm picking the ones I think have the best chance to win. As a result, I'm looking for reasons that players might not win.

Several players who might otherwise be favorites get crossed off my list right off the bat:
  • Rory McIlroy is making his first attempt to complete the career Grand Slam at a course where he has a habit of posting BIG numbers -- that's two things working against him -- so he doesn't make my favorites list.
  • Henrik Stenson's putter has been skipping tournaments lately, but he gets marked off primarily because he was in bed with the flu last week.
  • J.B. Holmes is long off the tee but streaky in the putting department... and on Augusta's greens the ball could end up streaking right into many bad places.
  • Adam Scott hasn't been the same since Steve Williams retired. There, I said it.
  • I like Patrick Reed as a flier, but I simply didn't have any picks left so he gets left out. Sorry, Patrick.
  • Phil Mickelson could catch fire this week. Then again, he might forget his lighter fluid. His memory hasn't been so good lately...
  • And Tiger Woods has so many questions surrounding him that I can't even pick him as a flier. Just for the record, I don't expect him to embarrass himself; I just don't expect him to win.
So who are my picks? I'm so glad you asked:
  • Jason Day 
  • Jordan Spieth 
I wrote some weeks ago that Day was my favorite and he has done nothing to change that. However, Spieth happened. A friend asked me Sunday who my favorite was and I said that, if Spieth won at Shell, he'd have 4 wins in as many months and I'd be forced to take him but if he lost, Day would remain my choice.

As it turned out, Spieth made the playoff... and in my book, making a playoff is better than just finishing outright runner-up. Consequently the two have become co-favorites on my list. The big question is which one can get out of his own way and get the win?
  • Bubba Watson
It's really hard to leave Bubba off this list despite the difficulties of defending this title. (Only 3 men have ever done so.) But Bubba is on form and the course seems to be made for him -- even Bubba says so. I simply can't ignore him.
  • Jimmy Walker
Jimmy has won more than anybody else over the last two years and is still playing well. And since he played the Masters last year -- and has Butch as his coach -- lack of playing experience shouldn't be a problem. You have to like his chances.
  • Dustin Johnson
Yes, DJ is my flier pick. I know his history at Augusta is forgettable, despite his formidable skills. But this pick isn't about DJ the golfer. It's about DJ the person, who continues to impress me with how different he seems after his sabbatical. I'm not so sure DJ's history at the Masters means a thing this week... but I believe Paulina and Tatum may have a huge effect.

And there you have my "5 to Watch" at the Masters. Now let's see if I can do any better with my picks for this major!

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