Paulie and I decided to do a little back-and-forth, drafting teams of ten for the this week’s Masters. Paulie was nice enough to give me the first pick in the draft and then we alternated every two picks after that.
Pick 1 (Andy) - Dustin Johnson
Andy: Since last year, I have been saying that there was no way I wasn’t picking Spieth at the Masters but now we are here and I am going with DJ. With rain early in the week, the fairways will be soft and a little wider, giving him an even larger advantage. Make it four straight wins for the World No. 1.
Paulie: Thanks for handing me Spieth :)
Pick 2 (Paulie) - Jordan Spieth
I game planned by giving Andy the first pick since I knew that he was going to pick DJ and leave me with Spieth and my next pick (Rory). Even if I had the first pick, I would have gone with Spieth. You can’t go against Spieth’s elite record at Augusta (2-1-2 in his three starts). Many of Spieth’s critics are emphasizing how difficult it will be for him to overcome last year’s meltdown. We forget that Jordan has one of the best mental games around. I look for him to put the past behind him and win this week.
Andy: I already am regretting passing on Spieth and damn you for tricking me.
Pick 3 (Paulie) - Rory McIlroy
There are a clear top 3 for this event so there really is no choice but to go with Rory. Many of Rory’s majors have come on wet and rainy golf courses (same as this week’s forecast). Am I convinced he will win and complete the Grand Slam? No…I think he makes too many big numbers as evidenced by the fact that he has shot over 76 at least once in 6 of his last 7 Masters appearances. He can’t afford a day like that if he wants to win. However, he has the most upside of any player so I guess I’m forced into choosing him.
Pick 4 (Andy) - Rickie Fowler
I picked Rickie last year and he burned me, but I am going back for more. This year, expectations are lower and he is playing some of the best golf of his career. He won the Honda Classic and has been in contention a lot this spring, making a ton of birdies. His all-around game is an excellent fit for Augusta and I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the year he gets it done.
Paulie: You took my next pick….Rickie is due for a major breakout at some point. The only question I have is similar to Rory in that I’m not sure if he can limit the big numbers. Interesting stat: The winner of the Masters the last 5 years finished in the top 3 in bogey avoidance that week. That goes against the common misconception that the winner at Augusta makes a ton of birdies to cancel out their mistakes.
Pick 5 - (Andy) Jon Rahm
I know he is a Masters rookie and they haven’t fared well over the years, but this guy is one of the five best players in the world right now. His worst finish in the last six starts is T16, a run which included a win at Torrey Pines and two top-three finishes at WGCs. He is a transcendent driver of the golf ball and rolls the rock beautifully, two assets vital to success at Augusta.
Paulie: Hot take of the week: Rahm will MISS THE CUT. Yes, I realize that is a bold prediction given the fact that Rahm has been on fire and that not many players miss the cut at the Masters due to small field. I think Rahm is getting to the point of being burned out playing a ton of golf over the past few months, including the marathon at the WGC-Dell Match Play followed by four rounds in Houston. Tee to green I think Rahm will perform well but I am worried about him on the quick, undulating greens. I’m afraid Rahm will struggle like he did on the front of the championship match against DJ at the Dell Match Play. I think the minute Rahm gets a few over par, he may start forcing the issue which we know can be very dangerous at Augusta.
Pick 6 (Paulie) - Hideki Matsuyama
Hideki has finished in the top seven here the last two years. I think there is a pretty good chance that continues. It’s amazing how people have forgotten about Hideki when he was dominant only 2 months ago. I look for him to get back into form and manage his game this week by leaning on his impeccable iron game.
Andy: My one concern with Hideki has been his recent form, but I love his track record and game for Augusta. Definitely is flying under the radar most of the favorites.
Pick 7 (Paulie) - Jason Day
Day recently withdrew from the Dell Match Play after hearing that his mother was diagnosed with cancer. I think Day may channel his inner Tiger and put that emotion into his game this week. Lest we forget that Day improved his mental game via mentoring from Tiger. Anyone remember how well Tiger played when dealing with the health of his father Earl? Maybe a victory for Day filled with emotion come Sunday?
Andy: When Day is on arguably no one is better in the game, but we haven’t seen anything close to top form from Day this year. His short game and putting alone can keep him inside the cut line but I don’t like what I am seeing from tee to green.
Pick 8 (Andy) - Justin Rose
A two-time runner-up at the Masters, Rose comes into the week playing sensational golf in 2017. When you blend his strong track record at Augusta, recent form and big time wins at the US Open and the Olympics the eighth pick seems a little low for him.
Paulie: Rose is definitely a solid pick but I’m not sure if he can bring home the Green Jacket. His one weakness is his putter, especially under pressure. I think he will finish top 10 this week, most likely after fading a bit on Sunday.
Pick 9 (Andy) - Louis Oosthuizen
The sweet-swinging South African is somehow 55-to-1 to win. Oosthuizen lost in a playoff to Bubba Watson in 2012 and has finished in the top 25 the last three years. Few are better than Louis tee to green and if the weather forecast of heavy winds holds that should play right into his hands.
Paulie: I absolutely love Louis this week and am hitting myself over the head for not taking him sooner. Many people don’t realize that Louis could have 4 majors right now if he played a total of 3 or 4 shots better at the right time. At 55-1 he is my favorite value on the betting board.
Pick 10 (Paulie) - Justin Thomas
At pick 10, it’s hard to pass up the upside that Thomas provides. He has shown this year his ability to play aggressive, yet under control, and dominate fields. That is exactly the type of play needed this week. Thomas’ length should pay dividends, especially on the par 5’s, under the wet conditions.
Andy: I feel like I’m getting all the hype guys and you just keep scooping up the players who are flying under the radar. I guess that’s why you are better at picking players than me.
Pick 11 (Paulie) - Phil Mickelson
Good ol’ Lefty. At pick 11 you can’t pass up a guy with arguably one of the best track records at Augusta. Mickelson has shown some glimpses of brilliance this year but can he put that together for four rounds? We shall see.
Andy: Finally, I feel like you reached on a guy. Phil hasn’t won since 2013 and I don’t think that changes this week. Augusta has planted more trees this year which is not a good thing for Phil, a player who has trouble finding the swing plane with his driver.
Pick 12 (Andy) - Paul Casey
Another guy that has a great track record and recent form, Casey has finished inside the top 10 five times in 10 Masters appearances. The Englishman has plenty of pop to take advantage of the Augusta par 5’s. He hasn’t won in the past two years but he’s been close.
Pick 13 (Andy) - Brooks Koepka
Koepka had an atrocious start to the 2017 season, missing the cut in five of the six full-field PGA Tour events he’s played. I would be out on Koepka had it not been for the dominant play he showed at Austin C.C. for the Dell Match Play, where he advanced to the Round of 16 and handed out a couple of beatdowns in pool play. He has played well at Augusta, making the cut in both appearances, and I just have a feeling he is going to turn heads this week.
Paulie: Koepka is definitely a shot in the dark this week. Do I think he can put up a few good rounds this week? Sure. Do I think he will be on the leaderboard come Sunday? That would be an emphatic no. Going back to one of the stats mentioned earlier: The winner the last 5 years was top-3 in bogey avoidance. I think Koepka will make a few big numbers over the weekend to take him out of contention (assuming he plays well the first two days).
Pick 14 (Paulie) - Sergio Garcia
Sergio! How are you still around at pick 14? Sergio is a premiere ball striker who usually plays great in wet and windy conditions (as long as he can hold onto the club….see Dell Match Play video). I like the steadiness of his game, which will limit the number of bogeys he makes. The only question is if the putter will cooperate enough to contend come Sunday.
Andy: I might be rooting for Sergio and Lee Westwood more than anyone else this week.
Pick 15 (Paulie) - Brandt Snedeker
Sneeeedeker! He is very comfortable at Augusta and this is the tournament that he wants to win the most. If you don’t believe me, watch some of his interviews in past years when he blew up on the weekend here. I think Snedeker has learned from those experiences and might sneak under the radar this week. He does have 4 top 20s in his last six starts here even after his weekend struggles.
Pick 16 (Andy) - Adam Scott
Past champion and a legendary ball striker make Scott a steal at 16. The weather conditions should play into the Aussie’s hands and if he makes a few putts, he will be right in the mix late on Sunday.
Paulie: Scott is a great ball striker but I have to turn away from the TV every time I see him putt as I’m afraid seeing so many misses is not good for my golf game. I think he will make the cut but will never be in contention.
Pick 17 (Andy) - Thomas Pieters
A Masters rookie and I will admit my Illini homer pick, but Pieters’ game should fit well at Augusta. Playing in last year’s Ryder Cup as a rookie, Pieters was arguably the best player on either team. This year, Pieters has already notched two top-five finishes and should be fresh after a week off.
Paulie: Andy going for the ultimate home run pick. I see two potential outcomes for Pieters this week: He either misses the cut or is top 10 heading into the weekend. He is the perfect boom or bust choice. Which Pieters will we see this week?
Pick 18 (Paulie) - Daniel Berger
Berger is a sneaky play this week as his length and ability to go on birdie barrages will help him vault up the leaderboard. If I need someone to shoot 29 on the back nine on Sunday to win, Berger is surprisingly top on my list to do that. He finished 10th last year and is fresh off a fifth place finish at Houston.
Andy: Will DB be vibin? Been a little hot or cold with Berger in 2017 but love his upside, overall confidence and ability to go low.
Pick 19 (Paulie) - Angel Cabrera
Before I make my final pick (pick 19) I do have to point one thing out: Henrik Stenson is still available. However, I’m staying away from him like the plague this week. Stenson’s upside is capped at Augusta as he has never recorded a top-ten finish here and has struggled of late. So with my last pick I’m digging a little deep into the field. I’m going with a guy who has a love affair with Augusta, Angel Cabrera. Cabrera has won two majors (2007 US Open and 2009 Masters) and lost in a playoff at the 2013 Masters. Come Sunday I want a guy who has closed before and isn’t afraid of the spotlight and that is Cabrera. He has finished top 35 in six of the last seven years at Augusta. Cabrera also plays very well in bad conditions with his calm demeanor where he plots along and picks the course apart. Cabrera has shown some flashes of game as shown by his 34th place finish last week at Houston which was capped off by an ace on his last hole of the final round.
Andy: Guy is a legend, I can’t knock the pick. I love all things El Pato.
Pick 20 (Andy) - Bubba Watson
I hate myself and feel like a terrorist but he’s won here twice and has found some form recently. He shot a final-round 68 in brutal scoring conditions at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and then followed it up with a strong showing at the WGC-Dell Match Play, making it out of pool play and into the Round of 16. Regret for picking Gerry is already setting in.
Paulie: Did you really just pick a guy with colored balls to win a major? I’m going to go throw up. Peace out.