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The 22 players who can win the 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 kacket based on criteria that has strongly predicted outcomes at Augusta. I usually get the list down to roughly 23 players. Last year, I had Patrick Reed as one of my 20 players that could win the Master and he won the green jacket despite being a long shot at 40/1 odds.

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 #6, #8, #13, #14 and #15.

Typically, the critical holes have been projected to be only one of the par-5s. But, the trend over the past five years now has a projection of three par-5s (#8, #13 and #15) being ‘Critical Holes’ which indicates that some added distance gains by the players may be impacting how the event is determined.

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.

Alvaro Ortiz (a)
Devon Bling (a)
Jovan Rebula (a)
Kevin O’Connell (a)
Takumi Kanaya (a)
Victor Hovland (a)
Aaron Wise
Adam Long
Andrew Landry
Corey Conners
Eddie Pepperrell
Justin Harding
Keith Mitchell
Kevin Tway
Lucas Bjeeregaard
Matt Wallace
Michael Kim
Shugo Imahira

I also filtered out 10 past champions that I do not believe can contend at Augusta National anymore:

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

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-5s, his strength.

This year, the forecast calls for temperatures in the high 70s to low 80s. There is some rain in the forecast, but softening the course tends to favor the longer hitters. However, the winds are expected to pick up a little which can help the shorter hitters, particularly those that are adept around the greens. However, I do not see the forecasted wind being enough to favor shorter hitters in this event. Thus, the following golfers have been filtered out due to not being long enough off the tee:

Brandt Snedeker
Danny Willett
Kevin Kisner
Kyle Stanley
Matt Kuchar
Matthew Fitzpatrick
Satoshi Kodaira
Webb Simpson
Zach Johnson

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 four players for hitting the ball too low. Out of those four players, the best finish was Russell Henley at T15th. I use a combination of Max Height, Carry Distance and Launch Angle to determine if the following players hit the ball too low to win at Augusta.

Charl Schwartzel
Charles Howell III
Jimmy Walker
Martin Kaymer
Paul Casey
Rafa Cabrera Bello
Si-Woo Kim

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.

Alex Noren
Patton Kizzire

I will also filter out the player that missed the cut at San Antonio. Historically, players that miss the cut the week prior have a substantially lower likelihood of winning the following week compared to the players that made the cut in the previous week or did not play at all.

Billy Horschel

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 12 players filtered out for poor Red Zone play. Outside of Dustin Johnson (T-10th), almost all of those players performed poorly.

Adam Scott
Branden Grace
Cameron Smith
Emiliano Grillo
Ian Poulter
J.B. Holmes
Jason Day
Jordan Spieth
Justin Thomas
Kevin Na
Kiradech Aphibarnrat
Louis Oosthuizen
Patrick Cantlay
Patrick Reed
Phil Mickelson
Stewart Cink
Thorbjorn Olesen
Tony Finau

I think the big surprise here is Justin Thomas. His Red Zone play has not been awful (108th) this season, but it not good enough in order for me to avoid filtering him out.

Now we are down to 22 golfers that can win The Masters. Their Vegas odds, which are subject to change, are listed in parentheses:

Brooks Koepka (25/1)
Bryson DeChambeau (33/1)
Bubba Watson (33/1)
Charley Hoffmann (80/1)
Dustin Johnson (10/1)
Francesco Molinari (22/1)
Gary Woodland (80/1)
Haotong Li (125/1)
Henrik Stenson (60/1)
Hideki Matsuyama (33/1)
Jon Rahm (16/1)
Justin Rose (14/1)
Keegan Bradley (125/1)
Marc Leishman (50/1)
Rickie Fowler (18/1)
Rory McIlroy (7/1)
Sergio Garcia (50/1)
Shane Lowry (150/1)
Tiger Woods (14/1)
Tommy Fleetwood (25/1)
Tyrrell Hatton (125/1)
Xander Schauffele (40/1)

Here are my personal top-10 picks:

Rory McIlroy (7/1)
Dustin Johnson (10/1)
Justin Rose (14/1)
Jon Rahm (16/1)
Francesco Molinari (22/1)
Brooks Koepka (25/1)
Tommy Fleetwood (25/1)
Bryson DeChambeau (33/1)
Marc Leishman (50/1)
Sergio Garcia (50/1)

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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, 2018 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

85 Comments

85 Comments

  1. Moses

    Apr 24, 2019 at 9:15 am

    Why is this story still up?

  2. DrRob1963

    Apr 15, 2019 at 8:02 pm

    The method in the article is too complicated and subjective, and picked only 5 of the top 8.
    Why not just pick the top 20 on the OWGR??? Too easy!!!
    This year, that would have selected all of the top 4, and 7 of the top 8!

    • Robert Mueller

      Apr 18, 2019 at 2:40 pm

      Luckily for Rich the article was “The 22 players that can win the Masters” and not “The 22 players who can top 8 in the Masters”.

  3. Adam Foxman

    Apr 15, 2019 at 2:05 pm

    Wow… Very interesting to read the day after

  4. Jurdun

    Apr 11, 2019 at 12:36 pm

    SPIETH redemption. He’s coming with a vengeance to shut up everyone calling him a choke artist.

    • Patrick Reed

      Apr 12, 2019 at 12:45 am

      75 baby…that’s some serious heat…

  5. Jamho3

    Apr 11, 2019 at 9:12 am

    Every year I look forwad to this. The best most predictive article of the year comes early in the season! Thanks so much!

  6. Paul

    Apr 11, 2019 at 4:08 am

    Corey Conners played in 2015 – he aint no first timer!

    • BD

      Apr 18, 2019 at 5:14 pm

      Obviously you cannot read. He played as an amateur before in 2015. The article says he filtered out the amateurs and all first-time professional attendees. Conners played in it for the first time professionally.

  7. Harrison

    Apr 10, 2019 at 1:53 pm

    Hey Rich, Thanks for doing this. Could you expand on the stats for Molinari? I like him quite a bit as well but am seeing rumblings that he is going to struggle with the length of the course (particularly attacking the par 5’s) in the wet/wind conditions as his wins have come on dry, fast courses.

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 10, 2019 at 5:24 pm

      He’s 11th in Apex Height and 75th in Carry Distance. His overall distance is slightly subpar, but his Apex and Carry Distance is good enough for him to make it thru the filters.

  8. nosedive32

    Apr 10, 2019 at 11:57 am

    Counting out Casey and Schwartzel based on trajectory? I think this may be the flaw in this system.

    Paul Casey is a Top 10 machine at Augusta and Charl has a win and a 3rd. Unless their trajectory this season is just way lower than the past I see this being the fail in the system.

    Casey wins Sunday

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 10, 2019 at 5:26 pm

      The numbers and historical data suggest that low ball flights do not do well at Augusta. Anything can happen. But, I have to go by the numbers. In the past, when Casey has made it thru the filter…he’s had his best finishes at Augusta.

    • Swirley

      Apr 11, 2019 at 6:40 pm

      How’s Casey doing genius boy?

  9. Robert

    Apr 10, 2019 at 11:29 am

    My not so scientific method is as follows.
    Must have played in Masters at least 2 times prior.
    Putting must be conventional – no claw, left hand low, locked to arm, or no long putter.
    That leaves McIlroy, D Johnson, Rahm, Molinari, Koepka, or Leishman from the above finalists.

  10. Cons

    Apr 10, 2019 at 11:20 am

    NEVER ever count out El Pato

  11. pfp

    Apr 10, 2019 at 9:03 am

    I show Cantlay at 13th in red zone scoring on the PGA website – am I missing something?
    https://www.pgatour.com/stats/stat.337.html

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 10, 2019 at 9:12 am

      That’s just shots from the fairway from 175-200 yards. Red Zone play is all shots from 175-225 yards. It also does not factor in his ‘strength of schedule’ from the Red Zone. For instance, if two players, A and B, both hit shots from 175-225 yards to 38 feet…but one player played courses where the avg. proximity is to 36 feet and player B played courses where the average proximity is to 40-feet…player B would actually be much better from the Red Zone than Player A.

      Currently, I have Cantlay ranked 116th in Red Zone play.

    • Dan l

      Apr 10, 2019 at 11:22 am

      225-175 add in 200<

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 10, 2019 at 5:29 pm

      Red Zone consists of shots from 175-225 yards…not 175-200 yards. Also, the statistic quoted does not factor in strength of schedule. For instance…two players (A and B) both hit the ball to 35 feet on average. But player A played courses where the field average prox to cup is 40 feet while player B played courses where the field average was 34 feet. In reality, Player A was a far superior performer.

      I have Cantlay ranked 116th from the Red Zone. And that filtered him out.

  12. JP

    Apr 9, 2019 at 6:21 pm

    Ive been thinking that Stenson would be a great pick. He is great from the red zone and long enough from the tee and really good with his mid and short irons. I question his putting at times, but it seems like he might be in a good form. Played good during the matchplay event.

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 10, 2019 at 9:14 am

      Stenson should have done better in the Masters than he has in his career. Like you say, he checks off most of the boxes…particularly with Red Zone play. The problem for him is that he relied too much on his 3-wood at augusta. Last year, he made a point to not hit so many 3-woods off the tee and he had his best finish ever at ANGC. However, he has not driven it all that great thus far this year and his age (43) works against him.

  13. Ashley Parish

    Apr 9, 2019 at 3:47 pm

    Glad to see my picks (Rose, Molinari, DJ and Hoffman) are all on the list. I picked Hoffman as the outsider pick. I didnt have the benefit of your statistics, just on prior and current form.

  14. Chad M

    Apr 9, 2019 at 1:49 pm

    Good read. Great picks.

  15. Pmoney

    Apr 9, 2019 at 11:21 am

    I have been following this guy article the last 3 years. He’s helped me win now 2 years in a row. Say what you want but y’all better pick a player from his top 10. He’s straight cash.

  16. TVGolfer

    Apr 9, 2019 at 11:05 am

    Thanks for the info. I found this article last year and rode Patrick Reed to winning the Masters pool at my club. A little over $400. I’ll be riding your info again.

  17. HC

    Apr 9, 2019 at 8:01 am

    I don’t care what anyone says. Look back over his past articles and you will see he has the top 10 nailed. I wait every year for this article since I found it a couple of years ago. Keep up the good work.

  18. Simz

    Apr 9, 2019 at 3:36 am

    Thanks again for this. I know there is no perfect science to predicting a winner, but this is close! I look forward to this every year.

    I will be back Rory again. But also like DJ, Phil and Rose.

  19. Ljk

    Apr 8, 2019 at 9:16 pm

    Adam Scott is currently 1st in red zone and 14th stroke gained putting. Hes also a previous champ. How can you leave him out? Unreal.

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 9, 2019 at 9:26 am

      Scott is not 1st from the Red Zone (175-225 yards). Currently, he’s 139th.

  20. Geoffrey Holland

    Apr 8, 2019 at 7:33 pm

    Basically with all your statistical mumbo-jumbo you ended up with the top 10 that almost anybody would agree are very likely to win The Masters without having to do any statistical analysis. If you really want to go out on a limb what you do is you name three players you think will win not just oh my guy won he was one of the 22 I chose well in a tournament where the field is about 80 that’s not difficult to do.

    • Steve

      Apr 9, 2019 at 12:59 pm

      Why don’t you go out on a limb, then jump off!

  21. Geoffrey Holland

    Apr 8, 2019 at 7:29 pm

    Fuzzy Zoeller was not the only first-time winner.
    It’s a green jacket, not a kacket. (surely as someone like you is so into stats you could figure out some way with some magical tool to proofread or spell check what you’re writing. especially as you’re someone who is trying to sell your services which would imply that you have a good attention to detail. Making stupid mistakes that you don’t catch because you don’t proofread or edit doesn’t bode well for anyone paying money for your services)

    • drkbstr

      Apr 9, 2019 at 9:28 am

      spice

    • Corey Trevor

      Apr 9, 2019 at 1:00 pm

      Why are you so salty, dude?

    • Sebas

      Apr 9, 2019 at 1:05 pm

      What a troll comment.

      Who are the other first-timers that won?

      And the guy is into math so he should be a perfect linguist, a perfect writer, and if he is not that means his math is not creditable?

      By the way your grammar, punctuation, and syntax is 5th-grade level. Trash.

    • Mark

      Apr 9, 2019 at 1:07 pm

      Hey Jeff…. your name is misspelled

    • Dave

      Apr 10, 2019 at 2:27 pm

      I love when guys bash someone for lack of spell check usage and proofreading and then go right into the next sentence and start it with a lower case letter. especially Geoffrey…right?

      I’ll make my predictions of the top 10 based off current Vegas odds. I’ll be sure and spell check before I post for you.

  22. O

    Apr 8, 2019 at 7:07 pm

    What about recent results, say, over the past month?
    Kisner won
    Casey won
    Mitchell absolutely bombs it
    Spieth shot 64 in the final round last year as bad as he was playing back then!

  23. Ray

    Apr 8, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    Yep. Smith shot 30 on the back nine on Sunday, missing a four footer on the 72nd. Useless article.

    • BF

      Apr 9, 2019 at 7:40 am

      Have you read his past articles? He’s usually spot on, with most of his top 20 picks making it to the top 10, and winning as well.

      http://www.golfwrx.com/author/richhunt/

      • Fang66

        Apr 9, 2019 at 8:57 am

        It is literally impossible for most of 20 to be in the top 10, at most half could be, and he is never anywhere that close.

  24. Tim

    Apr 8, 2019 at 6:52 pm

    Paul’s had a low drilling driver pretty much forever. Plays RtL but that too reduces apex. Combo of high draws off tee and high fades in is a tough one to find. Trevino first said he couldn’t win there cause hitting low he couldn’t carry the hills back in the 70s. ANGC trying keep up with longer but seems fewer are impacted by not “getting to the landing area” than used to be

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 9, 2019 at 9:30 am

      One comment. I don’t base the low height solely off the Apex Height. It’s also based on carry distance, launch, etc. Some years the combination of those metrics has not eliminated Paul. Some years it has. This year his ball flight is lower and that’s why he was eliminated. But next year, his ball flight may rise and that may not eliminate him.

  25. Jason

    Apr 8, 2019 at 5:11 pm

    I really look forward to this article each year so thanks Rich. My money is on someone from the UK this year and I specifically like Fleetwood to earn the jacket. He obviously has the game (many do) but it will all come down to wits on Sunday. Rose has the wits, not sure about McIlroy on Sunday. Fleetwood has been doing well in the majors past year.
    Funny thing about hitting the ball high- I can still remember Ken Venturi commenting during Masters telecast about Paul Azinger and that he wouldn’t win the Masters because he couldn’t hit the ball “high”. I guess that was some point in the 90’s? Not sure what year that was but have never forgot the statement. I haven’t been to Augusta but apparently hitting the ball high is a limiting reagent for success.

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 9, 2019 at 9:32 am

      Based on the numbers, it had McIlroy and Rose as the top-2 projected performers at Augusta. Fleetwood got off to a slow start, but really came on his last couple of tournaments. He’s got the game for Augusta, he just needs more opportunities.

  26. marc blanchard

    Apr 8, 2019 at 5:09 pm

    Easy enough read for most golfers, but most “staticians” would argue with the method…
    1)Using different filters one after the other will most often lead to local optima only and miss the sweet spot.
    2)Ball height looks very flawed. Who cares about driving height? And there is no stat available for irons height (Casey and Champ very low of the tee… but Casey hits his irons better than most and no need to mention Champ’s distance, which only leaves wedges even to most par 5)
    3)Clearly some filters are very correlated, like driving distance, ball height, red zone efficiency. These three are more or less filtering down the same thing, bringing very little to the table.

    On the other hand a simple PCA including driving distance, GIR, strokes gained putting and major top 10 would probably yield a better list. Of course that would not make for a good read…

    Your top ten is much better than your top 22, as you clearly bring back some common sense into it, but I would personally forget about Rose, Garcia, Leishman and Rahm and take instead Fowler, Thomas, Schauffele and Hoffman. And Phil as an extra pick.

    • juliette91

      Apr 8, 2019 at 5:46 pm

      Well done! I don’t have the background – or brainpower- for the targeted analysis you shared. What you’ve said makes much sense. Thanks for weighing in here.

    • Josh

      Apr 8, 2019 at 7:54 pm

      Champ ain’t playing. Great analysis tho, bud.

      • H

        Apr 9, 2019 at 1:21 am

        LOL!!! right on, dude, right on

      • marc blanchard

        Apr 9, 2019 at 9:03 pm

        Oh my! I assumed Cam Champ was already OWGR top 50, my bad… Will be a good year with a lot of top dogs on form and warm weather. If only Tiger could have started his season earlier, would be so much fun to have him in contention on Sunday.
        Some good value bets on Rory, Casey, Hoffman and Kisner to perform early… Hedge them on Saturday evening.

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 9, 2019 at 9:39 am

      The ball height filter is not solely based on Apex Height. It’s based on Apex Height, Carry Distance, launch angle and spin. For example, there have been years where I do not filter out Paul Casey despite his low Apex Height because his carry distance and launch are high enough.

      So, if Champ were playing at ANGC, he would not be eliminated due to his carry distance overriding his lower trajectory.

      As far as Justin Thomas goes, he’s 110th from the Red Zone. Phil is 146th from the Red Zone. Schauffele is 87th…good enough to not be eliminated from the final 22, but I didn’t want to put in my top-10.

  27. Porker

    Apr 8, 2019 at 5:08 pm

    Nice read, I think it’s going to boil down to 1 or 2 exceptional shots on day 4, maybe a hole-out or pitch in with a steady score on the rest of the holes to stay 1 shot ahead of the pack… playoff probably

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 9, 2019 at 9:42 am

      The past 5 years the event has really come down to 2 players on Sunday. Then another player shoots a low round on Sunday and either grabs 2nd or 3rd place, but is not a big threat to actually win. I think the question is whether that trend continues or if it stops and more players get into contention in the final round.

    • Mario B

      Apr 10, 2019 at 8:21 am

      Last year was all about this long range putt from Reed on 17th… If it didn’t catch a bit of the hole it would have gone 5 yards past. Good break there, Ricky would have torn him to bits in a playoff.
      What a day from Spieth before his nasty 18th drive, and what an amazing display of professionalism from Ricky Fowler! He is relentless; if Rory had that feature he would be unbeatable.

  28. johnnyb

    Apr 8, 2019 at 4:43 pm

    I am surprised the Schwartzl and Casey got cut for height. Has their trajectory lowered over the years? If so do you know why that is?

    • Cam

      Apr 8, 2019 at 4:50 pm

      What about kuch the douche?

      • GT Man

        Apr 8, 2019 at 4:56 pm

        Wipe that stupid smile off your dumb face, and I hope you get the shanks. You’re an embarrassment to GT.

  29. Barry

    Apr 8, 2019 at 4:38 pm

    I think Paul Casey has a great chance this year- weird as I always thought he hit the ball very high when I watched him live but you ruled him out for trajectory-Bryson WILL win, Casey top 10 at least!

  30. golfraven

    Apr 8, 2019 at 4:31 pm

    I may as well give my prediction. DJ sucked it up last year and jR two years ago so it will be one of those. Tiger could have a shot put he is not ready yet to pull off the show. I say Justin Rose. I ain‘t staying up till 2pm to watch it anyway.

  31. golfraven

    Apr 8, 2019 at 4:26 pm

    Did I mention it already that Masters is rigged. So you may just bin this. Cheers

  32. Josh

    Apr 8, 2019 at 4:21 pm

    I know Rich is a stats guy but come on, I had to laugh to myself the first sentence. Kacket???

  33. ZQ

    Apr 8, 2019 at 4:03 pm

    Absolutely useless piece. Your red zone eliminations consist of several major winners including masters winners lol. But guys like hatton and li get the nod? Senseless.

  34. B_of_H

    Apr 8, 2019 at 3:59 pm

    I think Tiger wins it.

  35. Nathan

    Apr 8, 2019 at 3:43 pm

    I only put you as a shank because I don’t see how you can leave Tiger out of your top 10 given how he’s played coming into this event and his experience here.

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 9, 2019 at 9:49 am

      The algorithm I created had Tiger ranked 7th in the field. The algorithm looks weights certain areas of the game more based on the golf course at hand. However, this does not factor in age which works against Tiger at Augusta.

      Also, Tiger wasn’t in the top-10 by a wide margin. The numbers for players ranked #5-#13 are very close.

      If Tiger’s data was clearly inside the top-10, then I can’t go against the data. Since it was close and given his age along with my instincts…I didn’t have Tiger in my personal top-10. But, his data shows that he can clearly win this week.

  36. Paul Peters

    Apr 8, 2019 at 3:23 pm

    how many 175-225 shots do they actually hit? Wedge 2-3-7-8-9 8 iron 10-14-17. Also Cam Smith finished T5

  37. Bones

    Apr 8, 2019 at 3:04 pm

    Small correction needed: Conners competed as an am so he shouldn’t be filtered out in the first round.

  38. Stew

    Apr 8, 2019 at 2:36 pm

    Where’s B. An?

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 8, 2019 at 3:10 pm

      I don’t believe he was invited. IIRC, he was set to be invited and then got beat out in OWGR at the last second to lose his invitation. I have looked at 3 different invitee lists and he’s not on there.

  39. Tom

    Apr 8, 2019 at 2:20 pm

    Jordan Spieth dominates this course (T2, 1, T2, T11, 3) but he’s not considered one of your favorites?

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 8, 2019 at 3:19 pm

      In making projections for performance, recency trumps historical performance. With Spieth’s struggles on long approach shots, putting and driving…his odds do not look good. Having said that, he had a pretty strong performance at Valero and that may turn into a strong performance at Augusta.

  40. Tom54

    Apr 8, 2019 at 2:19 pm

    I can sort of relate to your elimination process but how in the world can you filter out a 3 time champion Phil Mickelson as good as his short game is?

  41. C

    Apr 8, 2019 at 2:18 pm

    Take out Rahm, DJ and Koepka due to their tendency to hit fades off tees.

    • Kenny Lee

      Apr 8, 2019 at 2:45 pm

      And Nicklaus too. You can take him out.

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 8, 2019 at 4:05 pm

      Curvature of the ball has had very little impact on performance as Jack, Arnie, etc. have won there. In recent years, guys like Cabrera, Tiger, Sergio, etc…all fade players have had success there.

      Now that ANGC has some form of ShotLink data, it shows the problem with the draw being advantageous theory. For starters, there are some key holes (#7, #11 and #18) that favor a fade. But the bigger issue is that on holes like #13 and #15 which favor the draw…they have so much curvature in their design that it’s a bigger draw than even Tour players that draw the ball are comfortable with.

      What we see as a bigger issue is the ability to hit the ball high. And if a player hits a low-cut…fuhgetabouit. Low cut players like Trevino, Monty and Azinger all had major issues at ANGC. Rahm, Koepka and DJ have no problem hitting the ball high (and long) and I wouldn’t take them out of the picture.

  42. MuniMulli

    Apr 8, 2019 at 2:18 pm

    Where can I get a Green Kacket?

  43. JP

    Apr 8, 2019 at 1:54 pm

    Patrick Cantlay will win by 2 strokes. Book it at 75/1
    .
    Buy a new house for a $5,000 bet

    • William Davis

      Apr 9, 2019 at 12:12 pm

      When? On Tuesday evening, maybe. Everyone else will have gone home.

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Mondays Off

Mondays Off: Steve recaps his match with the 2nd assistant and Knudson’s golf weekend

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Steve recaps his match against the 2nd assistant and if he won or lost. Knudson gets asked about a guys golf weekend and if his back will hold up. Knudson tosses his brother under the bus.

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19th Hole

5 men who need to win this week’s Open Championship for their season to be viewed as a success

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The year’s final major championship is upon us, with 156 players ready to battle it out at Royal Portrush for the Claret Jug. The oldest tournament in the sport presents the last opportunity for players to achieve major glory for nine months, and while some players will look back at this year’s majors and view them as a success, others will see them as a missed opportunity.

Here are five players who will tee it up at The Open, needing a win to transform their season, and in doing so, their career.

Adam Scott

Adam Scott has looked revived in 2019 with four top-10 finishes, including a T7 at the U.S. Open and a T8 at the PGA Championship. The Australian hasn’t won since 2016, and at 39-years-old, Scott knows better than anyone that the final narrative over his career comes down to whether or not he can add to his lone major championship victory he achieved at the 2013 Masters.

Speaking following his final round at Pebble Beach last month, Scott stated

“I’m angry; I want to win one of these so badly. I play so much consistent golf. But that’s kind of annoying; I’d almost rather miss every cut and win one tournament for the year if that win was a major.” 

A gut-wrenching finish cost Scott the Claret Jug at Royal Lytham and St. Annes seven years ago, and the 39-year-old has held at least a share of the back-nine lead on Sunday on three occasions at the event since 2012. The Australian’s statement following the U.S. Open says it all; a successful 2019 depends on whether or not he can finally put his Open Championship demons to bed.

Dustin Johnson

With a win in Mexico earlier this year, Dustin Johnson has now made it 11 straight seasons with at least one victory on the PGA Tour. However, Johnson continues to be judged, rightly or wrongly, on his struggles to capture major championships. The 35-year-old remains on one major victory for his career, which is a hugely disappointing total for a player of his talent.

Should the American remain stuck on one major for another nine months following this week’s event, it’s hard to imagine the 35-year-old feeling satisfied. Johnson came to Pebble Beach last month as the prohibitive favorite and failed to fire, but it’s what occurred at the PGA Championship which will leave a sour taste. With Brooks Koepka feeling the heat, Johnson had the opportunity to step up and reverse his major championship fortune, but two bogeys in his final three holes just added to his ‘nearly man’ tag at the most significant events.

A win in Northern Ireland removes both the ‘nearly man’ and ‘one major wonder’ tags, and turns his least successful season, victory wise, into one of his best.

Rory McIlroy

Whatever happens this week at Royal Portrush, Rory McIlroy’s season has been impressive, but it’s missing something big. That something is a win at a major championship, and it’s been missing since 2014. To avoid a five-year drought at the majors, McIlroy must win the 148th Open Championship at home, and with it, claim the greatest victory of his career.

Speaking prior to this week’s tournament, McIlroy stated

“I want to win for me. It’s not about trying to do something in front of friends and family.”

The home-town hero is currently in the midst of one of the greatest ball-striking seasons of all time. But without a win at a major to show for it, there’s undoubtedly going to be frustration and regret in the aftermath. On the flip side, should the Ulsterman triumph this week then it would likely eclipse his double major season success of 2014, and according to the man himself, it would also eclipse anything that he could ever go on to achieve in the game thereafter.

Rickie Fowler

Without getting his hands on a major, the narrative behind Rickie Fowler is not going to change. ‘The best player without a major’ tag has been there for a while now with Fowler – who hasn’t been close to shaking it off in 2019. Victory at the Phoenix Open back in February snapped a 24-month streak without a win on the PGA Tour, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone considering the 30-year-old’s season a success without him finally getting the monkey off his back and entering the winner’s circle at a major.

Justin Rose

Justin Rose turns 39-years-old this year, and each season from now to the house, he will be judged on his success at the majors. With  wins at the U.S. Open and Olympics already achieved in his career, a successful season for the Englishman now depends on whether he can become a multiple major champion.

Talking ahead of his bid to win his first Open Championship, Rose said

“People don’t come up to me and say, ‘Hey, you won the FedEx!’. It’s the US Open, the Olympic gold, the Ryder Cup. I’m 40 next year and yes, the clock is ticking.

I’ve had three top threes in the majors in the last three seasons, with two seconds, so I know I’m right there doing the right things. It’s just a case of making it happen again, because the chances won’t keep coming forever.”

Rose’s sense of urgency may stem from tough losses at the 2017 Masters, 2018 Open Championship and more recently at the 2019 U.S. Open. In Rose’s favor is that the average age of winners of The Open since 2011 is almost five years higher than the average age of those who won the Masters, and over eight years older than those who won the U.S. Open. To elevate his 2019 to elite levels, Rose is relying on victory at Royal Portrush.

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The Wedge Guy: Scoring Series Part 2: Pitching

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As I wrote two weeks ago, I consider there to be five basic elements to “scoring range performance”, and I dove into the full swing shorts irons and wedges last week. This week I’m going to address “pitching,” which I define as those shots with your wedges that require much less than a full swing. In my opinion, this is the most difficult part of golf to master, but the good news is that it is within reach of every golfer, as physical strength is pretty much neutralized in this aspect of the game.

Before I get into this, however, please understand that I am writing a weekly article here, and do not for a minute think that I can deliver to you the same level of insight and depth that you can get from any of the great books on the short game that are available. There are some genuine “gurus” out there who have made a living out of writing books and sharing their expertise—Dave Pelz, Stan Utley, et al. One of my favorites from a long time ago is Tom Watson’s “Getting Up and Down.” The point is, if you are committed to improving this part of your game, it will take much more than a few hundred words from a post of mine to get you there.

I will also suggest that there are no short cuts to an effective short game. I know of no other way to become a deadly chipper and pitcher of the ball than to invest the time to learn a sound technique and develop the touch skills that allow you to hits an endless variety of shots of different trajectories, distances and spin rates. As the old saying goes: “If it were easy everyone would do it.” In my opinion, it is mostly short game skills that separate good players from average, and great ones from good. Those greenside magicians we see on TV every week didn’t get there by spending minimal time learning and practicing these shots.

So, with that “disclaimer” set forth, I will share my thoughts on the basic elements of good pitching technique, as I see it.

As with any golf shot, a sound and proper set up is crucial to hitting great pitch shots
consistently. I believe great pitch shots are initiated by a slightly open stance, which allows you
to clear your body through impact and sets up the proper swing path, as I’ll explain later.

Your weight distribution should be favored to your lead foot, the ball should be positioned for the shot you want to hit (low, medium or high) and maybe most importantly, your hands must be positioned so that they are hanging naturally from your shoulders. I firmly believe that great pitch shots cannot be hit if the hands are too close or too far from your body.

The easy way to check this is to release your left hand from the grip, and let it hang naturally, then move the club so that the left hand can take its hold. The clubhead will then determine how far from the ball you should be. To me, that is the ideal position from which to make a good pitch shot.

Second is the club/swing path. I believe the proper path for good pitch shots has the hands moving straight back along a path that is nearly parallel to the target line, and the through swing moving left after impact. This path is set up by the more open stance at address. The gurus write extensively about swing path, and they all seem to pretty much agree on this as a fundamental. Taking the club back too far inside the line is probably more damaging than too far outside, as the latter is really pretty hard to do actually. My observations of recreational golfers indicate that the inside backswing path is “set up” by the ball being too close or too far from their feet at address, as I explained earlier.

I also believe (from observation and experience) that many recreational golfers do not engage their torso enough in routine pitch shots. This is NOT an arm swing; a rotation of the shoulders is tantamount to good pitch shots, and the shoulders must keep rotating through impact. Stopping the rotation at impact is, in my observation, the main cause of chunks and bladed shots, as that causes the clubhead to move past the hands and get out of plane.

Finally, I’ll address swing speed. Again, in my observation, most recreational golfers get too quick with this part of the game. The swing is shorter for these shots, but that should not make it quicker. One of my favorite analogies is to compare golf to a house painter. In the wide-open areas, he uses a sprayer or big roller for power, and works pretty darn quickly. As he begins to cut in for the windows and doors, he chooses a smaller brush and works much more slowly and carefully. Finally, he chooses very specialized trim brushes to paint the window and door trim, baseboards, etc. I like to compare our wedges to the painter’s trim brushes. Slow and careful wins.

I think learning distance control is the hardest part of becoming a good pitcher of the ball. And there are many approaches to this part of the equation. My opinion is that your expectations and therefore your approach to this aspect of it should be commensurate with your willingness to spend the time on the range or course. And I just do not know of a short cut, I’m sorry to say. But I will share something that I’ve learned works pretty well and is reasonably easy to learn.

First, find a “half swing” length that feels comfortable to you, and by that I mean repeatable. For most, it seems to be where the lead arm is about parallel to the ground. From that position, I like to think of three different downswing speeds – country road (i.e. 50 mph), neighborhood driving (30 mph) and school zone (15 mph). We’ll leave freeway speed for the driver, and regular highway speed for our fairways, hybrids and irons.

If you can internalize what these three speeds feel like for you, it only takes a little time to figure out how far each wedge goes at these three speeds, and then you can further dissect this by gripping down on each wedge to cut those gaps even tighter.

Again, I’m limited by space in this blog, but these ideas will hopefully get you thinking about meaningful practice and implementation. And in no way, are these few words intended to cover the subject as thoroughly as Pelz, Utley and others have done in series of books and videos. The more you learn and practice, the better you will get. That’s just the facts.

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