Spieth to Slam Shut McIlroy's Career Slam Chance

The main event this week is The Masters, the first Major of the year. It is of course from Augusta National the host of this event since it began in 1934. Picking up his second Master last year was Bubba Watson, in a little easier style than his first win, by 3 shots. Tee times haven't been posted as yet and so not sure what time it will start but Augusta is 5 hours behind so it will be around a 7am start on the 9th April 2015.

The Course & Past Winners

Augusta National is perhaps the best known course in the World as the regular host of this event which receives probably the most coverage of all the majors. Augusta sits on the eastern edge of Georgia with the Augusta National GC to the north of the city. It is a parkland course that is 7,435 yards long and a par 72.
Tight and tree lined, keeping the ball in play is essential, but combining that with length is also key, hence the likes of Tiger has won this on 4 occasions, Phil Mickelson 3 times and recently Bubba Watson twice.
Of course the famous part of the course is Amen Corner, which is the approach to the 11th where the greenside pond has to be avoided, the par 3 12th over Rae's Creek and with the Azalea's behind it. Ending with the par 5 13th where again Rae's Creek needs to be avoided to have a chance to birdie that hole, or better; mind you, you need to make sure you don't go too far the other side as the trees will catch you, unless you play through the trees like Mickelson did on his last victory.
So you've managed to keep it straight, missed Rae's Creek and the various ponds, then you're left with the greens which are tricky and fast. As you'd expect from a major all parts of your game are tested.
The recent winners of have been:
Year Player Score Players Under Par Winning Margin
2014
WATSON Bubba
-8
7
3
2013
SCOTT Adam
-9
17
0
2012
WATSON Bubba
-10
18
0
2011
SCHWARTZEL Charl
-14
34
2
2010
MICKELSON Phil
-16
23
3
2009
CABRERA Angel
-12
35
0
2008
IMMELMAN Trevor
-8
10
3
2007
JOHNSON Zach
1
0
2
2006
MICKELSON Phil
-7
13
2
2005
WOODS Tiger
-12
16
0
2004
MICKELSON Phil
-9
12
1
2003
WEIR Mike
-7
7
0
Tough scoring as you expect from a Major. I've looked at results since 2000 and the winning score is no lower than 16 under and no more than 34 have finished under par.
The cut is made with usually the top 40 or 44 and those within 10 shots of the lead.

The Contenders

Two guys dominate here in terms of their record, in the 15 years I've looked at both Tiger Woods & Phil Mickelson have 11 top ten finishes each, Tiger missing last year doing so in one less visit, not that Phil was great last year as he missed the cut for the first time in that time. Tiger won in 2001, 2002 and his last victory of his 4 in 2005, runner up in 07 & 08, 3rd in 06, 4th in 2010, 2011 and in his last visit in 2013, and he's only finished outside the top 6 in 03 & 04 when 15th & 22nd, and 40th in 2012. Phil also has 3 wins since 2000 in 04, 06 & 2010 when he hit that shot from the trees, 3rd on four occasions (01, 02, 03 & 12) and 5th twice in 08 & 09. Four finishes outside the top ten with 24th in 07, 27th in 11, 54th in 2013 and the missed cut last year. Take out Blixt & Spieth who finished runners up last year on their debuts and Woods & Mickelson lead the field with an average round 70.66 and 71.00. Again excluding Blixt & Spieth they lead the field with 61% (34/56) and 59% (34/58) of rounds under par.
Form coming into this is certainly a big talking point for one of those two and that is of course Tiger who returns to action here following his withdrawal at the Farmers Insurance Open. There has also been plenty of talk about drop down the rankings, and it is perhaps quite appropriate that he heads into this week at 111, which is known as Nelson and we wait to see if Tiger will be playing on one leg again. As for Phil well he threatened early last week in Houston before dropping to 17th hinting that his game is peaking at the right time. Before last week he was also 17th at the Honda Classic, 31st at the WGC Cadillac Championship, and 30th at the Texas Open.
Now if you watch Sky Sports you'll know the build-up is all about Rory McIlroy's attempt to complete the career slam having picked up The Open and his 2nd US PGA last year. Started the year in hot form with 2nd in Abu Dhabi and a win a couple of weeks later in Dubai, but then missed the cut at the Honda Classic, bounced back with 9th at the WGC Cadillac Championship at Doral, and 11th at Bay Hill for the Arnold Palmer Invitational in his last event three weeks ago. His record at the Masters doesn't look that good with 8th last year his best result, but that doesn't always show the full picture. Famously threw away a big lead in 2011 shooting an 80 to drop to 15th, whilst the following year he was a shot behind the lead at the halfway stage before 77 & 76 dropped him down to 40th, in 2013 he was challenging again at the halfway stage before dropping down with a 79, but did recover with one of the better final rounds a 69. Again last year one poor round, this time in round two with a 77. Whilst he was 20th on debut in 09 and he missed the cut by 4 in 2010. Can go low shooting a 65 which is only bettered by two in the field and despite those bad rounds he still averages 72.36 which is 21st best in the field, and 55% (12/22) of rounds under par.
The form player at the moment is Jordan Spieth, he won the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook and has been 2nd in the last two weeks in his native Texas. Whilst before that he was 17th at Doral, 4th at the Northern Trust Open, 7th at Pebble Beach and Phoenix, with just a missed cut in between those two sevenths to let his run down. One of the well-known trends at The Masters is that no-one since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979, and he was the first since just the second year of the event. Spieth almost broke that trend last year finishing 2nd, so along with Blixt who was also 2nd on his debut he has an average round of 70.75 which is only beaten by Tiger, whilst his final round 72 last year stopped him having all 4 rounds under par after opening with a 71 and a pair of 70's.
In 2012 Bubba Watson wrote himself into Masters folklore with that shot from the trees to set up his playoff win. Well he showed the win wasn't a fluke by picking up his second win last year. Doesn't go too well if he doesn't win, 20th on debut in 2008 and 42nd the following year, didn't play in 2010, then 38th in 2011 and 50th in between his two wins. The two wins help him to an average of 71.79 which is 8th best in the field, and 46% (11/24) which is 15th best. Has not played much this year finishing 10th at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, runner up in Phoenix, 14th at the Northern Trust Open and 3rd at Doral.
Tiger isn't the only player to have had a large time away from golf in recent times, Dustin Johnson also had 6 months away from the game, although for different reasons. He returned at the Farmers Insurance Open where he missed the cut, then 4th at Pebble Beach, 2nd at the Northern Trust, before another missed cut at the Honda Classic, but bounced back with the win at Doral. After 5 weeks on the trot he took a few off before returning with 6th at the Valero Texas Open. Does not have a great here though, 30th on debut in 2009 and 38th in the next two years, didn't play in 2012, 13th in 2013 is his best result but missed the cut last year. So he only averages 72.67 which is 31st best in the field and just 5 under par rounds for 28% which is just 49th best.
In the last 5 years Adam Scott has finished in the top twenty each year, picking up the win in 2013. He was 18th in 2010, was caught by Schwartzel's four birdies in a row in 2011 and so finished 2nd, 8th in 2012 and 14th last year in defence of his title. Did miss the cut before the start of this run, and also in 2004, 9th back in 2002 on his debut here and between 23rd & 33rd in the other five visits. He also averages over par at 72.29 which is 17th best in the field and he has 40% (19/48) of rounds under par, but that improves to 70.75 & 55% over the last five years. He is one of those that has been using the long putter in the last few years and so has to change to the short putter and has been mixing a bit in recent weeks, starting the year with 4th at Doral, then missed the cut at the Valspar Championship and 35th at Bay Hill in his last outing. I believe he may be using the long putter here this week.
At the start of the 2013/14 wrap around on the season Jimmy Walker would not have been on many peoples lists to be a three time champion, but by the time he arrived here to make his debut he had already picked up three wins. Did well on his debut finishing in 8th, alongside another debutant Kevin Stadler, opening and closing with 70's just a 76 in round 3 letting him down. The pair finishing on level par and so average dead on 72 which is 9th best, and he has 50% of rounds under par. His 2014/15 wrap around season hasn't started quite as well, he only has two wins this season, defending his Sony Open title and then last time out at the Valero Texas Open a couple of weeks ago. Not always so good in between with 7th the next time out after his win then 21st, 41st & 31st. For the record Stadler has struggled with injury, withdrawing in his last event back at the Sony Open in January.
For the last three years both Matt Kuchar & Lee Westwood have finished in the top ten, in fact they tied 3rd in 2012 and 8th in 2013, Kuchar finishing a shot ahead last year in 5th, compared to 7th for Westwood. Kuchar made his debut back in 2002 when he missed the cut returning in 2010 when 24th and 27th in 2011. Westwood's history does go back a bit further missing the cut in the first year I have looked at in 2000, and also 2005 & 06, with 44th in his only appearance in between in 2002. Followed the missed cuts with 30th, 11th & 43rd before he was chased down by Phil in 2010 and 2nd, with 11th in 2011. Regular followers of my blog will know that Westwood was my pick last week in Houston, but a few too many dropped shots meant he missed the cut by a couple of shots, not that Kuchar was much better finishing 70th. Westwood had been ok before that, which is why he had been my pick, 25th at the Honda Classic, 12th at Doral and 17th at the Valspar being his worst three results for the year. Kuchar had also started the year well with 3rd & 2nd in his first two events before dropping to 30th, 23rd at Doral, 33rd at the Valspar, and 15th at the Texas Open.

My Selection

It is a Major and so I am going to go in triple handed here and to start I think I have to go with Jordan Spieth, 2nd here on debut last year and in great form with 1st and 2nd in his last three events. That does mean I'm missing Rory out, of course he has shown he can go well here, but has struggled to put it together for four rounds here and at 10-1 I think Spieth is the better value.
I think I will stick with my pick from last week Lee Westwood, yes he did miss the cut but he did hit a few birdies it was just a few too many mistakes to counter act that. If he can cut those out then he can do well at a course he's done well at in the past.
For my final thought it's between three, nearly four but I'm not keen on Johnson's form here, Mickelson of course has the form here, even with the missed cut last year, it's just whether his good start last week was a hint at his return to form ready for the Masters. Walker has been in inspired in recent times and 8th last year shows he can go well here too. Whilst like Westwood his poor performance last week is the slight worry for Kuchar, but he also has had a good run here and yet to finish outside the top 30 at Augusta. And of course I'm forgetting the sensational storyline of a Woods winning return. Whilst Scott's messing with his putter in recent weeks put's me off there.
Ok I'm not sure I trust Mickelson's form, Kuchar hasn't been in the best of form but then between his win's nor has Walker, and with Walker winning last time out I'm never too keen on those looking to win back to back. So I will go with Matt Kuchar, no worse than 33rd before last week when it was a poor last round that let him down, perhaps with his mind focussed on this week a little early, and he has a good record here especially in the last few years.