To me, the Masters is the start of the spring/summer season. When you watch the tournament and you see that 70 degree weather, high skies and the sun shining, you can’t help but feel giddy for all of the upcoming weekends at the beach and days in the city.
The Masters is my favorite tournament of the year for one reason: Augusta National. It’s the only major that is played at the same course every year. It is astonishing, not because the course is beautiful or pristine, which it is, but because these guys know the course so well and yet it still continues to kick their asses. Yes, over the years they’ve added some length or a bunker here or there, but all and all, its been the same course for almost the entirety of the field’s lifetime. Yet, for whatever reason, nobody has shot better than -18 for the tournament. Why? Is it the rolling fairways where no lie is even, is it the in-between length shots these players are supposed to hit, is it the severely undulating greens that roll one way in the morning and another in the afternoon, or the fact they are as slick as ice? There are so many aspects to this course. It’s more than just bunkers and water hazards. We are talking about the best players in the world, and nobody can beat the course. Nobody.
As we roll into the 2016 season with the Masters, we need to take a look back at last year’s tournament. One which put Jordan Spieth in the record books. Spieth ran away with the tournament on Sunday, ultimately tying Tiger Woods’ record 18 under par score. However, it was not a complete run away the whole weekend. Spieth was a wire to wire winner, something impressive on its own, but throughout the early part of the weekend, he had many top-notch golfers at his heels. After the first round, Spieth was leading by 3 strokes over guys like Jason Day and Justin Rose. After the second round, his lead grew to 5 ahead of Charley Hoffman, after the third round his lead was back to 4 with Justin rose primed to make a run on Sunday and Phil was down 5 ready to make one last push as well. On Sunday however, Spieth put all doubters to rest when he went out firing. He shot -2 on the day, which alone was not all that impressive, but he never made any crucial mistakes and did what he had to do to win the tournament with an impressive -18 score. After coming up just short to Bubba Watson the year before, the new young gun on tour, Jordan Spieth had his first Green Jacket and set himself up for a phenomenal year.
Drive for Show, Putt for Dough
After last year’s scoring, one can expect that the folks over at Augusta National have some tricks up their sleeves for this year’s tournament. One thing they will most certainly do: make the greens faster. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the game of golf, a fast green is not fun. When the greens are rolling like ice, they put every little break in the ground in play. This means that on a severely sloping green, which Augusta has, you could have to make a putt where you hit it 90 degrees sideways just for it to trickle down to the cup. Its maddening, but it is what makes these guys struggle at the course. Any one of them can hit it 300 yards off the tee, but if they can’t hit a slippery 5 footer on 18, then they are in trouble.
The Masters is always the most intimate of all of the other tournaments of the year. There are very strict guidelines you need to meet to qualify to play in the tournament. Here are of some of the ways to qualify and some big names that come with it:
- Past Masters Champion (If you’ve won it, you can come back for life): Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson, Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson, Angel Cabrera, Charl Schwartzel, Vijay Singh, Zach Johnson
- Last 5 U.S. Open Champions: Martin Kaymer, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Webb Simpson
- Last 5 British Open Champions: Ernie Else, Darren Clarke
- Last 5 PGA Champions: Keegan Bradley, Jason Day, Jason Dufner
- Last 3 Winners of The Players Championship: Rickie Fowler
- Top 2 Finishers of the 2015 U.S. Amateur: Derick Bard, Bryson DeChambeau
There are other qualifiers, and I don’t mean to leave anyone out for lack of importance, but when you watch the Masters, unless someone else is in contention after Friday, these are most likely going to be the guys you’ll hear about the most.
Who Ya Got?
7/1- Jason Day
8/1- Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth
12/1- Bubba Watson, Adam Scott
15/1- Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson
20/1- Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson
25/1- Justin Rose
30/1- Hideki Matsuyama, Louis Oosthuizen
40/1- Patrick Reed, Charl Schwartzel
50/1- Zach Johnson
60/1- Brooks Koepka
100/1- Jason Dufner
250/1- Bryson DeChambeau
Tailgate Talk Show Picks
Arthur Dowell: Adam Scott
Solid pick here from Arty. Scott is a previous Masters champ who had a solid 2015 season and is looking to carry it over into 2016. Listen, when you have one of the sweetest swings on tour, you always have a chance to win. Here is the one problem I see with Scott, Rule 14-1b: the ban on the anchored putter. Yup, Scott won his Green Jacket with the anchored putter, and this will be his first Masters with the non-anchored putter. Putting on the Augusta greens is hard enough, but having to do it with an entirely new putter is impossible. I see Scott being a magician tee to green, but struggling with the flat stick.
Jimmy Fisher: Rory McIlroy
Another predictably solid pick from our football guy. Rory can certainly bash the ball like a linebacker ramming into a running back, but I am not too sure that is what’s going to propel him to victory. By the time his career is over, he’ll probably be the greatest European golfer ever, but he’s had moments of struggle. His ball striking is always flawless and that will certainly help him, but he is trying out a brand new putter gripping style and that is always tricky to break in at Augusta. I see him having similar issues as Scott on the greens, but again, wouldn’t be surprised if he plays well.
Jon Bodack: Jason Day
I know Jon follows golf so I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt that this isn’t him going with the chalk and taking the favorite. Because if Jon has been paying close attention to the tour, he would know Jason Day is probably the hottest guy in the field right now. He won his last two starts: the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the WGC Match Play. There’s little doubt why he is the favorite in Vegas, and it’s deserving. He was in the hunt after day one of last year’s tournament, so he’ll be looking to continue that for a full weekend.
My Pick: Jordan Spieth
I know, boring. I didn’t want to pick Spieth mostly because I think going back-to-back at Augusta is almost impossible, but I don’t really see anyone beating him when he is on. Day is coming off a hot start but also lost 10 pounds this week with the flu, Scott’s new putter, Rory’s recent struggles all are great cause for concern to me. I think that Spieth is the best putter on tour and when you play Augusta, you don’t have to be the longest hitter, but if you can putt well, you will run away with it.
As always there is all day feature coverage and driving range coverage on Masters.com
Par-3 Contest, Wednesday: 3pm-5pm ESPN
Round 1, Thursday: 3pm-7:30pm ESPN
Round 2, Friday: 3pm-7:30pm ESPN
Round 3, Saturday: 3pm-7pm CBS
Round 4, Sunday: 2pm-7pm CBS
Follow @tailgate_talks Follow @dprice30