After a 1 week hiatus The Wrightway Network’s golf coverage is back and we could not have picked a better tournament to come back to! The Masters at Augusta National in sunny Georgia will kickoff the major season and boy are there ample headlines this Thursday morning. Wednesday featured one of the greatest traditions in golf- the annual afternoon Par-3 contest which featured Jack Nicklaus’ grandson taking a guest shot and holing out for a hole-in-one, 68-year-old Tom Watson shooting a 21 (6-under) to win the contest, and Tony Finau inuring his ankle after celebrating a hole in one (he did go on to make the start this morning). Other news this week from Augusta included another successful Drive, Chip & Putt contest, an expanded media and shopping area, and the announcement of a 72 female amateur tournament to be held at 2 courses, concluding Saturday at Augusta National the week before the annual Masters Tournament begins. We’ve also seen a great deal of headlines made by players, notably from a Phil Mickelson-Tiger Woods practice round that featured galleries of 7-8 spectators deep. Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler played the Par-3 contest together, reuniting the #SB2K17 group as all golfers are heating up after great performances in Houston and Austin the past 2 weeks. Finally, Ian Poulter rounds out the Masters’ smallest field in nearly 20 years after winning the Shell Houston Open on Sunday. It was his only chance to get in after standing in 51st in the OWGR and needing to make the top 50.
For reference there are several ways a player can qualify to make the Masters:
- Masters Tournament Champions (lifetime)
- U.S. Open champions (five years)
- The Open champions (five years)
- PGA champions (five years)
- Winners of the Players Championship (three years)
- Current Olympic Gold Medalist (one year)
- Current U.S. Amateur champion and runner-up
- Current British Amateur champion
- Current Asia-Pacific Amateur champion
- Current U.S. Mid-Amateur champion
- Current Latin America Amateur champion
- The first 12 players, including ties, in the previous year’s Masters Tournament
- The first 4 players, including ties, in the previous year’s U.S. Open
- The first 4 players, including ties, in the previous year’s Open Championship
- The first 4 players, including ties, in the previous year’s PGA Championship
- Winners of PGA Tour regular-season and playoff events that award at least a full-point allocation for the FedEx Cup, starting with the RBC Heritage the week after the Masters to the Shell Houston Open the week beforehand.
- Those qualifying for the previous year’s season-ending Tour Championship (top 30 in FedEx Cup prior to tournament)
- The 50 leaders on the Final Official World Golf Ranking for the previous calendar year
- The 50 leaders on the Official World Golf Ranking published during the week prior to the current Masters Tournament
With such an elite field this week, its tough to defend and distinguish a top 5 or even top 10 in the power rankings. Before I get to it, check out the Vegas odds on the top players in the field this week, via CBS Sports.
- Jordan Spieth 10-1
- Justin Thomas 10-1
- Dustin Johnson 12-1
- Tiger Woods 12-1
- Rory McIlroy 12-1
- Justin Rose 12-1
- Bubba Watson 16-1
- Phil Mickelson 16-1
- Rickie Fowler 16-1
- Jason Day 18-1
- Jon Rahm 20-1
- Paul Casey 20-1
- Sergio Garcia 30-1
- Hideki Matsuyama 30-1
- Tommy Fleetwood 30-1
- Henrik Stenson 30-1
- Marc Leishman 40-1
- Alex Noren 40-1
- Matt Kuchar 40-1
- Patrick Reed 40-1
5. Sergio Garcia
Arguably my most controversial addition to the power rankings this week at just 30-1 odds, the defending Masters champion deserves a spot on the short list. The spaniard has looked great this year on a limited 2018 schedule after getting married and becoming a father this past year. His worst finish has been a T33 at The Honda Classic, and his worst individual round was a 72 this year. A T7 at the WGC Mexico and a solo 4th at the Valspar Championship indicate that Sergio is getting hot at the right time. Though not the post popular golfer in Spain anymore (that title belongs to the #3 ranked player in the world John Rahm), Sergio at #9 in the OWGR is a force to be reckoned with heading into the weekend.
4. Tiger Woods
CAN HE DO IT? Reports from Augusta this week indicate that Tiger is returning to old form not just physically, but mentally as well. He’s gone from mentoring young golfers on the course to getting competitive, leaving many Tour veterans and rookies alike feeling a bit nervous. Tiger on combing back after multiple back surgeries- “It’s crazy. I’ll be honest with you, it is crazy. I didn’t think—I thought prior to the fusion surgery that that’s pretty much it. I’ll have a nice, comfortable, and great life, but I’ll never be able to swing the club like I used to speed‑wise, just there’s no way, lower back fusion.” As he heads to Augusta for the first time since 2015, Woods ranks second in SG: Around and eighth in SG: Putting this week, but 71st in SG: Off-the-tee. But with 4 green jackets and 13 top-10s, the experience factor alone and his recent success on Tour suggest the 42-year-old might have more left in the tank. Hist stamina is there after playing in the API and Valspar back-to-back, and with finishes of 12-T2-T5 in his last 3 starts, Tiger is definitely poised to win and will go for jacket #5.
3. Jordan Spieth
No matter what his game is like going into the year’s first major, Spieth is a legitimate contender and his record backs it up. In 4 starts he’s gone T2, 1, T2, T11 at Augusta and is the second youngest player to win the tournament (#1 happens to be #4 in this article’s rankings) tying for the lowest tournament score ever (-18). But the concern for Spieth is inconsistency. While he finished T3 in Houston this past weekend, he also sports a MC at the Valspar Championship and lost to President’s Cup teammate Patrick Reed to not make it out of group play in Austin 2 weeks ago (which your friendly golf reporter predicted- I told y’all Reed is a great match play golfer). Spieth currently ranks third on Tour in SG: Tee-to-Green, T6 in proximity and T10 in GIR percentage – all key stats in picking a Masters champ. If Jordan can keep it in the fairway and get his putting stroke back, there’s few that can beat him when he’s firing on all cylinders.
2. Justin Rose
Rose is due to win this tournament, and he’s been playing at an elite level for the greater part of 2018. At Augusta, his record is incredible for someone who has never won. Since his first Masters in 2003, he’s made every cut and has finished in the top 10 4 times. Including his runner-up finish last year to Sergio in a playoff, since 2012 he’s finished solo 2nd, T10, T2, T14, T25 and T8. His only concern is his poor finish in Houston last week. Despite going 68-69 earlier in the week, a pair of 72s on the weekend resulted in a disappointing T52 finish. Putting was the problem as he was 65th in both SG: Putting and putts per GIR. Rose did hit 75 percent of the greens in regulation and was top-25 in scrambling. Still, he is 11/11 on cuts this year with 8 top-10s this season. Experience along with a great record at Augusta and in 2018 makes Rose a safe pick to win it all on Sunday.
1. Justin Thomas
The #2 player in the world, Thomas is coming off a great 2017 campaign where he won his first major and should be poised to add to his collection in 2018. His last few starts on the PGA Tour make him the hottest player coming into this week (besides Bubba Watson) after losing in the Final 4 to eventual champ Watson at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match play. Before his trip to Austin, Thomas won The Honda Classic and finishing T9 at the Genesis Open a week earlier. Thomas would later tell reporters that he attributed his loss to Watson in Texas partially due to him knowing he’d jump to #1 in the world had he won in the semi-finals, overtaking Dustin Johnson. It might be risky to take an inexperienced Masters player as my #1 ranked golfer, but Thomas is hot and has all the tools to contend at this tournament for years to come. In his 2 starts at Augusta in 2016 and 2017, he’s finished T22 and T39 with an overall score to par at +12.
For this week, slightly unlike the power rankings I went with experience at Augusta over momentum in 2018. I still think Rose and Sergio are legitimate championship contenders, but it’s guys like Kuchar and Casey that will make the cut and get you much needed points on the weekend. Good luck to those with lineups this week, and enjoy one of the best weeks in golf this year!
Justin Rose $9,200
Paul Casey $8,800
Sergio Garcia $8,600
Adam Scott $8,000
Henrik Stenson $7,800
Matt Kuchar $7,600