Even if you don’t grow azaleas, you’ll be smelling them this week.
This year’s 2016 Masters, as true with every April, will contain many storylines to trigger our memories. First, will be Tom Watson’s last Masters appearance. The two-time green jacket winner’s legacy at Augusta is cemented in history forever. He’ll be sent off in an appropriate manner for a legend of the game.
We’ll also remember those absent from competition. Jim Furyk won’t be playing in this year’s Masters, marking his first absence since 2004 and only his second missed trip to Augusta in two decades. Also, word on a certain cat has golf fans feeling sad.
We’ll also celebrate the amateur game. Long-shot mid-amateur Sammy Schmitz is making the trip from Minnesota to Augusta to compete after logging his trip in the most incredibly unbelievable way in fall of 2015. Alongside fellow am (and man of one club length) Bryson DeChambeau, the amateur field has plenty of discussion.
But you’re not here for the memories. You’re here for the picks, the predictions and the inside scoop. And although I can’t make promises, I have done research to give you a list of names to be relevant come Sunday afternoon at the Masters.
Let’s explore together.
2015 Top-16 (and ties)
For those of you who know the Masters, you know the importance of the top-16 and ties. These are the individuals who’ve guaranteed their place into the field for the following year at Augusta.
I included these players to give an indication for those who played well, as well as highlight certain surprises; i.e. Ian Poulter and Hunter Mahan?
Spieth’s win in 2015 earns him this glorious honor:
— Masters Tournament (@TheMasters) April 2, 2016
Full 2016 Field at the Masters
Tee times were announced on Tuesday morning, here are the tee times.
This, an amazing piece on a past champion who won’t be in the field:
My SI cover story on Tiger Woods, examining a question that still festers: What happened? https://t.co/GnL6xJFliP
— Alan Shipnuck (@AlanShipnuck) March 29, 2016
If the cut line permits an odd number of players into the 2016 Masters, we can add Jeff Knox to the list of players in the field. Don’t know Jeff Knox? Learn about him.
Past 5 Winners at The Masters
- 2015: Jordan Spieth (Recap here)
- 2014: Bubba Watson (Recap here)
- 2013: Adam Scott (Recap here)
- 2012: Bubba Watson (Recap here)
- 2011: Charl Schwartzel (Recap here)
Here you go, soak in the 2015 Masters Final Round. If you do so allow yourself to dive deep into this YouTube rat hole, be sure to come up for air every 15-20 minutes.
Enjoy the golf (and don’t forget to read the rest of this preview!)
Jordan Spieth at the Masters?
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) April 4, 2016
— FantasyGolfMetrics (@FGMetrics) April 4, 2016
Course Overview: Augusta National
There really isn’t much to add here.
The course, Augusta National Golf Club, is ranked inside the top-3 of every single major course ranking publication in the world. Consider this, even before the fact it hosts the most prestigious golf tournament on the planet.
There’s a hole-by-hole look with hole names on the Golf Channel here. Better known by average golf fans than any in the world, there’s nothing much I can add here.
Tiger Woods did post an incredible hole-by-hole of the golf course on the Masters.com website.
So let’s have people who’ve played here discuss their dreams:
— DKDFS (@DKDFStrength) April 2, 2016
Hitting a Draw at Augusta is Important
It is well-known, given the shape of Augusta National’s holes and the way the green complexes sit, a player who can move the ball from right-to-left, (a draw for right-handed golfers) will have an advantage.
Players have ruined their games in re-hauling in order to hit a draw (Martin Kaymer). Many past champions can hit that beautiful high draw.
If you want to join these guys in hitting beautiful, high draws, learn more here.
As of Monday, here’s the forecast for the week at Augusta National. Some delays are to be expected on Thursday, it seems, but the thing to note is this:
With winds gusting above 15 MPH from Thursday–Saturday, this golf course will be on full defense. Ray’s creek may raise a couple of inches (with golf balls).
With the weather we’re seeing this year, it’s safe to assume that scoring will come back down after what we saw last year at The Masters. Jordan Spieth set the world on fire with one of the most memorable tournaments in recent memory at Augusta.
Last year, the winning score for Spieth was 18-under par. With only a few players in history winning the event in the upper teen echelon, I expect the Augusta National faithful will be looking to bring scoring back in the low double digits to high single digits. Although the added birdies added to the excitement, I expect the course to take on a few changes that will lead to some scoring challenges.
Add that to the forecast we’re looking for, and I would be surprised if scoring were above 13-under par for the winner this week.
I have the winner this week (to be declared below) to get to 11-under par.
This Week’s Picks– The Masters Preview
FIVE From the Fairway
(that’s right, 5 Masters Picks!)
Dustin Johnson | 20:1 Betting Odds to Win
I think he’s one of the best values on the entire board.
Of the elite players in the world, Dustin Johnson finds himself behind 7 other favorites at Augusta and I find myself hard pressed to find 3 players more poised to drape the Green Jacket over his shoulders. Major-less, DJ is a talent expressway just waiting to claim his. Concern is, with the wave of players taking the Tour by storm in today’s game, DJ’s chances grow slimmer with each passing year.
Here’s a graphic of his best play in the majors so far in his career:
— Sky Sports Golf 🏌⛳️ (@SkySportsGolf) April 1, 2016
Length at the lengthened Augusta National Golf Club is no problem for Dustin Johnson. No player is longer with their irons than Dustin, and his driver ain’t a slouch neither.
I echo Jason Sobel’s thoughts on Dustin going into Augusta.
With so much talk about JasonJordanRoryAdamRickieBubba going into the Masters, Dustin Johnson mostly under the radar. Just opened with a 65.
— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelESPN) March 31, 2016
— Dustin Johnson (@DJohnsonPGA) March 30, 2016
Bubba Watson | Betting Odds to Win 10:1
It’s going to be hard not to include Bubba Watson in our 2016 Masters preview. After all, if Bubba’s proven anything, he’s proven that he can bring his A-game to Augusta at unsuspected times, regardless of current form. The venue and the style of play the course requires sets up wonderfully for Bubba.
It’s an even year, as well…
Bubba Watson, last 5 Masters:
I'm predicting he'll play well this year (even number year), then go T50 in 2017. #trends
— Troy Klongerbo (@troyklongerbo) April 1, 2016
Bubba’s appearance to come on CBS’ 60 Minutes where he discusses his anxiety will be a talking point through the early part to think and if you’re thinking being candid with the media will help Bubba relax going for his third green jacket, I wouldn’t say you’re wrong.
He’s proven himself at Augusta. If anything, Bubba needs to prove his mental stability to be able to close and perform. At the Masters, he’s channeled it and I think this year trends back to a top finish for Bubba.
Rickie Fowler | Betting odds to Win 25:1
Poised is one way of saying it. Determined, perhaps another. But for Rickie Fowler, I think the word to describe his major championship pursuit is simply, ready.
With Butch Harmon’s eye, he’s been heavily documented for re-building a golf swing that has transformed himself into one of the Tour’s most consistent ball strikers, week-in, week-out. A top-5 ranking in the OWGR for the better part of recent memory and a statement victory last May have given Rickie visible confidence.
At Augusta, Rickie has these to draw from:
- He’s made the cut in 5 straight trips to the Masters
- He’s finished top-12 each of the past 2 years at the Masters (T5 in 2014)
- He’s top-10 in Strokes Gained Putting in 2016
He has the tools needed to play well at Augusta, can shape the ball both ways with ease, and is putting so well, I’d be more shocked if he didn’t finish top-10 than just about anyone in the field this week.
Jason Day | Betting Odds to Win 13:2
He’s the favorite heading into the 2016 Masters, and there’s no surprise. Given the nature of his play–and his performances recorded in late 2015–he inspired this quote last September from famed golf instructor Butch Harmon: “He reminds me of Tiger in 2000.” High praise.
As he’s aged, he’s learned.
Before, Day would struggle with chronic injuries which would hamper his ability to compete for long stretches. Today, he seems to have an ability to recover and learn to better tend to his ailments. He’s physically tough, too. Add that to his mental toughness, and Day could be as dangerous a player as there is in the 2016 Masters field.
Curtis Strange, the man of two-time US Open championship ilk, had some words to share on Day heading into the 2016 Masters.
“You wonder how long it will last. He’s not thinking like that. He’s doing everything he can possibly do to keep this going through next week, and I’d much rather be in a position where people are saying can it last, versus trying to find something. I’d rather be in Jason Day’s position than Jordan Spieth’s position right now.”
He went on to say this:
“And when a standard has been set by Tiger playing well every single week, sometimes it’s a bit unfair to hold all these guys to that. But Jason is having a streak of his own, and it’s good stuff, and I don’t see any reason why he won’t be playing well next week.”
Speaking of Tiger, he’s slated for Tiger red on Sunday.
No. 1 in the world is #GearedForMore at Augusta.
— adidas Golf (@adidasGolf) March 28, 2016
Jason Dufner | Betting Odds to Win 100:1 (to Top-5 20:1)
I have a sneaking suspicion that Jason Dufner may put together some good play this week in his 6th Masters.
During the best play of his career, Dufner registered some nice finishes at Augusta. In 3 starts from 2010-2013, he made 3 cuts and finished inside the top-30 in all three. After seeing a drop in his game over a 14-month span, he re-entered the winners circle back in January in what has become a bounce-back 2016 season.
And better play in 2016 means better play in the 2016 Masters for Dufner.
Statistically, he’s gaining over .700 strokes tee-to-green on the field in 2016. His putting for the season is in the negatives, but his previous two stroke play events have witnessed strokes gained putting totals of 1.520 and .528. He seems to have found something on the greens.
Dufner may be a bit of a dark horse contender, but he’s a player I could see coming in with a stealthy top-20 finish (or better) this week at Augusta.
Two From the Rough (Sleepers)
Bryson DeChambeau | Betting Odds to Win 200:1 (Top-5 30:1)
Is it crazy that DeChambeau could make a realistic run at the Masters this week? I think at 200:1 odds, it may not be a bad (fun) bet.
He’s 30:1 to top-5, and this might be a more realistic bet.
The reigning U.S. Amateur champion has made a few starts on pro circuit and his performance has given credibility to his unique style of play.
Dubbed “The Golf Scientist,” DeChambeau unusually plays irons that are all the same length and each one of his clubs have modified jumbo grips on them with Bryson’s personal tape touches. Upon his first visit to Augusta, he was able to see the clubs Bobby Jones used to win the 1930 Grand Slam. He was thrilled to see they were all the same length–validation for a player who’s been challenging the status quo since he took on the sport.
— Karen Crouse (@bykaren) April 4, 2016
Kiradech Aphibarnrat | Betting Odds to Win 300:1
He’s 300:1 to win the event and I think he might be the most fun sleeper in the field to work with. If I was in Vegas tomorrow, I’d throw a smooth $5 on him and hope for the best.
In the field via his World Ranking inside the top-50, Aphibarnrat is a benefit of playing great golf in Asia against weaker fields, boasting his world ranking. The big man has some horsepower, and he’s played well against European and PGA Tour fields, as well. When he pegs it up in the WGCs, he performs. Invited to last months Bay Hill, Aphibarnrat finished with a final round 65 which vaulted him to the top of the leaderboard, finishing T6.
A limited sample size, this has been the result of his putting so far in 2015-2016:
He’s long enough too. Might be a fun player to keep an eye on. Learn his golf swing:
No Tiger and no Freddie this week, but don’t worry: this legend is here to make sure we get through the week. pic.twitter.com/gswuk67w0D
— Adam Sarson (@Adam_Sarson) April 4, 2016
Other long shot winners at Augusta worth a fun stab:
- Ernie Els– 225:1
- KJ Choi– 275:1
The Man with the Trophy (In this case, jacket)
Rory McIlroy | Betting odds 8:1
You know, it’s just time.
I’ve been convicted in giving Rory the nod at Augusta for months now, and I think the pressure is off just enough to give him the desperate edge he needs to make this the year.
It’s hard to believe the Ulsterman is only 26-years old. He seems like he’s been an Augusta contender now for years, which he has been. His 2011 monumental collapse is a distant, distant memory of the killer we’ve come to know. Like I said back in January, he’s finally ready to put this behind him:
In 2016, he’s gaining strokes with his long game and putting quite well. His 167th ranking in driving accuracy won’t hurt him at Augusta. He’s also been scoring inside the top-10 in both par-4s and par-5s, and indication that he’s make a lot of birdies.
I mean what am I going to do, dive deep into the statistics to talk about why Rory’s going to win at Augusta? It’s simple to know why he’s a favorite.
He’s healthy. He’s rested. He’s in good form. He’s played well here before. Ewan Murray laid out this wonderfully written article on his form and expectations going into Augusta.
UPDATE: Tee times were released Tuesday morning and here’s what we have:
— Troy Klongerbo (@troyklongerbo) April 5, 2016
That bodes quite well for Rory.
Also, his words before leaving to go prep for the 2016 Masters. A quote from Murray’s article, referenced above:
“I don’t feel like anyone needs to tell me how to play the course. I feel like I’ve been there enough to know that. I know what I need to do to win at Augusta. I know what the game plan is. It’s just executing that game plan that week and hitting the right shots at the right time.”
Rory’s year. 2016. Masters champion.