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Fantasy Preview: The Masters 2018

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Yes! At long last! Masters week is finally here in all its glory! Four days of pure heaven await golf fans, and it looks to be the most wide-open Masters in years. More than a dozen players legitimately believe that this will be their year. The smallest field in 20 years, only 87 players will tee it up this week.

Measuring more than 7,400 yards, Augusta National is a big boy golf course. There is essentially no rough on the course, but those very wild off the tee will be punished by either finding themselves in one of the many fairway bunkers… or worse, the trees. Vast and wildly undulating greens make Augusta National a severe test with the flat stick, which is why experience is so important. It can take years for players to get fully comfortable with the breaks on these wild greens. Last year, Sergio Garcia won in dramatic fashion, winning a playoff against Justin Rose to cap a fantastic four days of action.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Jordan Spieth 10/1
  • Rory McIlroy 10/1
  • Justin Thomas 11/1
  • Dustin Johnson 11/1
  • Tiger Woods 12/1
  • Justin Rose 14/1
  • Bubba Watson 16/1

It’s the most difficult Masters to pick a winner that I can remember. That’s reflected in the odds, with not one player in single digits. I could make an argument for the top dozen in the betting this week. My strategy is to take two from the top and one further down in the betting.

My first pick (and most confident pick) is four-time Masters champion Tiger Woods (16/1, DK Price $10,000). His comeback has been the story of 2018 without a doubt. All that’s missing is a W, and what better week to do it?

Contrary to what many experts are saying, Tiger’s destiny at the Masters doesn’t hinge on his driver. The reason he hasn’t won the Masters since 2005 is that he just hasn’t made enough putts. This year, he comes into the event looking as good as ever with the putter. He even putted great at the Valspar Championship, where many thought his unfamiliarity with the greens would hinder him. Tiger has gained strokes on the green in all five of his starts this season, and he sits first in the field for Strokes Gained Short Game over his last 12 rounds.

Of course, Tiger will have to drive it better. Although Augusta is a golf course where players can get away with some errant drives, Woods will know where his misses can and can’t be. He ranks 201st in driving accuracy this year, which is obviously poor. When he last won at Augusta in 2005, he ranked 191st for the season.

Woods’ iron play is back to its ruthless best. Over his last 12 rounds, he’s fifth for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green. Accuracy with the irons is always crucial at Augusta. Simply hitting the green is not good enough; you need to be dialed in. He’s a best price 16/1 and virtually a lock to be in contention. Should he continue to make the putts that he has all season, he’s going to have a great opportunity to claim his fifth Green Jacket.

Another man who is putting the ball superbly is Jason Day (18/1, DK Price $9,800). The Australian is back to his best with the flat-stick and ranks No. 1 in the field for Strokes Gained-Putting. It’s not only his short game that has been stellar so far this year, either. Day is first for Total Driving, too. He has a win, a second-place and a top-25 finish to his name so far this year. I don’t take too much stock into his group stage exit at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. So many of the world’s top players failed at the volatile event. Garcia bombed last year at the Match Play, and he went on to win the Masters.

Not all parts of Day’s game are firing. His iron play has let him down so far this season. He’s taken the bold move to change irons this week, and should his iron play improve even slightly then it’s hard to envision him not near the top of the leaderboard. Day adores Augusta, and he has come so close to winning here in the past. Maybe he’s wanted it too much, but he’s a more mature player now and a major winner.

Augusta National couldn’t suit Day any better. There’s plenty of room off the tee, and he launches his irons so high. That’s a recipe for success at Augusta. Odds of 18/1 are too big, and Day can sneak under the radar and put himself in contention at yet another Masters.

My final pick is the man who donned the Green Jacket in the rain in 2013. Adam Scott (60/1, DK Price $8,000) has failed to kick on since that famous win five years ago, and that is represented in his price this week. Just as it is for Bernhard Langer, Fred Couples and Phil Mickelson, however, Augusta National is a course that always seems to get the best from Scott.

Last season was one of Scott’s worst years on Tour, yet he still played well at Augusta. He finished with a T9 that could have been so much better had he just made a couple of putts. His putting is obviously his major weakness, but he does seem a little more confident on the bentgrass greens of Augusta where he knows all the little nooks and crannies.

Scott is seventh in the field for Strokes Gained Tee to Green over his last 12 rounds, and he believes that his game is good enough that an average week on the greens will see him back in the winner’s circle. At 60/1, he seems undervalued. While he faces an uphill task to beat the top players in the field, he’s the best bet available for players at 50/1 and above.

Recommended Plays

  • Tiger Woods 16/1, DK Price $10,000
  • Jason Day 18/1, DK Price $9,800
  • Adam Scott 60/1, DK Price $8,000
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Gianni is a freelance writer. He holds a Bachelor of Arts as well as a Diploma in Sports Journalism. He can be contacted at gmagliocco@outlook.com. Follow him on Twitter @giancarlomag

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Courses

Hidden Gem of the Day: The Bluffs Golf Course in Vermillion, South Dakota

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These aren’t the traditional “top-100” golf courses in America, or the ultra-private golf clubs you can’t get onto. These are the hidden gems; they’re accessible to the public, they cost less than $50, but they’re unique, beautiful and fun to play in their own right. We recently asked our GolfWRX Members to help us find these “hidden gems.” We’re treating this as a bucket list of golf courses to play across the country, and the world. If you have a personal favorite hidden gem, submit it here!

Today’s Hidden Gem of the Day was submitted by GolfWRX member ihatecats18, who takes us to The Bluffs Golf Course in Vermillion, South Dakota. The course sits along the Missouri River, and in his description of the track, I hatecats18 praises the fairness of the challenge provided.

“It has been a few years since I golfed here, but after playing it for one full summer it is a course I truly do miss.  It is home to the University of South Dakota golf and isn’t necessarily the toughest course out there, but it is fair. Holes 13-16 are amazing holes that make you make big choices on how to attack the green.”

According to The Bluffs Golf Course’s website, 18 holes during the week will cost you $24, with the rate rising to $32 on the weekend.

@KyleScanlon65

@MMCLancers

Check out the full forum thread here, and submit your Hidden Gem.

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Podcasts

TG2: Why does everyone want “Player’s Irons”? Epic Flash, M5, and M6 speculation

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In this episode of TG2, Knudson and Miller discuss Kevin Kisner’s comments about Patrick Reed. Also discussed: Who are players irons really for and why does every handicap want to play them? Finally, Knudson and Miller speculate about the new drivers from Callaway and TaylorMade.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

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Courses

Hidden Gem of the Day: Nevel Meade in Prospect, Kentucky

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These aren’t the traditional “top-100” golf courses in America, or the ultra-private golf clubs you can’t get onto. These are the hidden gems; they’re accessible to the public, they cost less than $50, but they’re unique, beautiful and fun to play in their own right. We recently asked our GolfWRX Members to help us find these “hidden gems.” We’re treating this as a bucket list of golf courses to play across the country, and the world. If you have a personal favorite hidden gem, submit it here!

Today’s Hidden Gem of the Day was submitted by GolfWRX member pearsonified, who takes us to Nevel Meade in Prospect, Kentucky. Pearsonified whets the appetite by describing Nevel Meade as “the absolute best value I’ve ever played”, and in his description of the course, pearsonified heaps praise on the conditioning of the course.

“This Steve Smyers design plays across gently-rolling terrain and features the nicest sub-$50 conditioning you will ever see (bentgrass tees, fairways, and greens with bluegrass rough). Shot values start high and stay there throughout the round, and the rhythm of the holes balances legit scoring opportunities with tough pars. Such a great track!”

According to Nevel Meade’s website, 18 holes can be played midweek with a cart for just $35, while the rate increases to $45 should you want to play on the weekend.

@john77cj7

@FredCowgillWLKY

@JasonRittenberry

Check out the full forum thread here, and submit your Hidden Gem.

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