I wish I were writing this column from Augusta National, sitting on Hogan Bridge, watching the babbling waters of Rae’s Creek below and listening to birds amongst the flowering trees and azalea bushes.
Alas, I am not. I do, however, have high definition television and a window I can open to let some semblance of spring in while the immaculate 12th green gets pelted with approach shots. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s Masters week! So, let’s break down the nuances of the par-3 contest and practice rounds in this week’s edition of Risk, Reward, Ruin.
OK, I’m kidding. That would be some degenerate fantasy gaming right there, but I’m not exactly going to deafen your excitement.
What we do have is a Masters without Tiger Woods. I almost can’t believe it’s happening after such a successful year last season. But this week is not just about Tiger, and if you follow the PGA Tour a lot, you know how many truly exquisite golfers are in the field. So many that if this week were a “Tiger or the field?” scenario, the majority would take the field.
What will matter this week is experience at Augusta, emotional maturity to handle the unforgiving nature of a major tournament and Amen Corner, and a game that’s in tip-top shape. And a dose of luck, but to whom that will dispense remains a mystery until the appropriate jaw-dropping time.
This past weekend, Lady Luck smiled on rookie Matt Jones at the Shell Houston Open, while simultaneously kicking Matt Kuchar square in the flowering crab apples. Jones snagged an invite to the place where defending Green Jacket wearer Adam Scott nailed down the first Masters win for an Aussie. Kuchar was left to digest yet another 54-hole collapse.
So let’s dig into some… wallaby? I really don’t know the cuisine of Australia or what can be imported. Who cares, it’s Masters week! And this is a major edition of Risk, Reward, Ruin.
In a major, the line between champion and also-ran is extremely thin. It’s about holding an even temperament for four days, for saving par at a crucial juncture, for knowing the difference when to play safe or make a go at a flagstick. Augusta National only amplifies those intricacies within a round of golf. There’s a bevy of talent in this field and being a Risk isn’t a slight, but it should be your own personal moment to evaluate whether you should attacking the pin or just get safely on.
That Mickelson played well at the SHO was a great sign for his fans and for TV ratings, especially with Tiger out. Lefty is now the main media focus for the week and his game seems suited now to a made cut. After that promising T12, Mickelson gets to take aim at winning a fourth Green Jacket (2004, ’06, ’10). Last year was his worst result in a while at The Masters (T54), but his experience and swing set up perfectly to maneuver the course one more time, even if he can be erratic at times.
I’m putting Johnson down as a risk this week because of that abysmal first-round 80 in Houston and subsequent withdrawal for the provided reason of a stiff back. Who knows what that was about, but I probably still won’t shy away from using him. His length off the tee will put him in very good approach scenarios. This is still a player with five top-6 finishes this season, including a win. His T4 at the WGC-Cadillac Championship is why everyone looked at him so loftily last week. One bad round can’t entirely dissuade. As for The Masters, he’s 4 for 4 and his best result came last year with a T13. If he can cut down on a few more strokes each round and turn 74s into even-par rounds, he could grab his first major title.
Day has an elite game and is becoming known as someone who contends for majors. But he has a thumb injury that is going to cause a bunch of headaches this week. If he’s 100 percent, Day will be the guy who finished solo third last year and T2 in his debut of 2011. It’s been a disappointing follow-up to Day’s WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship victory. That’s six weeks without competitive golf for the No. 4 ranked player in the world, who desperately wants to win his favorite tournament.
A young gun, but a guy who grew up in Georiga and played his collegiate golf just down the road in Athens at the University of Georgia. Of the inexperienced breed, English has the best chance to win of first-time participants, which is backed by his fantasy golf best six top-10 finishes this season. He’s already aced the par-3 12th in an Augusta practice round, and he has two wins on Tour in the last two years, including one earlier this season. Statistically speaking, he leads the Tour in greens in regulation and par-5 birdies, which works well with his driving length and accuracy. Unless his game just completely abandons him, he could be a sneaky pick in some games, especially Yahoo, since he’s in Group C.
Why would someone who’s finished in the top 15 the last four years slide into this category? Remember, this is fantasy golf. If you use Westwood, you’re leaving someone else off. In Yahoo leagues, that leaves just one pick left of Scott, Mickelson, Kuchar or 2012 champion Bubba Watson. Can you imagine if Tiger was in the field too? Ouch. All for a top-20? Be honest, you don’t think he’ll win, and I want to stack my lineup with guys I think I can. Westwood’s best finish was a T3 in 2012, yet he comes with the knowledge of his late-tournament collapses.
The cream of the crop, that’s what you want sprinkled into your lineup this week, if not heavily doused in championship pedigree. In terms of gaming, I’m excited by majors, but I don’t view it as a week where you get risky. Because everyone will pick the favorites, you can’t lose ground if you use the chalk. You can, however, try to get cute and really dig a hole. You want chalk this week, and what you can do is try to be smart about who to start in daily leagues. Here’s my top five for this week in no particular order.
He already has one Green Jacket in his closet and all he’s done since 2007 is validate what is looking more and more like a Hall of Fame career. He now has 11 career wins, including one this season at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and two other top-10 finishes, including a T6 two weeks ago at the Valero Texas Open. He’s 4 for 6 at Augusta since his win, but he is currently in the peak form of his career. He’s fourth in driving accuracy, 11th in GIR and 11th in scrambling. That’s a nice combination to have this week.
Man, I’m bummed. I had Kuchar pegged as a first-time major winner this week. His play at the SHO validated as much, and then he choked away another big lead and left huge question marks as to whether he actually will win a major. OK, choked may be a strong word because Jones’ 42-yard hole-out chip was awesome, but Kuchar’s errant water shot on No. 18 is the kind of thing that cannot happen at Augusta. That said, it’s still a solo second in a tough field. It’s still a T4 the week before at the VTO. It’s still nine top-10s this year. On top of that, Kuchar finished T8 last year and T3 the year before, and is 4 for 4 since his well-publicized seven-year absence. He’s playing lights out and should be in the top 10. I just hope he’s chasing down the lead as opposed to holding it early. Maybe then he can reach an elite club.
In contrast to Kuchar, Garcia played steady all the way through the SHO. Despite his self-proclaimed mental block on winning majors, he’s absolutely capable. Accurate off the tee and a strong putter, Garcia can get the monkey off his back this week and, in the process, eliminate quite a few haters. In limited PGA Tour starts with his European Tour schedule, Garcia has four top-10s, including last week’s solo third. He was T8 at The Masters last year and T12 the year before and has made his last five cuts. He has the best scoring average on Tour this year, hits GIR, is tops in scrambling and has a deft touch with the putter. He’ll be right there this week.
McIlroy left Houston with a good taste in his mouth after a bogey-free 7-under par 65 on Sunday. We all know about his shankapotamus hook into the ground around Butler Cabin, which set up a triple-bogey on No. 10. In all, he lost seven strokes in just 12 holes. His final-round 80 dropped him 10 strokes behind winner Charl Schwartzel. Lost in that is how a young man led by one with nine holes to go. Now McIlroy is back with a renewed focus, better swing and tons of recent success. Three top-10s, including a playoff loss at The Honda Classic and his T7 last week are great signs that the No. 9 player in the world is ready to add a Green Jacket to his collection of two major championships.
The No. 2 golfer in the world has done nothing since last year’s Masters win to suggest that he can’t win consecutively, which hasn’t been done since Woods did it in 2001-’02. He’s coming off a solo third at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, his fifth top-10 this season. In addition to last year, Scott finished T8 in 2012 and T2 in ’11. He should be in every lineup this week and for good reason.
There are 97 golfers in the field this week. It’s fairly easy to pick out five names who just won’t contend, but you need to look beyond that to those names that appear tempting yet could get you in trouble in a hurry. For that reason, they are ruin. Here’s five I’m staying away from this week.
While Spieth will be making his debut just as English is, I’m a bit wary as to how ‘s played the last four tournaments he’s been in. His scoring average has been high despite very scorable courses. This is especially true with a missed cut last week at the SHO. That is particularly worrisome as you wonder if he just struggled with green speed and what not. The Masters will put him through the ringer and just like last year’s U.S. Open and PGA Championship did, when he missed the cut in both. And statistically, he’s struggling a bit tee to green. Spieth has the talent, he just needs a bit of seasoning.
No Shell Houston Open winner has won the Masters the week after, even though the course has been generally seen as prep for Augusta National’s slick greens and collection areas. So Jones must enjoy the $1.1 million payday that came with his first Tour victory and the subsequent kiss of death. I’m sure he’ll manage. That said, he is a rookie and making his first trip to the hallowed grounds. I’m sure there will be nerves at Augusta and emotionally he may be out of whack.
This might shock some, and I am very well aware of Cabrera’s track record at Augusta, as well as majors in general. I’m very well aware two-time major champion Cabrera battled Scott in a playoff last year. In addition to his 2009 win, Cabrera has a solo seventh finish in 2011 and has made his last eight cuts at the event. However, he missed six of eight cuts this year. Compare that with the two he missed last year heading to Augusta. Maybe I’m wrong, and maybe if he gets put in Golf Channel’s Group 4, I’ll use him, but I view him more as a non-factor this year at age 44.
Already the mid-season PGA Tour player of the year, Walker has made four cuts since his last win, but has mixed in some high rounds to push him further down the leaderboard. That could be problematic this week as he also gets his first look at the immaculate artistry that is Augusta. Has not done well in previous major championships and the unknown is scary with him. Better options to choose from out there.
Donald has never won a major. Donald at one point was the No. 1 player in the world. That seems oxymoronic, doesn’t it? Donald has always been buoyed by lesser wins on Tour and backdoor top-10 finishes. He finished in the top three in his debut year of 2005 thanks to a little fire lit under him from a screaming patron. Maybe Donald should hire that guy to berate him more, because he just seems unexcitable. He was T24 at the SHO and has two top-10s this season with no missed cuts. He’s just been average as his No. 27 OWGR suggests. He’s 6 for 8 since his debut and has a T4 and a T10, but generally is back away from the limelight.
As always, you can find me on Twitter @bricmiller if you want to talk about the Masters, the Masters or anything else about the Masters. It’s Masters week, ya’ll! Good luck!
This week’s picks
Group A: A. Scott (S), P. Mickelson)
Group B: Z. Johnson (S), R. McIlroy (S), J. Day, D. Johnson
Group C: S. Garcia (S), C. Schwartzel
(Last week: 189 points; Spring segment: 189; Spring rank: 4,172; Season points: 2,182; Full Season rank: 1,208 – 98th percentile)
A. Scott, Z. Johnson, R. McIlroy, S. Garcia
(Last week: 286 points; Season: 3,909; Rank: 3,618)
Group 1: A. Scott
Group 2: Z. Johnson
Group 3: L. Westwood
Group 4: M. Leishman
(Last week: $233,584; Season: $7,545,189; Mulligan: $28,666; Rank: 6,758 of 35,535)
Wedge Stamping Caviar: Have More Fun Edition
Pop open a tin of the finest beluga, GolfWRXers… In all seriousness, it’s less jelly-like substance, more richness of intrigue than salt-cured roe at Wedge Stamping Caviar as we present to you some of the finest instances of hammer-and-stamp work on the PGA Tour.
In this initial serving, we’re mining photos from October and November at PGA Tour stops, including the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, the Cadence Bank Houston Open, and the RSM Classic.
So grab your mother-of-pearl spoon and dig in — with restraint, please.
The traditional K.I.S.S. stamping on a BV proto: first and last initial, demonstrated here by Andrew Landry. Bonus points for the bounce angle (8) stamp.
When your last name is something imposing/interesting, you’re definitely stamping it on your wedge as Cole Hammer has done here in a “University of Texas” colorway.
Simple, perfect stamping for Xuewen Luo.
Patrick Cantlay is still rolling with a SM7. Ultimate K.I.S.S. to stick with a previous generation wedge with stamped initials. Bent loft (47 degrees) is a classy touch.
Excellent #perspective on Kevin Roy’s 54-degree Vokey.
Anytime a custom grind wears off the loft number, it’s caviar. Lovely patina on Woodland’s Wilson, too.
Another favorite motif: Tiny initials pattern (as demonstrated by Palmer Jackson).
The Webb Simpson traditional. Maybe the longest-serving stamping on Tour.
Not a stamping on Akshay Bhatia’s Jaws Raw, but we’ll serve it up anyway for reasons immediately discernible to the seasoned palate.
Photos from the 2022 RSM Classic
GolfWRX was live this week from the RSM Classic in Sea Island, Georgia, for the last event of the 2022 calendar year.
We have: Eight general galleries. 12 WITBs — including some lefty love for Akshay Bhatia — and a ton of putters for your perusal.
Check out links to all our photos below!
- 2022 RSM Classic – Monday #1
- 2022 RSM Classic – Monday #2
- 2022 RSM Classic – Monday #3
- 2022 RSM Classic – Tuesday #1
- 2022 RSM Classic – Tuesday #2
- 2022 RSM Classic – Tuesday #3
- 2022 RSM Classic – Wednesday #1
- 2022 RSM Classic – Wednesday #2
- Matt Wallace – WITB – 2022 RSM Classic
- Erik Barnes – WITB – 2022 RSM Classic
- Spencer Ralston – WITB – 2022 RSM Classic
- Palmer Jackson – WITB – 2022 RSM Classic
- Scott Harrington – WITB – 2022 RSM Classic
- Kyle Westmoreland – WITB – 2022 RSM Classic
- Conner Godsey – WITB – 2022 RSM Classic
- Webb Simpson – WITB – 2022 RSM Classic
- Akshay Bhatia – WITB – 2022 RSM Classic
- Tim Weinhart – GA PGA Section Champ – WITB – 2022 RSM Classic
- Bryson Nimmer – WITB – 2022 RSM Classic
- Jon Lester – WITB – 2022 RSM Classic
- Nick Hardy’s custom Swag putter – 2022 RSM Classic
- Odyssey/Toulon putters – 2022 RSM Classic
- Kevin Roy’s custom Cameron putter – 2022 RSM Classic
- Keith Mitchell’s custom Cameron putters – 2022 RSM Classic
- Richy Werenski – new 2023 FootJoy HyperFlex shoes – 2022 RSM Classic
- Bill Haas’ custom Cameron putter – 2022 RSM Classic
- Cameron putters – 2022 RSM Classic
- JJ Spaun’s Cameron putter cover – 2022 RSM Classic
- Jason Dufner with Cobra AeroJet Driver & 3 wood – 2022 RSM Classic
- Kevin Chappell’s custom Cameron putter – 2022 RSM Classic
- Richy Werenski’s custom Cameron putter – 2022 RSM Classic
- Matt Kuchar’s new Bridgestone 221CB irons – 2022 RSM Classic
Photos from the 2022 Cadence Bank Houston Open
GolfWRX was on site this week ahead of the 2022 Cadence Bank Houston Open at Memorial Park Golf Course.
The year is winding down, but the wraparound 2022-2023 season is just getting underway, so players are poised to do a bit of tinkering ahead of January equipment launches. To that end, we got an in-hand look at Justin Rose’s new prototype “JR” irons. We also spotted new shafts from KBS and Mitsubishi as well as new grips from SuperStroke.
Check out all of our photos below.
- 2022 Cadence Bank Houston Open – Monday #1
- 2022 Cadence Bank Houston Open – Monday #2
- 2022 Cadence Bank Houston Open – Tuesday #1
- 2022 Cadence Bank Houston Open – Tuesday #2
- 2022 Cadence Bank Houston Open – Tuesday #3
- 2022 Cadence Bank Houston Open – Tuesday #4
- Johannes Veerman – WITB – 2022 Cadence Bank Houston Open
- Richy Werenski – WITB – 2022 Cadence Bank Houston Open
- Danny Lee – WITB – 2022 Cadence Bank Houston Open
- Ben Kern – So. Texas PGA Section Champ – WITB – 2022 Cadence Bank Houston Open
- Justin Rose (mini WTB) custom JR irons – 2022 Cadence Bank Houston Open
- Kevin Roy – WITB – 2022 Cadence Bank Houston Open
- Eric Cole – WITB – 2022 Cadence Bank Houston Open
- Gary Woodland WITB – 2022 Cadence Bank Houston Open
- Carson Young’s custom Cameron – 2022 Cadence Bank Houston Open
- New Mitsubishi Tensei K series shaft – 2022 Cadence Bank Houston Open
- Cameron putter – 2022 Cadence Bank Houston Open
- Garrick Higgo’s custom Cameron – 2022 Cadence Bank Houston Open
- Tyler Duncan’s custom Cameron putter – 2022 Cadence Bank Houston Open
- New Super Stroke Zenergy grips – 2022 Cadence Bank Houston Open
- New EyeLine Golf training aids – 2022 Cadence Bank Houston Open
- New KBS prototype iron shaft – 2022 Cadence Bank Houston Open
- Zac Blair – New Titleist TRS 1 driver – 2022 Cadence Bank Houston Open
Justin Lower WITB 2022 (October)
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Harris English WITB 2022 (October)
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Patrick Welch WITB 2022 (October)
Denny McCarthy WITB 2022 (October)
Nick Taylor WITB 2022 (October)
GolfWRX Spotlight: Takomo Iron 101T
Gary Woodland WITB 2022 (November)
Akshay Bhatia WITB 2022 (November)
Akshay Bhatia’s WITB accurate as of the 2022 RSM Classic. More photos from the event here. Driver: Callaway Rogue ST...
Adam Svensson’s winning WITB: 2022 RSM Classic
Driver: Callaway Rogue ST Triple Diamond S (10.5 degrees @9.5) Shaft: LA Golf prototype 3-wood: Callaway Rogue ST (15 degrees)...
WITB Time Machine: Tyler Duncan’s 2019 RSM Classic winning WITB
Tyler Duncan toppled Webb Simpson in a playoff at 19 under par at the 2019 RSM Classic. Check out the...
Ben Kern WITB 2022 (November)
Ben Kern what’s in the bag accurate as of the Cadence Bank Houston Open. More photos from the event here....
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