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The 24 players who can win The 2018 Masters

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Each year for the Masters, I create a filtering process to help determine the players that are most likely to win the Green Jacket based on criteria that has strongly predicted outcomes at Augusta. I usually get the list down to roughly 23 players. Last year, I had Sergio Garcia as one of my 20 players that could win the Masters. Despite Sergio’s lack of success at Augusta, he came away with the Green Jacket.

Before I discuss my picks for this year’s Masters, I want to go over what I call the “critical holes” for Augusta National. The critical holes in any tournament are the ones where the top finishers typically gain the most strokes on the field, as well as where the greatest deviation in scores exist. One of the interesting aspects about critical holes is that they often change over time due to changes in the course conditions, course design or a change in player strategy, which can create a smaller deviation in scores. This year the projected Critical Holes are Nos. 3, 13, 14 and 15.

Moving on to the tournament, I filtered out the amateurs and all first-time professional attendees. The Masters has only been won once by a first-time attendee: Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.

Filtered Out: Amateurs and First-Time Attendees

  • Wesley Bryan
  • Austin Cook
  • Harry Ellis (a)
  • Tony Finau
  • Dylan Frittelli
  • Doug Ghim (a)
  • Patton Kizzire
  • Satoshin Kodaira
  • Haotong Li
  • Yuxin Lin (a)
  • Yusaku Miyazato
  • Joaquin Niemann (a)
  • Matt Parziale (a)
  • Doc Redman (a)
  • Xander Schauffele
  • Shubhankar Sharma

These first-time invitees are a little less battle tested on the big stage than the previous years’ first time invitees, although Finau, Schauffele and Li show some real promise in the future at Augusta. I also filtered out 11 past champions that I do not believe can compete at Augusta National anymore.

Filtered Out: Improbable Past Champions

  • Angel Cabrera
  • Fred Couples
  • Trevor Immelman
  • Bernhard Langer
  • Sandy Lyle
  • Larry Mize
  • Mark O’Meara
  • Jose Maria Olazabal
  • Vijay Singh
  • Mike Weir
  • Ian Woosnam

The Zach Johnson Debate

Every year I do my Masters picks, it’s always get pointed out that I do not pick former Masters Champion Zach Johnson due to his lack of length off the tee. Augusta National greatly favors long-ball hitters. They can play the par-5s more like par-4s, and typically the longer hitters can also hit the ball higher so they can get their long approach shots to hold the green more easily.

When Johnson won the Masters in 2007, the event featured record-low temperatures in the mid-40s and wind gusts of 33 mph. This made it very hard for any player to reach the par-5s in two shots and allowed Johnson to get into a wedge contest on the par-5’s, his strength. The temperatures are predicted to be in the mid-70s this year. Unless that changes by 30+ degrees and the wind gusts double, I don’t see Johnson having a very good chance to win the event. Along with Johnson, I would also eliminate these shorter hitters:

Filtered-Out: Short Hitters

  • Adam Hadwin
  • Brian Harman
  • Kevin Kisner
  • Matt Kuchar
  • Ryan Moore
  • Pat Perez
  • Ted Potter, Jr.
  • Chez Reavie
  • Webb Simpson
  • Kyle Stanley
  • Si Woo Kim

A part of the game that is just as critical as distance is the trajectory height a player can create. Last year, I filtered out nine players for hitting the ball too low. Four of the nine missed the cut. One of the picks, Paul Casey, finished T6. His instructor, Peter Kostis, recommended that I not just look solely at the Apex Height metric, but also look at carry distance when it comes to the trajectory the player puts on the ball. I have done that for this year’s Masters picks and have eliminated four players.

Filtered Out: Low-Ball Hitters

  • Jason Dufner
  • Branden Grace
  • Russell Henley
  • Ian Poulter

Since the inauguration of the event, there have only been two winners of the Masters that have previously never made the cut: Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979 and Gene Sarazen in 1936. Let’s filter them out as well.

Filtered Out: Never Made the Cut at Augusta

  • Tommy Fleetwood
  • Tyrrell Hatton
  • Alex Noren
  • Jhonattan Vegas

I will also filter out the players that missed the cut at the Houston Open. Missing the cut the week prior to an event greatly reduces the likelihood of the player winning, finishing in the top-10, finishing in the top-25 and even making the cut regardless of the event.

Filtered Out: Missed the Cut in Houston

  • Rafa Cabrera-Bello
  • Yuta Ikeda
  • Martin Kaymer

Lastly, I have filtered out the weak performers from the “Red Zone,” approach shots from 175-225 yards. While Augusta is known for its greens, the winners are determined mostly by the quality of their approach shots throughout the event. In fact, nine of the last 10 champions have hit at least 49 Greens in Regulation during the week.

The key shots where the most strokes are gained/lost at Augusta National are from the Red Zone. Last year, I had 17 players filtered out for poor Red Zone play. Outside of Kevin Chappell (T7), almost all of those players performed poorly.

Filtered Out: Weak from 175-225 Yards

  • Kiradech Aphibarnrat
  • Patrick Cantlay
  • Jason Day
  • Ross Fisher
  • Matthew Fitzpatrick
  • Billy Horschel
  • Dustin Johnson
  • Francesco Molinari
  • Charl Schwartzel
  • Brendan Steele
  • Bernd Wiesberger
  • Danny Willett

Perhaps the biggest surprise here is Dustin Johnson. He currently ranks 176th from the Red Zone despite historically being an excellent Red Zone performer. At his current rate, he would like need to dominate Augusta off the tee with his prodigious length and putt very well to win the Green Jacket. But the numbers don’t like a player’s odds of being able to do that on such an approach shot oriented course.

That leaves us with 24 players that can win the Masters. Their Vegas Odds, which are subject to change, are in parentheses. My personal top-10 picks are just below.

The 24 players who can win the 2018 Masters

  • Paul Casey (22/1)
  • Kevin Chappell (100/1)
  • Bryson DeChambeau (66/1)
  • Rickie Fowler (18/1)
  • Sergio Garcia (28/1)
  • Charley Hoffman (80/1)
  • Mark Leishman (66/1)
  • Hideki Matsuyama (25/1)
  • Rory McIlroy (9/1)
  • Phil Mickelson (16/1)
  • Louis Oosthuizen (50/1)
  • Thomas Pieters (66/1)
  • Jon Rahm (18/1)
  • Patrick Reed (40/1)
  • Justin Rose (20/1)
  • Adam Scott (33/1)
  • Cameron Smith (150/1)
  • Jordan Spieth (10/1)
  • Henrik Stenson (40/1)
  • Justin Thomas (10/1)
  • Jimmy Walker (150/1)
  • Bubba Watson (14/1)
  • Gary Woodland (150/1)
  • Tiger Woods (11/1)

My Personal Top-10 Picks

  • Paul Casey (22/1)
  • Rory McIlroy (9/1)
  • Phil Mickelson (16/1)
  • Louis Oosthuizen (50/1)
  • Jon Rahm (18/1)
  • Patrick Reed (40/1)
  • Justin Rose (20/1)
  • Jordan Spieth (10/1)
  • Justin Thomas (10/1)
  • Bubba Watson (14/1)

Click here for up-to-date betting odds on The Masters.

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Richie Hunt is a statistician whose clients include PGA Tour players, their caddies and instructors in order to more accurately assess their games. He is also the author of the recently published e-book, 2017 Pro Golf Synopsis; the Moneyball Approach to the Game of Golf. He can be reached at ProGolfSynopsis@yahoo.com or on Twitter @Richie3Jack. GolfWRX Writer of the Month: March 2014 Purchase 2017 Pro Golf Synopsis E-book for $10

61 Comments

61 Comments

  1. DrRob1963

    Apr 12, 2018 at 8:34 am

    You should add a “Can’t Putt” catagory

  2. Grant

    Apr 11, 2018 at 1:39 pm

    Hey Rich,

    Nice job on this! Wondering if you do this for the other majors as well?

  3. Tal

    Apr 9, 2018 at 3:21 am

    Great job on this! You picked the winner again.

  4. Woody

    Apr 8, 2018 at 9:50 pm

    Hey man, I give you props. You had Reed in your top 10..expert proved right.

  5. Eddie Von Eric

    Apr 4, 2018 at 10:58 am

    Richies expert analysis is equivalent to that big deuce I dropped this morning in the IHOP bathroom.

  6. Kris

    Apr 3, 2018 at 9:10 pm

    Great article. Fun to read.

  7. Jack Nicholas

    Apr 3, 2018 at 2:05 pm

    RG, mathematical probabilities are scary, huh. You should sharpen your pin and just stick away and leave the real analysis to the brainier ones of the species. Go bet some of your benjamins on Woosnam, Mize et al and see how far you get.

  8. kevin

    Apr 3, 2018 at 1:08 pm

    every stat i see has DJ in top 20 relative to approach shots within 175-200yds.

    https://www.pgatour.com/stats/stat.337.html

  9. J

    Apr 3, 2018 at 11:57 am

    Any of the field you see that can place top 10 or 20 outside of your top 24 to win?

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 4, 2018 at 10:18 am

      I could see Dustin winning. If he can get his Red Zone play back to its old self, it can happen. Otherwise, he has to drive the ball ridiculously well and putt well to make up for it. It can happen, just a tall task. Kuchar is playing well right now and if the conditions start to favor him he could do something. Russell Henley is currently ranked #1 from the Red Zone. If the conditions work out for him, he could contend.

  10. Cliff Hartman

    Apr 3, 2018 at 10:15 am

    I don’t see where you have accounted for Daniel Berger???

    • Charles Aspinal

      Apr 3, 2018 at 1:04 pm

      You beat me to it; I have same question.

  11. Dan

    Apr 3, 2018 at 7:15 am

    Cameron Smith is a first timer right? He’s on the list of 24 though. Correct me if I’m wrong.

  12. Undershooter30

    Apr 2, 2018 at 11:26 pm

    Reed doesn’t hit it high enough to win. He has the right to left ball flight but his shot height is very low.

  13. Trevor Heathers

    Apr 2, 2018 at 9:37 pm

    LOL that picture of Rich is from 20 years ago! Check out his video on Bebettergolf. He’s fat too.

    • Liam Pierce

      Apr 3, 2018 at 3:05 pm

      I know its hilarious. Guy is such an egomaniac that he has to post a picture of when he was young.

  14. Liz Murray

    Apr 2, 2018 at 8:22 pm

    Love your predictions every year! My question is do you think Matsuyama‘s recent injury will affect his playing this weekend?

    • Rich Hunt

      Apr 3, 2018 at 8:43 am

      Thank you.

      Tough to say as it’s difficult to predict if the injury and his game heals in time or not. That’s why I put him in the top-24, but not in the top-10.

  15. Michaele11111

    Apr 2, 2018 at 5:34 pm

    Pretty lame stuff. Very full of holes.

    • Joel

      Apr 2, 2018 at 9:45 pm

      Boo, this comment. Just, booooooo.

      This is a fun article every year.

  16. nyguy

    Apr 2, 2018 at 4:46 pm

    The #1 Player in the world doesn’t have a chance?? lol ridiculous.

    • Jack Nicholas

      Apr 3, 2018 at 1:11 pm

      Number 1 never wins The Masters. Hasn’t ever happened so it’s mathematically less likely.

    • Kris

      Apr 3, 2018 at 9:01 pm

      Yes. He was disqualified because of his 200-225 accuracy this year. Lmao.

  17. Robert

    Apr 2, 2018 at 3:32 pm

    Rich please elaborate as to how is Jason Day weak from 175 yards when he is T33 according to pgatour.com?

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 2, 2018 at 3:58 pm

      I am not sure what metrics you are looking at. For instance, just take a look at his play from 175-200 yards from the fairway where he ranks 199th: https://www.pgatour.com/stats/stat.337.html

      Generally, Day’s largest weakness in his game over the years has been from 150-200 yards. He uses his driving, short game play and great putting to overcome that. But that is a tall task to do at Augusta.

  18. kevin

    Apr 2, 2018 at 3:12 pm

    Really enjoy this column. ignore the haters! Thanks Rich

  19. Zac

    Apr 2, 2018 at 1:24 pm

    Since when is Kyle Stanley a short hitter?!?!

    • Nate

      Apr 2, 2018 at 1:52 pm

      never. dude’s a beast

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 2, 2018 at 4:01 pm

      Kyle ranks 140th in driving distance and 114th in club speed. He altered his swing a few years ago to drop his club speed from 117 mph to about 112 mph. Still strikes it great, but the numbers indicate that unless the wind picks up, winning at Augusta isn’t likely. In fact, it’s supposed to rain at ANGC which would only favor the longer hitters.

      • Kris

        Apr 3, 2018 at 9:04 pm

        Rain helps the shorter players. See Johnson Z. And Weir M.

        Makes the greens easier to hold. Which is a way bigger advantage than distance.

        • Richie Hunt

          Apr 4, 2018 at 10:12 am

          Zach didn’t have rain. He had record low temperatures and high wind gusts. Even the bombers had trouble going for the par-5’s in two shots when Zach won.

          Generally on Tour, rain helps the bombers. But since there is no rough to really speak of at ANGC, I can see it helping shorter hitters a little. The time that Weir won, Weir was one of the very best in the world from inside 200 yards, so it wasn’t like he couldn’t play.

    • Matt

      Apr 2, 2018 at 4:53 pm

      My sediments exactly!

    • kevin

      Apr 3, 2018 at 1:00 pm

      He’s 140th in driving distance in 2018.

      c’mon people…these stats aren’t that hard to look up.

  20. Megabill

    Apr 2, 2018 at 1:22 pm

    How can you filter based on 175-225 performance? Doesn’t 100 to 175 have more influence on the winner?

    Does the 175-225 stat really influence who becomes champion?

    Also many filtered by that stat hit it so far that they rarely have to hit in from that distance.

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 2, 2018 at 4:03 pm

      Shots from 100-175 yards do not have more ‘influence’ on the winner. And Tour players on average hit more shots per round from 150-200 yards than they do from 75-150 yards. It’s also not all about the frequency of shots. But it’s about the deviation in results. Combine those two at ANGC and that’s why you see players that perform well from there on top of the leaderboard.

  21. brad

    Apr 2, 2018 at 1:17 pm

    Xander Schauffele will make the cut, and Daniel Berger will be in the mix.

  22. Dan

    Apr 2, 2018 at 12:06 pm

    Not a perfect system because none is but would anyone seriously take the rest of the field over Richies 24?
    I’d say DJ and Jason Day are tough ones but his list looks pretty good…. Fleetwood, Carera Bello, Noren maybe?

    List looks good to me

  23. Ryan Schmidlin

    Apr 2, 2018 at 11:58 am

    Where is Daniel Berger on this list????

  24. Max

    Apr 2, 2018 at 11:52 am

    I mean, if you look at last year’s results, many of the guys you filtered out finished in the top 10 and were probably a lucky bounce/bad break away from being in contention. Let’s also not forget guys like Bernhard Langer and Soren Kjeldsen were in contention a few years ago.

    I like the analysis, though, and the winner is more likely to be on your list than not.

    • Tal

      Apr 2, 2018 at 6:49 pm

      He’s not trying to predict the top 10, he’s trying to predict a single winner as as you say, they’re most likely on that list. I believe Rich has shortlisted the winner for the last 2 years, if I’m not mistaken.

  25. juststeve

    Apr 2, 2018 at 11:35 am

    Very bold to rule out Dustin Johnson. Lets see if you’re right.

    • Kris

      Apr 3, 2018 at 9:07 pm

      Not really bold, actually. If he doesn’t win the tournament Rich is right.

  26. dat

    Apr 2, 2018 at 11:26 am

    A fair assessment, but you forgot about whoever wins the par 3 contest automatically being out of the running based on past data.

  27. Tim Braun

    Apr 2, 2018 at 11:21 am

    Jason Day would be the one that I would question not being on your list. With his driving ability and his top putting that outweighs the approach shot debate. I’m not saying he is going to win, but Gary Woodland or Cameron Smith??? Certainly we can make a substitution.

  28. Mikec

    Apr 2, 2018 at 11:21 am

    No filter is perfect, but this system seems to be a very logical way to get down to a set of names to wager — from there it is old fashioned gut and handicapping based on form etc — but I like the approach of thinning the field

  29. Oscar

    Apr 2, 2018 at 11:20 am

    what about Daniel Berger?

  30. RG

    Apr 2, 2018 at 11:03 am

    You filtered out a guy (Danny Willett) whose already shown he can win. This shows the inherent problem in your prediction filter. Oh, and statistically speaking any of those players CAN win the Master’s and I reject the null hypothesis that you present.

    • Al Czervik

      Apr 2, 2018 at 11:36 am

      He is talking about the 2018 Masters. Dude is 296th in the world.

      • Al Czervik

        Apr 2, 2018 at 11:41 am

        The real problem is that his Improbable Past Champions filter didn’t catch him. I would be far more shocked if Willett made a run than say Cabrera or even Langer.

    • Josh

      Apr 2, 2018 at 5:19 pm

      I made a lot of money on Danny Willett two years ago, but I wouldn’t bet one red cent that he’ll ever win another Masters. Dude was a fluke who only won cause Jordan blew it. For the record I also had a stake in Spieth so it was a good weekend.

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Opinion & Analysis

A Letter from the Editor: Big changes are happening at GolfWRX

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For those of you who don’t know who I am, my name is Andrew Tursky. I recently went from the right-hand-man of former GolfWRX Editor-in-Chief Zak Kozuchowski, to running the show here at GolfWRX as the Editor-in-Chief myself. In my new role, I’m going to help GolfWRX fulfill its fullest potential as the best golf website in existence, and that means making a number of immediate changes, all of which I’ll highlight below.

First, a look back. Over a decade ago, GolfWRX started as a small community golf forum for golfers to discuss golf equipment, courses, instruction, rules, bargains, and everything else golf related. The forums continue to grow everyday, and they’re stronger than ever with over 250,000 members who are the most knowledgable and passionate golfers on the planet. They also helped us determine the Best Driver of 2018. Additionally, sometime around 2011, Kozuchowski took GolfWRX.com from simply a community golf forum to a golf media powerhouse by adding a front page section of the website, equipped with ultra-professional editorial. He built a team of Featured Writers — consisting of some of the biggest names in the golf industry — to help produce content that readers love and need. Since 2013, I’ve been helping Zak run the site by writing/producing original content myself, and working with the Featured Writer team. Currently averaging over 1.8 million unique readers per month, GolfWRX has been doing just fine. But I believe so strongly in the GolfWRX brand that I don’t want to settle for “just fine.” I believe we have more to offer, and I want every golfer in the world to garner entertainment or knowledge from our website.

As such, and building upon the foundation that is GolfWRX.com and the forums, I’ve been empowered by the “powers that be” at GolfWRX — you know, the guys who cut paychecks — to grow and shape the best golf website on the Internet.

So what does that mean going forward? Well, that’s what I wanted to discuss.

Here at GolfWRX, we’ve always been great at telling stories through the written word and images, and we will continue to do so with our Featured Writers team and legion of golf writers who love and know the game of golf. But after taking over the editorial direction of the website, I also wanted to help give GolfWRX a voice and a face. There are so many amazing people in the world of golf, and I wanted to provide platforms for us to help them tell their stories… to provide our readers the chance to see how golf clubs are made, how courses are designed, why professionals play certain equipment, and so much more. I wanted to bring readers where they’ve never been and hear from the people they’ve never heard from. Here at GolfWRX, we have the opportunity to speak with amazing people and play golf at amazing courses, and it’s about time the GolfWRX readers got to enjoy those experiences with us.

Therefore, we’re implementing our own original video and radio initiatives.

On the video-end of the spectrum, GolfWRX has recently hired Johnny Wunder full-time to the GolfWRX Staff. He’s a Hollywood producer (check out his new film Josie, starring Sophie Turner from Game of Thrones, that was recently in select theaters across the country!) and is also the new Director of Original Content at GolfWRX. If you’ve enjoyed the Bob Parsons interview, Paige interview, PXG Gen2 Editor’s Journal, or how PXG irons get built, you have Mr. Wunder to thank. Also coming soon are experiences with Mike Taylor at Artisan Golf, David Edel, Bert Lamar of Iliac Golf, the Criquet Golf team in Austin, a short game series with Gabe Hjertstedt, a new fashion series and much more. We’re extremely excited to bring our own original content to the world, and help highlight the people in golf who we think deserve a platform. See the things you’ve never seen, go places you’ve never gone, and meet people you’ve never met; that’s what we want to do with our new GolfWRX original video content. We truly hope you enjoy it, and learn a lot from the content we produce.

We’ve also started three great podcasts — the “19th Hole with host Michael Williams,” “Two Guys Talkin’ Golf,” and “Gear Dive” — with plans to expand in the very near future. Check all of them out here on SoundCloud, or here on iTunes.

The 19th Hole is hosted by Michael Williams, who was the PGA Mediaperson of the Year in 2014 and is a longtime titan in both golf media and radio in general; he has produced and hosted shows on CBS Radio, Fox Sports Radio and Voice of America. Michael is a true professional, knowledgeable golfer, and knows how to conduct one heck of an interview. So far on the show, his guests have included Greg Norman, Bob Vokey, Rees Jones, Robert Trent Jones Jr., Scott Van Pelt, Byron Scott, Michael Breed, Louis Oosthuizen, Jim Nantz, Roger Cleveland, Mike Taylor, and many more.

Two Guys Talkin’ Golf (TG2), is hosted by equipment expert Brian Knudson and myself, a former Division I golfer and GolfWRX Editor. Together, we discuss all things golf, but mostly focus on golf equipment… and the occasional hot take. TG2 welcomes guests on the show as well, ranging from GolfWRX forum members to club builders to Tour professionals to caddies. If you’re hungry for more equipment knowledge and high-level golf conversation, TG2 is your type of podcast.

The third, and all-new podcast, is called “Gear Dive,” hosted by Johnny Wunder. What you can expect is a weekly podcast where Wunder interviews anyone who’s anyone “in the know” of golf equipment… and he’s going deep. To give you an idea, his first guest was legendary clubmaker Larry Bobka who made Tiger Woods’ old Titleist irons.

Also, as I discussed before, GolfWRX is great with telling stories via the written word. To make sure we continue to do so, we’ve hired Ben Alberstadt who’s been writing for GolfWRX for over 5 years now. He was previously a freelance journalist who worked with a variety of media and news outlets, and he now wears the GolfWRX hat full time. I cannot be more excited to have him aboard the ship because he’s a true, hard-working journalist and he’s great at telling a story in his own unique style. If you’ve read any of his stuff, you know what I mean.

And as for me, I promise to continue providing GolfWRX readers with the content they want and need to read/hear/see on a daily basis. It’s my duty to help our readers be the most knowledgable golfers and golf buyers, and be entertained while learning more about the sport we all love. I simply love GolfWRX and our readers/listeners/viewers, and I want you to have the best website of all time to visit every day… a website to be part of and proud of.

What do I ask from you GolfWRX readers? Your feedback! If we write a bad story, tell us why you think it’s bad. If we publish a video you like, tell us why in the comments or on social media. If you love the new podcast, tell us that you loved it and support by subscribing. (If you want all of our podcasts transcribed, we’re working on it!) We want to have the best website in the world, and we want to provide information to golfers in the way they want to consume it. We care deeply about your opinion. GolfWRX began as a forum community, and we will always be a community. Personally, I was a GolfWRX reader myself before ever writing for the site. So was Alberstadt and Williams and Knudson and Wunder. We love golf and we love GolfWRX. We want to see it thrive, and you, the readers, are a huge part of that success.

Anyway, thanks for taking the time to read this letter, and I hope you continue to be a GolfWRX reader and participant. And if you do, make sure to tell your golfing buddies how much you love the site… in real life or on social media. The more we grow, the better stories and podcasts and videos we can create. I love and appreciate the opportunity to be your GolfWRX Editor, and I won’t let you down!

 

Hit em between the tree line,

Andrew Tursky

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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Zurich Classic of New Orleans

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Just as in 2017, the Zurich Classic of New Orleans will once again provide a change in format for the players this week. Players will team up once more at TPC Louisiana for a combination of Best Ball (Rounds 1 and 3) and Alternate Shot (Rounds 2 and 4). Unfortunately, the change in format means that there is no DraftKings this week.

The course is long at over 7,400 yards, but it’s also very generous off the tee. TPC Louisiana offers the opportunity to go low, and players took advantage last year despite the inclement weather conditions. It took a Monday playoff to separate them, but eventually Cameron Smith and Jonas Blixt pipped Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown by making birdie on the fourth playoff hole to take the title after both teams had posted 27-under par in regulation.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Justin Rose/Henrik Stenson 7/1
  • Patrick Reed/Patrick Cantlay 12/1
  • Justin Thomas/Bud Cauley 14/1
  • Bubba Watson/Matt Kuchar 14/1
  • Jordan Spieth/Ryan Palmer 14/1
  • Jon Rahm/Wesley Bryan 16/1
  • Rafa Cabrera Bello/Sergio Garcia 22/1

For the first time, Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar (14/1) will team up for this event. Last year, Watson played alongside J.B Holmes. The two performed well, finishing in a tie for fifth place. TPC Louisiana has been a course that has suited Watson’s game over the years, his prodigious length being a significant factor. Along with his T-5 in 2017, Watson has a victory and three other top-20 finishes at the course when the event was an individual stroke-play tournament.

While Watson can be feast or famine at times, Kuchar is Mr. Consistent. He hasn’t missed a cut in over a year, and he has been a top-10 machine over the past few years on the PGA Tour. Despite this, Kuchar hasn’t been able to convert many of his top-10 finishes into wins, but playing alongside Watson this week — who has already notched two victories in 2018 — may help his cause. Over their last 24 rounds, Watson ranks third for Strokes Gained-Off the Tee and eighth in Strokes Gained Total. Over the same period, Kuchar has been predictably consistent, ranking in the top third in the field in every major Strokes Gained category. It’s an intriguing partnership, with Watson’s explosiveness combined with Kuchar’s consistency, and it’s a cocktail that should prove to be a formidable force at TPC Louisiana.

Two men with the hot hand coming into this event are fellow Americans, Jimmy Walker and Sean O’Hair (25/1). Last week at the Valero Texas Open both men excelled, posting the highest finishes of their year thus far. Walker finished solo 4th, while O’Hair grabbed a T-2. It’s the pairs first time playing TPC Louisiana together, but Walker has some good course form to lean on. Back in 2012 and 2013, he posted back-to-back top-20 finishes, which shows that TPC Louisiana is a course that fits his game. Accuracy off the tee has never been Walker’s strength, but the generous fairways may be one of the reasons that he has performed well at this course.

O’Hair has been in good form as of late. The Texan has three top-15 finishes in his last six events, and last week he recorded his highest Strokes Gained Total at an event in years. Walker also seems to have turned a corner with his game. Along with his excellent performance last week, he managed a top-20 finish at the Masters, and his Strokes Gained-Total at the Valero was his highest since his 2016 PGA Championship victory. With both men coming off their best performances in a long time, they should be confident. The duo looks to be a decent value to mount a challenge this week.

Last year’s runners-up Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown (40/1) are hard to ignore at their price this week. Brown has struggled mightily for form in 2018, missing six cuts out of 11 events played so far this year, but the prospect of playing alongside Kisner may be the boost that Brown’s 2018 is needing.

Kisner’s form has been strong as of late. He backed up his runner-up finish at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play with a T-28 at Augusta before grabbing a T-7 at the RBC Heritage. At Harbour Town, Kisner’s iron play was especially sharp, with his Strokes Gained-Approaching the Greens total being the highest since the Memorial last year. Despite Brown’s slump, in a highly tricky format to predict, the pair showed enough chemistry last year and an ability to excel in the format, which is enough for me to consider their price a little undervalued this week.

Recommended Plays

  • Bubba Watson/Matt Kuchar 14/1
  • Jimmy Walker/Sean O’Hair 25/1
  • Kevin Kisner/Scott Brown 40/1
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Podcasts

Gear Dive: Legendary club builder Larry Bobka speaks on Tiger’s old Titleist irons

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Legendary club builder Larry Bobka joins us in the first episode of our new podcast called “Gear Dive,” hosted by Johnny Wunder, GolfWRX’s Director of Original Content. Gear Dive is a deep look into the world of golf equipment, and Wunder will be interviewing the craftsman, the reps and the players behind the tools that make up the bags of the best golfers in the world.

Bobka, our first guest, is a former Tour rep and club builder involved in some of the most important clubs of the past 25 years. From his days at Wilson Golf working with legends such as Payne Stewart, Hale Irwin and Bernhard Langer, he transitioned into the Golden Age of Titleist/Acushnet building clubs for Tiger Woods, Davis Love, David Duval and Brad Faxon. He currently runs Argolf where he builds and fits handmade putters for Tour players and amateurs alike. He’s one of the Godfather’s of modern golf equipment.

Skip to 45:30 for the discussion about Tiger’s Titleist irons.

Check out our podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

What do you think of the new podcast? Leave your feedback in the comments below!

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