Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.
Lots of speculation this week about Bryson DeChambeau and what he and other bombers might do to Augusta National. Given that the Augusta poohbahs don’t want to grow deep penal rough, what else can they do to defend the course, or do they need to do anything?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Our esteemed Round Table colleague Mr. Quinn sent an article the other day that described a recent practice round at Augusta in which BDC practically ANNIHILATED the golf course, with shots that included driving OVER the green on the 350-yard 3rd hole, with a 3-wood… and on all the other longish par 4s and 5s, he was hitting second shots into the greens with as much as a 7-iron and as little as a sand wedge. Against this kind of onslaught, one can only hope that the guy does what the rest of us do, occasionally, with these short clubs: shank, chunk, and skull. I just hate to see this gentleman, and others not quite as scientific, do this to such hallowed ground. But what CAN the poohbahs do? At some point, even THEY will run out of available (or purchasable) land to make their golf course longer. But I don’t think that’s a solution anyway. I think Ian Poulter may have the best answer here: https://www.golfpunkhq.com/news/articles/poults-chips-in-on-big-hitting-debate
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): If Augusta is looking to protect scores, they can just hide the holes. Put and keep them in severe/dangerous spots on the greens all week instead of just one day. I think watching what DeChambeau (and the rest of the bombers) and what they do this week just may affect Augusta’s future planning (although they might already have, come May the course might have some upgrades). As they tried to Tiger proof the course years ago, Augusta I have no doubt is contemplating additional changes to challenge the best in the world on their grounds.
Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame member, PGA of Canada: Why do they have to do anything? Who knows what the future holds? They (The Masters) and/or the USGA and R&A might actually do something with all their studies about distance. Any changes to Augusta National might be unnecessary.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): I don’t think they need to do anything at this time. Ultimately, it’s an exciting tournament, whether the winning score is 2 under or 17 under. And there are always big names at or near the top. Guys may get some advantage by bombing it like BDC is attempting to do, but they still have to keep it in play and often turn the ball to do so if they are hitting it that far. So, if he can drive it that well, he deserves an advantage! In the end, short game matters so much at Augusta National, so it’s not just a driving competition.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: My phone, it’s so smart, is predicting a lot of rain in Augusta, lightning Thursday, and rain through the weekend. But next Monday to Thursday looks warm and sunny. (Maybe they can reschedule again.) If the forecast holds, maybe nothing has to be done except let nature takes its course and soak the course to keep the bombers at bay.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Not much needs to be done to the course. Maybe a couple of well-placed trees. They could also get creative with the course set-up by moving tees up on some holes, effectively killing anybody’s distance advantage, and maybe adding some diabolical new pin positions on the firm, slick greens. Otherwise, let Masters pressure and the weather be the variables that influence scoring. It’s always tough to control those, no matter how far you hit the ball. May the best putter win!
Here’s this week’s prop bet. There are three distinct groups of players competing at the Masters: Past Champions, World Top 10’s and the Rest of the Field. Experience counts at Augusta. Tiger Woods (5), Phil Mickelson (3) and Bubba Watson (2) have all added green jackets to their collection in the past 10 years. Other winners like Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia and Jordan Spieth seem to always contend at Augusta. Patrick Reed, Danny Willett and Charl Schwartzel round out this group of past champions. Oddly, none of the players ranked in the World Top 10 have ever won the Masters. This group includes Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, Rory McIlroy, Bryson DeChambeau, Webb Simpson, Xander Schauffele, Tyrell Hatton and Patrick Cantlay. As for the Rest of the Field, in a regular PGA Tour event, that might include journeymen and qualifiers but at the Masters, there are no pretenders. The list includes Brooks Koepka, Matthew Wolff, Tommy Fleetwood, Tony Finau, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose and many others. So, do you go with experience (Past Champions), the Hot Hand (World Top 10) or find some nuggets in the Rest of the Field?
Deeks: My inclination right now is to ignore past history and just give the damn jacket to DeChambeau. Maybe even on Thursday as he drives it ONTO the 3rd green with a 5-wood. Kidding aside, I realize that Augusta has many features and quirks that might benefit an experienced winner, or a certain kind of player (including shorter hitters), or a master of the short game. But the guy who usually wins is the one who can control his emotions, breathe deeply, and focus on the task at hand… think of McIlroy (who didn’t, and blew it), or Bubba (who did, with the most miraculous shot ever played on the first playoff hole). On that basis, I don’t know who’ll have his expletive together the most this weekend, but my heart says Go Rory!!
Loughry: You have to go with Top 10, that’s where I think the champ comes from this year. Its because they have played some exceptional golf of late to get there. And that group includes some serious talent. I will say I have my eye on a couple of those “rest of the field” category who just haven’t played enough golf in the last 8 months to crack the top 10. I’ll be glued to watch everyday as the drama unfolds though.
Schurman: People say the Masters has the weakest field of the four majors and the players list either the US Open or The Open as the prime event in their regard. In my dreams, I agree but after attending a couple of Masters there’s a lot to be said about returning annually for the Champions Dinner. There is a distinct ‘feel’ that comes over you. You either embrace it or are uncomfortable with it. The place is stately, elegant and even regal while at the same time it is gracious, simple and a bit rustic. I’m going with guys who would enjoy attending the ‘dinner’. Rory, Cantlay and Wolfe.
Rule: I actually don’t like any of the past champions this week. Obviously, I’d love for Tiger to be there on Sunday, but it’s not likely. And there may be one or two guys from the rest of the field that contend (I’m looking at you Tony Finau), but I’d go with the Hot Hand group, with 6 of them already being major champions, they have the best chance of being the Masters champ this year.
Quinn: If I were a betting man, and I was back in the day, I’d put the lunch money on the Hot Hands. Inconceivable that springtime experience at Augusta can carry guys like Eldrick and Phil now in the autumn of their careers, and the rest of the past winners haven’t impressed lately. This being the Masters, the Field earned their way to Georgia and someone in the pack will likely threaten, but unlikely they’ll get a jacket.
Mumford: None of the past champions, except Mickelson, are playing particularly well now and Phil’s success has been on the Geezer Tour. I know you’re never supposed to count Tiger out, but I’m counting him out. As for the Rest of the Field, it includes some tempting options including a few players ranked 11-20, but I think the winner comes out of the Top 10 grouping. Six of them are previous major champions and Morikawa and DeChambeau got there this year. Most of them have played very well at Augusta in the past so they have good Masters experience too. I’m going with the Hot Hand.
Who’s your pick to win a green jacket on Sunday evening? And who’s your sleeper pick?
Deeks: My pick to win, much as it pains me to go with the favourite, is DeChambeau. My sleepers would be Morikawa and Fleetwood. My real outside choice would be Kevin Kisner. My sentimental choice, as suggested above, would be McIlroy.
Loughry: Finau will finish in the top 10, but not win. I’m going with a gut pick; I like Justin Thomas. He’s been the model of consistency in Majors and I just think it’s his turn. I’m sure DJ, DeChambeau, Rahm and Koepka will be hanging around too. My sleeper pick is Tiger, he hasn’t played great of late, but you just can’t rule him out, too much success and green knowledge to dismiss.
Schurman: I’d be a fool not to choose BDC. My sleepers are Tyrell Hatton and Corey Conners.
Rule: Sticking with my Hot Hand group, my pick is one of the guys who has yet to win a major, but has the game to do so, and that’s Jon Rahm. My sleeper pick is Corey Conners, the ball striking machine who is a hot putter away from contending in a major. Let’s hope we have some good Canadian content on the weekend this year. Can’t wait to watch!
Quinn: After all the hype and the stats released from his practice round, it wouldn’t be surprising if DeChambeau takes it from the lab to the course. As noted, weather might be a bit of an equalizer. Nor would it surprise if Rahm harnesses his power to prevail Sunday. But, amid all the hype, don’t lose sight of Matsuyama and Hatton, my sleeper entry.
Mumford: I read a great line recently about why Masters favourite Bryson DeChambeau won’t overpower Augusta National. “The prize is a sport coat, not a bomber jacket.” Sorry BDC. I’ve picked Jon Rahm to win every major for the past three years so why stop now. He’s at the top of his game and he made a hole-in-one in the skipping contest on the 16th hole on his birthday. That has to be good karma, right? Sentimentally, I always pull for Spieth and McIlroy, but my sleeper pick is Xander Schauffele. Not like he’s lurking way down in the weeds, he’s ranked 8th in the world, but more importantly, the X-man has the most Top 10’s in majors in the past few years. I think he’s due.