With just a week now to go until the first major of the year kicks off, it’s time to take a closer look at some of the leading contenders for the Masters. Taking course history, current form and the necessary skill sets into account, here are my top-10 power rankings.
10. Bubba Watson ( current odds 33/1)
It has been a bit of a mixed bag for Bubba Watson so far in 2019, with two top-five finishes, a missed cut and a very early exit last week at the WGC-Match Play. But Watson remains a threat at Augusta, as he showed last year on his way to a T5 finish. He was arguably in better form heading down Magnolia Lane 12 months ago, but a T4 finish at the Valspar a couple of weeks ago should hold the left-hander in good stead.
Watson’s work off the tee in 2019 has been excellent, and it’s an area which will no doubt give him a launching pad to get himself into contention next week. The two-time Masters champion sits seconds in next week’s field for strokes gained: off the tee over his last 24 rounds, an area which only Rory McIlroy can boast better numbers. A cause for concern, however, is his iron play. Watson has lost strokes to the field in four of his last five starts for his approach play and stands 91st this season for strokes gained: approaching the green. Considering just how much the course fits Watson’s eye though, don’t be too surprised if he turns those numbers on their head next week.
9. Hideki Matsuyama (33/1)
With five top-20 finishes in his last six starts, and with three of them being top-10 finishes, Hideki Matsuyama heads to Augusta National in confident mood. The Japanese star is still in search of his first major championship, and history suggests that the Masters is as likely a place as any for the world number 26 to make the breakthrough. With four successive top-20 finishes at the Masters, three of which were top-11 finishes, Matsuyama has the game to conquer Augusta.
Over his previous 24 rounds, Matsuyama ranks second in next week’s field for both strokes gained: tee to green and ball striking, and first in strokes gained: approaching the green. His elite long game should ensure that he stays in touch, but a balky putter could prevent Matsuyama from claiming his first major next week. Matsuyama ranks 183rd this season in strokes gained: putting, and finished dead last in this department at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The 27-year-old did, however, gain strokes on the greens at TPC Sawgrass which is cause for optimism.
8. Phil Mickelson (50/1)
Another man with excellent course history that you can’t ignore is Phil Mickelson. Lefty has stumbled as of late, missing back-to-back cuts before suffering an early exit at the WGC-Match Play, which isn’t exactly ideal preparation for the colossal test that is Augusta National. However, Mickelson has a win to his name already this year, and when he achieved that victory at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, it was off a missed cut at the Phoenix Open, which suggests that there is no real need to panic.
In typical Mickelson fashion, the 48-year-old took the positives out of his early exit last week, telling Golf Channel
“I think that’s why I’ve enjoyed this Match Play. If things don’t go well … I get an extra day or two there (Augusta).”
Just like Watson, Mickelson has a love affair with Augusta, winning there three times previously, and though he would need to make history to triumph there again and become the oldest champion in the tournament’s history, Mickelson has shown already this year that he has the game to do it. Despite the hype and hope surrounding his career grand slam chances in June at the US Open, Mickelson’s best chances of major glory remain at Augusta National.
7. Adam Scott (40/1)
In case you missed it on Wednesday, I’m high on Adam Scott at this year’s Masters. The Australian is flying well under the radar, and all areas of his game are in sync as he prepares for his major assault at Augusta. The 38-year-old ranks top-25 in every significant stroke gained category over his previous 12 rounds and looks confident once again with the putter in hand. Scott ranks 17th so far this season for strokes gained: putting, and if he can showcase that form on the greens for four days next week then he will have every chance.
6. Justin Thomas (18/1)
It wasn’t very long ago that people were calling Justin Thomas the best player in the world. Five top-10 finishes from his opening six starts of 2019 did much to back up those claims, but Thomas has begun to cool off over the last few weeks, which is a little worrying. A T30 at the Honda Classic was followed by a T35 finish at the Players, and last week he crashed out of the WGC-Match Play in the group stages. Despite this recent form, I believe that the 25-year-old is poised for his best Masters performance yet.
Thomas has been trending very nicely at Augusta National, with finishes of 39-22-17 in his last three appearances there. There is a steep learning curve at Augusta, and Thomas has now served his apprenticeship. Over his previous 24 rounds, Thomas sits third in strokes gained: total, fifth in ball striking, and crucially at a track which demands exceptional touch, the American ranks second in strokes gained: around the green over the same period. Possessing the ability to get hot and stay hot as well as anyone in the game, Thomas has the ability to win on any course. More so than the other betting favorites, a hot start could be crucial for the 2017 PGA Champion’s confidence levels considering his recent stuttering form.
On Spec: Winners’ WITBs and my week in golf
The original 0311
In the first episode of “The Disruptors,” GolfWRX’s new video series with PXG, Johnny Wunder sits down with company founder Bob Parsons for an in-depth talk about Parsons’ background and got into the golf equipment business.
The Bob I know
I’ll start by saying this: Bob Parsons has a stigma attached to him. With every move he makes or idea he pushes, many people think: Rich guy. No perspective. Who does he think he is?
I also need to say this (whether you believe it or not): This is not a puff piece. This is my honest perspective as I have experienced. Until 30 days ago, I didn’t have one PXG club in my bag and have never been given favor from PXG to “make them look good.”
OK, that’s out of the way, so you know what isn’t the motivation here. The motivation is to describe my relationship with Bob, so the golf community knows exactly who he is, why he is so important, and why we don’t want him to ever go away.
I first met Bob Parsons on December 11th, 2007 on the set of the first commercial I ever booked as an actor. It was for GoDaddy.com, and it was a Super Bowl ad that was later banned and became a “cult classic” for years to come. On the set of that commercial, Bob showed up before principal photography began and walked up to every person on that set (100 people) and personally introduced himself and thanked them for the hard work. When I met and I told him my name, he said in a way only Bob can, “Johnny Wunder!? I’ll never forget that name, that’s a no brainer.”
Fast forward to March of 2018 and PXG’s initial launch of the GEN2 irons. Before our interview was set up, I was reintroduced to him, and he said “Johnny Wunder!? THE Johnny Wunder? I know that name. We have met. I never forget a name.” I explained how we met and he started to laugh, “I may forget a face, Johnny, but I’d never forget a name like that.”
Since then, I have interviewed Bob four times and been his guest during product launches. NOBODY does hospitality like Bob. NOBODY. You are inside the bubble, and you are well taken care of but also respected to the utmost degree. He understands the job we in the media have and will give you everything he can to make the experience worthwhile. Yes, Bob has a larger-than-life on-camera persona. It’s big, funny, gregarious, and to some, intimidating. Bob off camera is a bit of a different thing. He’s a thoughtful, quiet man that will ask about your kids far before he asks what you think about his products.
I recall a morning he called me personally to ask me a question, it was a Saturday, if memory serves, and when I picked up the phone and realized it was him, I had to kind of laugh. Not at him but at his first few comments
- Apologized for interrupting my family’s Saturday morning
- Asked how my family was doing and if the kids were fans of golf
- Asked how I was doing beyond work and what I was planning for the rest of the year
These were real questions from a man that REALLY cares. Care is the key word here. I’ll get to that in a moment. After the call was done, he thanked me and wanted to make sure I told my wife that he apologized for stealing me away (if only for a few minutes) from my family on a Saturday morning.
This is not Bob selling me. This is Bob.
The message here is that Bob cares, immensely, about improving the conditions of those he can. Yes his clubs are expensive. Get past that. Yes he has a ton of cash. Get past that. Yes his persona is BIG. Get past that. He spun the industry on its head by introducing and selling clubs that were “too expensive.” “He will never make it” was something I hear a lot. Well that idea is now put to bed as PXG, leading with its strong chin, made it OK to spend a lot of money on golf clubs. He paved the way for bespoke companies like Artisan, Tyson Lamb, National Custom Works to charge premium prices for custom gear. I think any gearhead on GolfWRX could find a way to be thankful for that one…just for the Instagram pictures alone.
The interview accompanying this article will give you just a glimpse as to who Bob really is. He came from nothing. He built this. He dug it outta the dirt. He is the American Dream walking and talking. No one gave him anything. In this day and age, I honor that narrative. I respect the hell out of it, and I want my kids to see men and woman like this.
It’s the real “meat on the table” that Bob has. You can’t learn this in school, you have to learn it by trying and failing A LOT. PXG is something he built. He didn’t hire smart people to do his bidding, he hired smart people to learn from and get in the mud with. PXG clubs are the product of that collaboration. PXG clubs are not Bob, but they are a symbol of how much this guy cares about doing things differently. He’s a disruptor. He cares. That’s all that matters.
I hope you see what I see. Enjoy the interview.
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