2018 Masters Rewind

Honestly, I hated The Masters. We absolutely got cheated. On Sunday Tiger was off the course before the CBS coverage kicked off. Then Rory shanked his first shot of the day –  straight into the trees, so much for that Ryder Cup rematch. Nike wouldn’t let Patrick Reed show up in red, Jordan Spieth blew it on 18, and Rickie ran out of time. This. Masters. Sucked.

All right, fine, for the sake of transparency, I lost money this weekend. Your boy got in over his head, and tried to bail out by picking Rory as the winner, and JT to best Spieth.  I swear his putter looked shaky on Saturday. That was dumb, really dumb.

Continue reading “2018 Masters Rewind”

Masters Week

 

Welcome to the most anticipated week of the golf year – crowds have flocked to the outskirts of eastern Georgia, home to the most famous and revered course in all the world – Augusta National (sorry St. Andrew’s – please note I didn’t say the most historic or influential – and please not that I’m American and biased).

While The Masters is typically hyped, the 2018 rendition is on an entirely different level. In my lifetime I’ve never felt this much buzz, and never have so many top caliber players been at the top of their game. I tweeted a thread to highlight just how insanely well this field is playing heading into the tournament – I’m going to rehash that below. Simply put, you could name 15-20 winners and I’d have zero counter arguments against any of them. Let’s dive into why golf has never been in a better place player by player:

Let’s start with world #1 Dustin Johnson. DJ already won the Tournament of champions to kick off the season in Hawaii and followed that up with a T2 at Pebble. His stats this season are insane: 1st SG off the tee, 3rd SG tee to green, 1st SG total. That not impressive enough for you?…..

DJ

The lead up to last year’s Masters was all about DJ. Betting favorite, fan favorite, DJ’s stock was at an all-time high.  He won his 3 starts prior to Augusta – The Genesis, WGC Mexico, and WGC Match Play. Then, he infamously fell down stairs at his rental property prior to the tournament and withdrew before ever teeing off. In retrospect it was one of the most bizarre things to ever happen in golf (considering player stature, tournament stature, buildup, etc…) Fans have concocted some crazy conspiracy theories about what happened that night, I for one, don’t buy any of them. It was a freak accident, the question is will this week be a story of redemption?  In 2015 the OWGR #1 finished 6th at Augusta, in 2016 he finished 4th – odds are in his favor.

From there we move on to Justin Thomas – probably the most complete player in the game right now and future #1 player in the world. JT won 5 times in 2017, got his first major, won the FedEx Cup, and was PGA Tour player of the year. He’s finished in the top 10 in his past 4 events and really has been dominating professional golf since last summer. Toss in a little fan controversy during the Florida swing and all of a sudden JT is one of the most fascinating stories coming into the week. In regards to fan response/retribution…. Augusta National is not where JT is going to feel any wrath. No cell phones, fans that respect the grounds, their tickets, and the game above all else – JT won’t be phased. This is only his third Masters start and his numbers here compared to other majors aren’t strong, but eye test tells me he’ll be in the mix. For pool’s and fantasy players I have a sneaky suspicion JT won’t have as high of an ownership percentage than previously expected – might just be the key to taking home some cash.

On to the next one (literally – the next Justin). Justin Rose rolls down Magnolia lane in great form. He won the HSBC this season and has finished in the top 25 in every start at Augusta since 2009 – and that includes T2 finishes in 2015 and 2017. He lost last year in the playoff to Sergio (and if you re-watch the final round last year you’d never guess the green jacket was going home with anybody else until 17. Seriously – follow this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfMSpgr1L3Q and start it at the 3:27 mark – the way #13 shook out that day is the epitome of golf – good breaks, bad breaks, and it all comes down to putting). I do expect Rose to respond well and contend this year in spite of bad memories. He’s too consistent of a ball striker and his track record speaks for itself. He’s my odds on favorite.

Rory f%$@#n McIlroy. Rors won a few weeks back at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Winning is a binary term – you win or you lose – but that doesn’t do his final round and W at the API justice. He looked absolutely unstoppable – driving the ball like a monster and finally finding his putting stroke. It felt like a defining moment for Rory – which is incredible considering his success and what will inevitably be the scope of his career. After not having a win on Tour since East Lake of 2016, and a lot of unknowns plaguing him last season, this dude is officially back. When on point – his game and swing are the most beautiful in the world, the only things comparable in terms of talent are DJ and Tiger of old (and hopefully future). Oh and a W would mean the career Grand Slam for Rory – he would be only the 6th player all time to accomplish that feat.

Rickie Fowler – the peoples champ. Rickie is destine for a major breakthrough (not quite Phil level – but inching there), and it feels only right that his crowning moment would come at Augusta. He won the HERO in December and although he didn’t show it this past weekend he is still one of the preeminent putters in the world. Rickie’s stats this season don’t jump off the page (although 12th in birdie average bodes well) but if he were to dawn the green jacket Sunday night he would instantly become one of the most popular Masters champions ever.

Sergio Garcia – defending champion. Sergio has been, how do you say it? Playing well. His stats this season: 1st in SG approach to green, 1st in SG tee to green, 4th in SG total, 1st in scoring average. I think Sergio has the most impressive swing in the game, just check out his move….. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J6ttW3ptVzc . Coming off his win last year, marriage last July, and the birth of his first child (shoutout Azalea) Sergio has some serious juju flowing. That level of success on and off the course seems to have brought a level of comfort never felt before in his life – and his golf game reflects that. Possible low ownership levels this week considering the tournament hype/newborn, but recent play more than suggests the Spaniard will be in the mix.

Jason Day – how can he be under the radar? He’s been great in 2018 despite taking a step back in the headline department. JD won the Farmers in February and was T2 at Pebble – combine that with his track record at Augusta and being 1st in SG putting on tour and you may have your champion. With a history of ailments, any other tournament would scare me away from Day, but not Augusta National, not The Masters.

Tommy Fleetwood – may not be a household name in the states yet but he should and will be soon. He was the Race to Dubai Champion in 2017 (EuroTour equivalent of the FedEx Cup) and won in Abu Dhabi to start his season. One of the best iron games to come out of Europe, he may be the hottest player in the world over the past year (scratch that, still JT, but it’s closer than people give it credence). Plus look at that flow…..

fleetwood

 

Bubba Watson – 2 time Masters champion. Already won twice on tour this year after a serious drought. Bubba is the most creative player of his generation (probably ever?) and his game is purpose built for Augusta. They say take advantage of the par 5’s at this track and you have a chance to win – nobody ends up in better spots to make eagles and birdies off the tee on those holes than Bubba.  Not to mention he is one of the most polarizing figures in golf….

 
Phil Mickelson – LEFTYYYYYYY. Phil is pushing the senior tour and yet is playing some of his best golf ever. He was trending in the right direction for what felt like years and finally broke through (if that is the right term for a player with 43 wins) at the WGC Mexico. He also has 3 green jackets in the closet so Phil knows a thing or two about the golf course. As I write this it would be very Phil to miss the cut but that would not feed into the hype train. A win here would leave him in only Tiger, Jack, and Arnie’s company as 4 time Masters Champions.

Rapid Fire:

 

Ian Poulter – Thought he was in the field after Match Play (PSYCHE!!). Then forces a playoff on 18 last week in Houston and beats out Beau to get his “back against the wall” invite. Whatever you think of the guy – that was flat out impressive.

Jordan Spieth – Most popular player in the world not named Tiger? Debatable. What’s not is his knack for Augusta (T2, 1, T2, T11 in four starts). His putting has been maligned and this season hasn’t been up to snuff by his standards in terms of wins, but check out the SG stats: 20th off the tee, 9th approach to green, 17th around the green, 3rd tee to green, 17th total). SG putting is 185th (like I said, maligned) – but putting is overrated at Augusta historically.

Jon Rahm – 3rd ranked player in the world. Set the tour on fire last year. Ascension up the World Rankings is historic level stuff.

Hideki Matsuyama – Since his WD at Phoenix  he’s been very quiet. So that being said I’ll just leave these SG stats here: 20th approach to green, 3rd around the green, 13th tee to green, 12th total.

Alex Noren – Um this dude is a beast. 6th in SG total and 11th in SG approach to green. He’s 4th in scoring average and already has 3 top 10’s to his credit this season. Also his pre shot routine is something we as amateurs should take note of.

Paul Casey – Last 3 years at the Masters? 6th, 4th, 6th. Those in golf media have pointed out Casey’s inability to close the deal, something he started to put to rest with his victory amongst the chaos that was The Valspar this year. I don’t want SG stat lines to get redundant but damn Casey’s is on another level: 26th off tee, 8th approach to green, 11th around the green, 2nd tee to green, 5th total. All the makings of a green jacket here for Paul – would be cool for him to silence the pundits once and for all.

Marc Leishman

Patrick Reed

Kevin Kisner

Patrick Cantlay

Tony Finau

Matt Kuchar

Pat Perez

TIGER WOODS!!!!! – Do I need to hype this up? Realistically Tiger deserves his own blog here but let’s keep it simple. His SG stat line: 14th approach to green, 6th around the green, 11th putting, 7th total. Off the tee he is 153 – but that is and will always be the biggest question mark in Tiger’s game. Numbers are one thing but his current form is just as solid with two top 5 finishes in his last two starts. The man has also won 4 green jackets. You want to see something ridiculous? Check out his Masters finishes all time…

Tiger Finishes

I like this, I like this a lot. While the majority of this post highlights just how good the rest of the Tour is playing heading into the week – don’t get it twisted, Tiger Woods is the epicenter of this tournaments anticipation. WE ARE OFFICIALLY BACK. Have a hell of a week people – it doesn’t get much better than this.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1eS2QCp7v3U

Tiger’s 18th @ Valspar

Okay so this happened Sunday ……

https://twitter.com/twitter/statuses/972949627346370560

And immediately the sports world lost their collective shit. Tiger then proceeded to par the final hole at Copperhead, leaving some fans to wonder why he didn’t take out the big stick in pursuit of a do or die birdie.

 

I understand that some people don’t like that Tiger hit iron of the tee on 18 this past Sunday. Some people are saying that only “Casual fans” think the play was passive,  while other people are clamoring all “golf fans” understand the lack of driver. I’d say there is some healthy overlap there – I feel very confident that even some passionate followers of the game were disappointed that Tiger didn’t take out at least 3 wood and have a go.

 

My personal opinion? I empathise with every fan that wanted Tiger to bomb one down the 72nd hole, but I tend to lean towards agreeing with the move by the GOAT. Here is why:

 

  1. Consistency – He made the same exact decision the prior 3 days. Same club, same distance, same approach shot.
  2. Pin location – the back right pin on 18 at Copperhead is a tough birdie pin. It’s deep enough in the green to make a lofted high iron/wedge difficult, considering that the slope would take any ball with spin away from the cup in a hurry. Tiger probably thought hitting a low 7 iron short of the pin and letting the ball release up the slope is the best play to get it in reasonable birdie range.
  3. He’s the greatest long iron player the game has ever seen. That means if your Tiger you do what you do best: go long iron off the tee, hit the fairway, hit another long iron into the green. If you miss the fairway off the tee you have no hope of putting yourself in position to make birdie. Every great golfer plays the hole backwards: where can I miss to keep myself in contention? On the 18th at Innisbrook, the only answer is the fairway.

 

There are counterpoints to the above:

 

  1. He didn’t make birdie rounds 1-3.  Do something different! You need a three!
  2. IT’s TIGER WOODS – he could threaten that pin with 150 left and is talented enough to not spin it out of range

 

For most, even after having some time to decompress, it still sounds a little too rational – a little too calculated. People want great athletes to be ultra instinctive and give into the moment from an emotional perspective. While some purists argue that succumbing to emotion is always  the wrong thing to do in golf,  I’d disagree with that. I think some players in that exact scenario Sunday need to pull out driver and incur the associated risk. Others need to value the fairway and trust their long irons. Tiger has earned the right to decide between those two choices, and I for one trust that man’s decision.

 

All arguments aside – Tiger ended  up 5-6 yards from where he wanted to be after the second shot. It wasn’t his best, he’d be the first one to tell you that. That being said he made his call, and he was right there.

 

The beauty in Tiger Woods is that he doesn’t cares about what spectactors/pundits think- and that may just be the foundation to his greatness. Regardless, this resurgence is going to be fun.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fL06ZqGM4HU

March 13th, 2018 – We ARE NOT the storm

Today is March 13th (7 days from the official start of spring). I write this blog from my apartment, locked indoors for another work day due to a late winter Nor’Easter. While skiers rejoice, this storm represents what may be my breaking point.

We are just a few days removed from watching Tiger captivate the sports world at the Valspar Championship, and while technically my course is still one week away from opening here in Boston – that seems like a pipe dream at this point.

Last Thursday, baystate golfers came to accept what they anticipated to be the last storm of the season. We were wrong – very wrong. 18 inches have already accumulated today, with 24 anticipated when all is said and done.

All we can hope for now is mother nature cranking up the heat over the next few weeks with some rain scattered in between. Whatever it takes to get this blanket of white to disappear until next December, I’m all for it.

Forty-Eight hours ago the golf season felt so close – Tiger was in contention, the remnants of last Thursday’s storm were fading, and opening day was creeping up. After today’s events we are seemingly back at square one.

My parting thoughts are this: we are all in a dark place right now – this is not fun for the local golfing community. STAY UP, STAY JUICED – we have Bay Hill this week, Tiger mania is sweeping the globe, and we are 23 days away from opening round coverage at Augusta.

Check your mirrors people – spring is closer than it may appear.

And So It Begins….

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“Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated; it satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect. It is at the same time rewarding and maddening – and it is without a doubt the greatest game mankind has ever invented.” – Arnold Palmer

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