Previewing the 2018 Masters

By Ryan Collins

There’s nothing quite like the March Madness hangover, having withdrawals on Thursdays that there’s no games at noon to watch instead of paying attention in class or being productive at work. The only cure for this hangover is the Masters, Jim Nantz’s soft voice, the beautiful portrait of Augusta National and the continuous playing of Dave Loggin’s Augusta.

The Course

Augusta National is the most prestigious golf club in America with the history, the beauty and plenty of exclusivity. The course is a par 72, plays about 7,400 yards and asks players for their best from tee to green. Augusta National provides the players with opportunities to make birdies and score but there are certain challenges around the course. The players all talk about the contour of the greens at the Masters, Players can’t short-side themselves at Augusta and leave themselves little room to chip, because there’s no chance to get up and down regardless how good of touch a player has around the greens. Tiger Woods said on Tuesday that he still can’t believe how much the ball breaks on the greens. Augusta National demands good iron play due to the many uneven lies the players face in the fairway.

The Weather

According to accuweather.com

Thursday – Mostly sunny, with winds blowing out of the northeast 6 mph to 10 mph.

Friday – Mostly sunny, with winds southwest from 7 mph to 12 mph.

Saturday – Cloudy with a possibility of scattered thunderstorms in the afternoon, with winds blowing southwest from 15 mph to 22 mph.

Sunday – Cool mostly sunny, with winds blowing northeast from 7 mph to 10 mph.

The Field

Last year the Masters had its worst ratings in 13 years. This will not be the case this year, there’s a certain buzz around the Masters that their hasn’t been in Augusta the last few years due to the great field coming into Augusta National. Nine of the top ten in the World Golf Rankings are playing and past winners Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson, and the biggest name in golf, Tiger Woods, all come into the tournament in really good form.

Justin Thomas has been the hottest player on tour the last nine months, it will be very interesting how he handles the pressure of being the favorite at Augusta as he’s openly admitted his struggles with his massive success. My guess is that the ratings will be the highest in the last decade.

Groups to keep an eye on Thursday and Friday

All times Eastern, Thursday/Friday listed

10:42 a.m./ 1:27 p.m.- Tiger Woods, Marc Leishman, Tommy Fleetwood

10:53 a.m./ 1:38 p.m.- Sergio Garcia, Justin Thomas, Doc Redman (a)

11:04 a.m./ 1:49 p.m.- Bubba Watson, Henrik Stenson, Jason Day

1:27 p.m./ 10:31 a.m.- Phil Mickleson, Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar

1:38 p.m./ 10:42 a.m.- Rory Mcilroy, Jon Rahm, Adam Scott

1:49 p.m./ 10:53 a.m-  Jordan Spieth, Alex Noren, Louis Oosthuizen

2:00 p.m./ 11:04 a.m.- Justin Rose, Dustin Johnson, Rafa Cabrera Bello

For all the groups: http://www.masters.com/en_US/players/pairings/index.html

Should Tiger be the favorite?

The answer is no, even though Tiger Woods is no longer the favorite in Vegas he still remains a favorite by the general public. Woods has played very well of late with a T-2 at the Valspar Open and a T-5 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational but struggled down the stretch in both tournaments, since his last major in 2008 he never has put himself into position on Sunday to get his 15th major victory. Look for Woods to get into contention for the weekend but fade as more stress will be on him to find fairways which he’s struggled mightily during his latest comeback.

Dark horses: who could be in the mix on sunday?

Tiger Woods, Jason Day, and Jordan Spieth are all examples of players finishing in the top five at Augusta National in their first professional Masters appearance. Tony Finau is making his first Masters appearance and has the ability to contend at Augusta. The talented Masters rookie is great from tee to green and holds explosive power. Finau leads the PGA Tour in driving distance averaging 321 yards, with that type of power he will be able to get aggressive on the reachable par 5s at Augusta National, unlike most players. Finau twisted his ankle in the Par 3 contest, his health is uncertain. Another name if Finau can’t go Thursday to consider is Thomas Pieters, as he was in contention last year finishing tied for fourth. Pieters’ distance and ability to hit the ball right to left will give him plenty of birdie opportunities like last year.

Who slips on the green jacket?

There are many great players that can get it done this year, but look for Bubba Watson to win his third Masters. Watson  has regained his form after struggling the last two years winning two events this season in Los Angeles and Austin. Bubba got his distance back being third in average driving distance on the PGA Tour but his touch around the greens this season has lead to this year’s success and will give him the advantage at Augusta.