The four major championships in golf sit head and shoulders above all other events in the sport. They each have aspects that make them special, yet The Masters is the only golf tournament that matters to most casual sports fans. It’s also the tournament most coveted by professional golfers, and every avid amateur player has said to himself or herself before hitting a putt on the practice green, “This putt… to win The Masters.”
One major reason for this high level of intrigue is the 8-month gap between the final major of the previous year to The Masters each April. During this period, fans generate an inordinate amount of hype. As is typical, the conversation has generally centered on a small group of players. This Masters, the three main storylines revolve around Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, and Jordan Spieth.
Tiger Hunts Fifth Green Jacket
For a large number of fans, this man is the player that matters in this year’s Masters. After a roller-coaster 2018 that culminated in a season-ending victory at the Tour Championship, Tiger’s 2019 season has been relatively quiet. In five events, he has two top-tens and not a single round over par.
The good news for Tiger fans is that he is hitting the ball superbly. Despite playing fairly conservatively off the tee thus far, Tiger still ranks 8th in strokes-gained: tee-to-green. The bad news is that his normally rock-solid putter has been cold all year. However, few players in history have putted Augusta’s greens better than Woods, so don’t be too surprised if his flat stick heats up on the weekend.
Rory Looks To Complete Grand Slam
McIlroy has had a historically great run of finishes leading into the year’s first major, and the Northern Irishman comes into this Masters the betting favorite at 8/1. He is the only player other than Tiger Woods in 2000 to post 7 top tens and a victory before April. This will be McIlroy’s fifth attempt at completing the career grand slam, and until he finally claims his first green jacket, the pressure will continue to mount.
All year long, McIlroy has talked about the strides he has made in his mental game. He claims that has begun to focus on being more process-oriented than results-oriented. This shift has paid huge dividends this season, but no course in the world tests a player’s mental game like Augusta National. If he fails to bring his A-game this week, he won’t be able to say anything to stop prevent both media and fans from questioning his new attitude.
Can a player struggling with every aspect of his game really be one of the favorites for The Masters? In Jordan Spieth’s case, the answer is yes. His five career finishes are as follows: T-2nd, 1st, T-2nd, T-11th, and 3rd.
Until he proves otherwise, Spieth will always be a major part of the conversation that surrounds The Masters. However, looking at his statistics this season will alarm anyone who is planning on placing a few bucks on the Texan to win. Spieth’s putting has always been dramatically overrated by fans, but his woes on the greens this year are still a cause for concern.
So far this season, Spieth is only 81st on tour in strokes-gained: putting. What is even more jarring is that that is his highest ranking in any strokes-gained statistic. Spieth is 131st in strokes-gained: approach the green, 204th in strokes-gained: off-the-tee, and 167th in strokes-gained: total.