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Raymond Floyd, Jr. of Old Greenwich, Conn. and Innis Arden Golf Club is the son of Raymond Floyd, winner of 22 PGA Tour events and 4 major championships, including the 1976 Masters. Floyd, Jr., the 2011 Connecticut Mid-Amateur Champion and an accomplished golfer in his own right, will be posting a daily blog of his encounters on the hallowed ground of Augusta National Golf Club during the 2016 Masters Tournament.
I am traveling down to Augusta today. In fact, I am starting this blog at gate D2 at hands down the worst airport on the planet - New York’s LaGuardia. With that being said get Global Entry/TSA pre check. It will change your life if you travel a lot - period.
Let’s talk about the weather. It always matters at Augusta because the course will really play differently depending on the conditions. We all can look at the future forecast and see that the weather is going to be great in Augusta for the week. Thursday is a little bit of a wild card as it does look to rain some then. But every other day of the week starting today thru Sunday is 0% chance of rain.
I like to look at a week or so prior though as well, and Augusta has had quite a bit of rainfall, and I would expect the course to be somewhat soft starting with the practice rounds today. Now with that being said Augusta has state of the art technology called sub-air. It is a system that literally sucks moisture out of the ground from underneath. They have it in every green complex and under certain “low points” on the golf course. So even with the rainy conditions the past 10 days or so in the area, coupled with the sub air pumping and a relatively dry 3 days of practice rounds I think the course will play at about a 7 in firmness (1 being soaked and 10 being bone dry).
Obviously I will have a lot better feel for this when I get my boots on the grounds tomorrow morning. The reason weather is such a big factor is simply a firm fast golf course opens up the field for anyone to win as it neutralizes some of the longer hitters, and lets some of the shorter hitters get it out there where they can have a little less club into greens, and if you a shorter hitter on tour your mid to short iron game is normally sharp as a tack - see Zach Johnson as an example.
But if Zach has to be pumping 4 or 5 irons into holes where Dustin Johnson can be pumping 7 or 8 irons that matters a lot - period. Look I can sit here and talk about weather patterns and very cool agronomic technology till we are blue in the face, but at the end of the day it really comes down to who putts the best - right? Look at the display that Jordan Spieth put on last year. It was ridiculous and I do not care if the course played 9,000 yards he was going to ride that putter to victory last year regardless.
That being said the weather is always a hot topic of conversation in the media and amongst players themselves going in, as it can change a game plan, what clubs guys opt to put in their bag or take out for the week, and game plans off the tees.
Ok let’s get to the players here. The question I get the most this time of year is who are my picks and who are my dark horses. Last year the story lines were endless with Tiger playing, Spieth starting to hit his stride, the starts that Patrick Reed and Jimmy Walker were off to, Phil playing good golf, Jason Day…
Honestly I did not think this year could be juicer, especially in a Masters that did not have Tiger playing in it. Boy was I wrong. I mean so many guys are playing well heading into this week it is amazing, but just like last week’s Houston Open proved that does not necessarily matter. Now the Houston Open and The Masters are 2 different animals and I mean that with no disrespect to The Houston Open - period. But why couldn’t a guy like a Jim Herman, obviously playing great, contend in The Masters?
When I landed today I did what I always do, buy an August Chronicle, the local newspaper down here. Low and behold the very front page in the lead article was the headline “Field Goes Far Deeper Than Favorites” It was an interesting article about guys that were not given a chance to win The Masters who actually did go on to win - Zach Johnson 07, Immelman 08, Cabrera 09, and Schwartzel 11. Yes, Cabrera had won the US Open at Oakmont in 2007 (the site of the next major on the calendar in 2016) but he was not one of the favorites in 09.
There was an interesting quote by Keegan Bradley in the article basically saying all these young guys that are playing so much have so much pressure on them because they are at the top of the sport. Ok we all know that and it is kind of cliché, but the really interesting point he made was how many media commitments all of these guys have. Keegan goes onto say that he can be on his own schedule and do his own thing. He is on no one’s schedule but his own.
I think this is a big deal. Golf has grown so much since my dad contended in The Masters, but I remember vividly he always had a schedule that he stuck to, and if someone wanted to do an interview he would tell them to meet him back at the veranda at a certain time as he had a scheduled practice session, workout, lunch, family time…this day and age it does not work like that, especially at The Masters. They tell you when you need to be in the press tent, and you have to work your schedule around that. Believe me, golfers maybe more than any other athletes, are creatures of habit.
Am I saying that a guy like Keegan or someone equal to him is going to win this week - absolutely not, but he is definitely a lot more under the radar than a lot of guys and that can be an advantage.
Onto my little preview, and mind you I have not been out to the course yet, have not followed anyone around, have not seen the conditions (although the weather is absolutely perfect today unless you don’t like 79 and sunny). There will be some additions to what is below tomorrow and Wednesday as I get out there amongst the patrons and see what everyone is bringing to the table, but in the meantime I am going to run-through the favorites, and then give you a couple of my dark horses.
Jason Day - What can you say about this guy - everyone thought that once he won his first major the flood gates would open and boy have they ever. Great swing, crushes the ball, very stoic on the course, and absolutely rolls the eyes out of it. He has done very well at Augusta in the past and no reason to think that he cannot win it this year. He is the morning line favorite as I type this.
Jordan Spieth - His form is not good, he has struggled a little, he has too much going on outside of golf - blah blah blah blah - you would have to put a gun to my head to bet against this kid, I mean the guy almost took down every major last year. He has steely nerves and he had the greatest putting display ever on these famous greens at Augusta last year. He will be in the conversation Sunday – period.
Rory McIlroy - I really like him this week, but my one fear with him is that he wants it too much, and sometimes that can be a huge hindrance and affect play. No one works as hard in the gym or on the course as him and now that he is settled down a touch off the course I feel he could be primed. I feel like everything he has done the last 6 months was to get ready to peek for this week.
Bubba Watson - At 10-1 I think this is a no brainer bet. Look left-handers have won 50% of the last 12 Masters played and I do not think that is coincidence. Everyone knows Augusta is a right to left golf course, but for a left-hander that is a fade that a lot of the tour players prefer to hit these days. Bubba’s one knock is putting, but with his scary length, and the way he can work the ball he can honestly overpower the course and I think he might win this thing again this year.
Adam Scott - Very interesting that he has won 2 of his last 3 starts with David Clark on the bag, but he has opted for the legendary Steve Williams this week. Adam won his green jacket in a playoff over the aforementioned Cabrera with Steve on the bag, and he has had some of his best years of his career with Steve under the straps. Everyone thought he was a goner when the “anchor rule” went into effect - I guess we were wrong on that one.
Ricky Fowler - Very very quietly having a good year. I am not sure if he is ready to take the next step yet, but this is a guy I 100% plan on watching in practice rounds, because Ricky, Jimmy Walker, Phil, and Dustin Johnson have legendary matches for a lot of money and I want to see where his head is at and how his form is before I say anything else.
Dustin Johnson - Man I still throw up in my mouth when I think of that finish at Chambers Bay. That is the knock on DJ - he cannot close it out, but the guy is so talented and like Bubba can overpower the golf course. I think at 20-1 you have to have something on him - again more to report after I watch that group the next 2 days.
Under the Radar:
Phil Mickelson: I do not think Phil can ever be under the radar, and if he makes a charge on the weekend the crowd here is going to absolutely lose it. I think you have to have him in the mix, right now he is the 6th favorite behind only Day, Spieth, Rory, Bubba, and Adam - so that should tell you something right there. Phil has 3 jackets and he always plays personal games with himself to get motivated. Do not think it is lost on him that only 4 players in modern time have won a major after their 45th birthday - One is obvious lets see if anyone can name the other 2 without cheating.
Henrik Stenson - Runner-up to Herman last week. Kills it, putting great, a little more mature, gets angry less. He could be a sneaky pick, and again coming in this week a little stealthy.
Louis Oosthuizen - I will tell you this right now - I have used him in every single on of my Masters Pools. This guy’s game is just a thing of beauty. For a little guy he crushes it, very striking iron game and is a magician around the greens. He plays the majors very well, has a great track record here, and seems to always rise to the top when the most is on the line.
Charl Schwartzel - I have to put the 2 Old Palm guys back to back as both Charl and Louis live there and have become good friends with Dad. He has fallen off the map since he won his Masters, but his game is finally starting to take shape. He had a top 10 in the US Open last year - and got back in the winners circle at The Valspar in Tampa earlier this year. His odds are long but you can never count out former Masters Champs in good form.
Justin Rose - Like I mentioned with Jason Day I thought that when Rose broke through at Oakmont the floodgates would open. Not that he has been a disappointment because he has had a very solid career and year, but I am waiting for him to pop up and make some noise. I know he works very hard on his body and his game and I like the fact that he played sparingly leading up to this week so he can be at his freshest.
Zach Johnson - Former Masters champ - Won his second major at St Andrews last year - played good not great so far this year - finished Top 10 here last year and always plays the par 5’s very well at Augusta in spite of his lack of length off the tee. Remember the year he won he played the Par 5’s in -11 and never hit one in 2 - can anyone say wedge game?
Patrick Reed - No one impressed me more with bravado than this guy at the 2014 Ryder Cup. He followed that up with a couple of wins early in the 2015 campaign and has already had 3 top 10’s this year very quietly. He is flat out not going to let anyone or any place intimidate him. A good recipe for success at Augusta.
Sergio Garcia - Man I say every year the guy is going to get off the schneid in a major and it never happens. He has the talent, the ability, and the experience to do it, but can he stay out of his own way? More than likely not.
A couple of other things I want to add - I did not know this until I saw it on Instagram but this is the first time in 12 years that Luke Donald has not been in the field. Luke is a fantastic guy and I was shocked when I heard it, but the former #1 will be watching from home this week.
On the flip side this is the first Masters for Ryder Cup Captain Davis Love III since 2011. The win in Greensboro at the Wyndham earned him a spot in this week’s field.
One of the saddest news events of the week was hearing that Arnold Palmer will not hit that first shot on Thursday morning along side Nicklaus and Player due to some problems in his shoulders. I can tell you right now this sport would be nothing without what he has done for the game. I did however get very happy when I heard he would attend the Champions dinner tomorrow night. That is just awesome.
Speaking of Champions this will be Tom Watson’s last Masters. He is one of the few guys in recent memory who has announced that this will be his last Masters and has an honest to God’s chance to make the cut. The man is timeless and the 3-time champion will get a well-deserved good-bye from the patrons…hopefully on Sunday.
Hopefully a lot more interesting stuff for everyone tomorrow as I will be there first hand, but this is already shaping up to be one hell of a week. I hope everyone is as excited as I am. Just a housekeeping note the blog for the rest of the week will probably not be sent out till pretty late at night as I have a lot of stuff going on, but believe me it will be coming. Until tomorrow night, good-bye from Augusta.