2018 Masters Preview

I haven’t written anything here in a really long time, but I felt the 2018 Masters warranted a re-entry into the writing world. Unfortunately the week got away from me a little bit, so I didn’t quite get to write as much content as I would have liked. As I’m writing this, a storm is bearing down on our house and we briefly lost power! Anyways, I wanted to put something together that could appeal to both the casual fan and the most hardcore. Because of that approach, I decided to go with shorter write-ups and cover a larger number of players. Hope you enjoy it and here’s to hoping for an awesome week of golf!

A Tradition Unlike Any Other

I can’t remember a Masters with this much intrigue coming into it. Tiger is back in the mix. Jordan Spieth appears to be back in form. His “good buddy” Justin Thomas is looking to take over as #1 in the world. Sergio will attempt to defend his title. Phil and Bubba have both won recently and are looking to add yet another green jacket. Rory, Rickie, Rahm, and Rose (yay alliteration) are looking to get their first. Oh yea, I haven’t even mentioned the world #1, Dustin Johnson, who was the prohibitive favorite coming into this event last year before “falling down the stairs”. Golf is as popular as its ever been, and the 2018 edition of the Masters could be one for the ages.

The Favorites

Dustin Johnson

Why he’ll win: He’s effortlessly long off the tee and should be able to overpower the Par 5s. His prowess with a wedge in his hand is well-documented. Oh yea, he’s also the number one player in the world.

Why he won’t: His form lately, especially in the match play event, hasn’t been up to his usual standards. He also likes to work the ball from left to right and play his usual fade, which isn’t ideal for Augusta.

Jordan Spieth

Why he’ll win: This place brings out the best in Jordan Spieth. Spieth’s career finishes here are 11th, 2nd, 1st, and 2nd. His ball striking is as good as it’s ever been this season. He started to look like himself in the final round of the Houston Open.

Why he won’t: People don’t like to say the “y” word in golf (yips), but Jordan Spieth has appeared to have them on short putts this year. With lightning fast greens, that’s the last thing someone needs when trying to compete for another major.

Justin Thomas

Why he’ll win: DJ is officially still #1 in the world rankings, but most would agree Justin Thomas has been the world’s best player this season. Despite being smaller than me, he has a tremendous amount of power and should be able to dominate the Par 5s.

Why he won’t: He doesn’t have a ton of experience or success here. He mentioned at the match play that the pressure of potentially taking over #1 got to him a bit. Things won’t get less stressful in trying to capture his first green jacket.

Rory

Rory McIllroy

Why he’ll win: He showed flashes of brilliance as the Arnold Palmer Invitational a few weeks ago and reminded everyone that at his best, there are few better. He is one of the best drivers of the ball on Tour and should score well on the Par 5s.

Why he won’t: A win here would clinch the Grand Slam for Rory, something that only a handful of golfers have ever accomplished. His putting is always a major concern, especially on these racetrack bentgrass greens.

Justin Rose

Why he’ll win: He’s been close so many times here, including a runner-up finish in a playoff to Sergio last season. His game has no major weaknesses.

Why he won’t: If he hasn’t done it by now, some say he’ll never get it done. His putter can run cold at times.

Tiger

Tiger Woods

Why he’ll win: He’s Tiger Woods and he’s playing at Augusta. His course knowledge is second to none.  His game is rounding into form and his work around the greens this year has been stellar. His course knowledge is second to none.

Why he won’t: He hasn’t won in forever. Will the killer instinct still be there when he needs it? While Augusta isn’t overly punishing for inaccuracy off the tee, his driver has been a nightmare at times this year.

Bubba Watson

Why he’ll win: When Bubba is happy and confident, there isn’t a player like him in the world. Recently, he’s been in yesteryear’s form with two wins already this year. He loves this course (two wins) where his imagination, length, and right-to-left ball flight (left-handed) make it a match made in heaven.

Why he won’t: Bubba is an emotional player. If things go poorly, he can often unravel in a hurry.

Phil Mickelson

Why he’ll win: Most everything that can be said about Bubba can copied here for Phil. He’s in the midst of a career resurgence and is playing his best golf in years.  He’s won here three times, the last coming in 2010.

Why he won’t: Phil can be wild off the tee, especially with the driver in hand. This can lead to some big numbers on his scorecard, which won’t cut it in such a loaded field.

Jason Day

Why he’ll win: After a lackluster 2017 season by his standards, Day has looked much better in 2018. Day is long off the tee, great around the greens, and his putter can be white hot when he’s on.

Why he won’t: Day’s iron play still hasn’t quite returned to form. While he’s consistently been in the Top 25s in his trips here, he hasn’t legitimately contended for a win since 2013.

Sergio

Sergio Garcia

Why he’ll win: He’s proven he can win here before… Sergio is a ball-striking machine. His iron and wedge play is arguably some of the best in the world.

Why he won’t: It’s extremely difficult to repeat as champion at any event, but especially the Masters. Media obligations and the pressure to win again can take its toll. His putting woes can flare up at any time.

Rickie Fowler

Why he’ll win: While Fowler doesn’t excel in any one area, he has one of the most well-rounded games in the field. He’s plenty long off the tee and is a confident putter. Other than a missed cut in 2016, he has been stellar at Augusta.

Why he won’t: Fowler has yet to win a major, and each failing attempt continues to mount the pressure. He has also struggled with blowup holes lately.

Sleepers

Even casual golf fans have probably heard of everyone mentioned above. For anyone looking for a deeper dive, here’s a pair of players I expect to contend that aren’t (yet) household names.

Alex Noren

Some of the golf world already knows who Alex Noren is, but here’s a primer for those of you that don’t. Noren has played a large portion of his career events on the European Tour, which is why he’s relatively unknown. Noren has won ten times internationally, including the British Masters and the Omega European Masters. Could he add THE Masters to the list? I think he could. European players are often great ball strikers who struggle to putt. Noren can do both. The major concern is his lack of experience here, with a missed cut in his only appearance. I think he learns from that experience and rebounds with a Top 10 performance in his encore.

Xander Schauffele

One of the reasons I wanted to write up Xander Schauffele is because his nickname is incredible. The “X Man”. For a nerd like me, that’s just too good to be true. Luckily, his game backs up his awesome nickname. “X” surprised everyone when he won the Tour Championship last fall. He had already won at the Greenbrier Classic, but the Tour Championship win announced himself to the golf world in a big way. Schauffele packs a complete game and is quite long off the tee. He is a confident putter, which should serve him well on these fast, but true greens. The major concern for the X Man is that this will be his first trip to the Masters. Historically, first timers haven’t faired too well, but I think Schauffele bucks that trend with a Top 20 finish.

The Winner

I could have written up about 15 different players here and felt good about every single one of them, but I have to pick a winner. My winner for the 2018 Masters is Justin Rose. Rose has been as consistent as anyone in the world this season. In ten appearances, he has eight Top 10s including a pair of wins in Europe. His record at Augusta has been sparkling as well with Top 25s in his last five trips here and a memorable runner-up last year to Sergio Garcia. Rose’s game has no major weaknesses. He is long off the tee, is an excellent ball striker, and has good touch around the greens. The knock on Rose historically is that his putter can go cold, but his abilities with the flat stick are actually underrated. If you can make enough putts, this Rose might be wearing green.

Top 10

  1. Justin Rose
  2. Rory McIllroy
  3. Bubba Watson
  4. Jordan Spieth
  5. Justin Thomas
  6. Dustin Johnson
  7. Jason Day
  8. Tiger Woods
  9. Alex Noren
  10. Phil Mickelson
Rose