Where the golf world stands just one month until the 2017 Masters begins
The favorites, the lurkers and what to look for as Augusta nears in early April
In just four weeks -- following the Arnold Palmer Invitational, WGC-Match Play Championship and Houston Open -- We all traipse down Magnolia Lane for the 81st playing of the Masters.
That’s right, one month from today. Masters week will be in full swing as players prepare with practice rounds on the carpet of Augusta National and we all try to figure out who is going to wear a green sports coat on that Sunday evening.
We spend much of our year in golf looking forward to the Masters. After the last putt drops on the final major of the previous year, there is nearly an eight-month wait until the ceremonial first tee shot is hit at Augusta. Eight months!
But now it is almost upon us. The axis upon which all of this swings is nearly at hand. So let’s take a look at where the golf world stands with 30 days to go until the 2017 Masters begins.
The 2017 Masters field is currently just 85 golfers. If it holds, this would be the smallest field since there were 83 in 1993. One reason for its diminutive size is because nearly every winner in 2017 so far has already been qualified to play the event. This is normally where the field size grows in the lead-up to Augusta, and it hasn’t really happened much this time around.
Golfers inside the top 50 in the Official World Golf Rankings the week before the event will also be included, and this will add players like Tommy Fleetwood and possibly Jeunghun Wang. But unless we get a run of sleeper winners, the field should stay below 90.
, and they should be. Johnson has won each of his last two times out, and he had two top-six finishes in his three tournament before that. He has finished top 10 at Augusta each of the last two years. He’s going to be a bear to take down this time around.
Spieth has been equally impressive. He won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and has finished outside the top 12 in an event this season just one time (T22 at Genesis Open). His only three trips to Augusta have resulted in two second-place finishes and a green jacket. That seems good.
More interestingly, maybe, is that there are only nine favorites with 25-1 odds or better and six of them are under age 30. We could see some young blood take over the leaderboards at the Masters this time around.
A cursory glance at the current odds from our friends at Westgate Las Vegas Superbook tells me that there are some players I really like at this course that have really long odds. Here is a sampling.
- Brooks Koepka: 60-1
- Jimmy Walker: 80-1
- Gary Woodland: 80-1
- Lee Westwood: 100-1
- Kevin Kisner: 125-1
- Tommy Fleetwood: 125-1
Westwood is the one who sticks out to me. You all know he was a Danny Willett’s wife having a late pregnancy away from going to a playoff with Spieth on Sunday, right? I also like the way Fleetwood, Kisner and Woodland are hitting it right now. This is subject to change over the next month, but I’m in on those six right now.
Tiger Woods at the Masters?
What about him? Tiger has not played since the first round of the Dubai Desert Classic at the beginning of February. His next chance will be next week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
I don’t mean to be hyperbolic here, but the rest of Woods’ career hangs on whether he plays Augusta this year. If he skips this Masters, the whole thing is all over but the retirement press conference. If he plays, there is hope. The last time he played the Masters (2015), he teed off in the third-to-last group on Sunday with Rory McIlroy.
That’s not likely to happen this time around given how little he’s playing and how bad his back sounds like it’s doing, but it would be nice to at least see him give it a go.
Woods is going off at 100-1.
One key Masters stat
Something to keep an eye on over the next month? Golfers who are playing with a little momentum heading towards Augusta. I compiled numbers for the last seven winners (Bubba Watson won twice) and noted their average finish in the three tournaments leading up to Augusta. The only one who averaged a finish outside the top 26 in his final three events before the Masters was Charl Schwartzel in 2011.
- Danny Willett: 17.7
- Jordan Spieth: 1.7
- Bubba Watson (2014): 4.0
- Adam Scott: 22.0
- Bubba Watson (2012): 7.7
- Charl Schwartzel: 33.7
- Phil Mickelson: 26.3
Masters scheduling quirks
The other thing to keep an eye on is scheduling., but golfers are pretty set on skipping or playing the week before a major. Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods normally skip. Phil Mickelson likes to play. With an extremely busy March schedule on tap, there could be a bit of burnout come the beginning of April.
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