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2014 Masters Preview and Staff Predictions

Apr. 9, 2014     By     Comments (2)

It is hard to believe that the Masters is already here, and we here at The Sand Trap are ready for the first major of 2014. Let's see what the staff expects to happen at Augusta.

Thrash TalkHello Friends, it is time for the 2014 Masters. The start to 2014 has left many of The Sand Trap staff confused about who to pick as a winner at Augusta. In a typical year, most of the staff goes with Tiger, but after the recent announcement that he will not play, many of us are left looking elsewhere for a winner. I think this makes the 2014 a complete toss up. There is no dominant player in the game now who you can point too and say they are guaranteed to be there on Sunday afternoon.

The 2013 winner Adam Scott looked very strong at Bay Hill until the final round where he let Matt Every slip past him. Rory had one slip away in 2014 at the Honda, which was positive to see him playing well again, but bad in the sense that he still hasn't found his way into the winners circle other than in Australia. This makes our job as predictors tough, because we need to dig through the stats to find that special player that will have the magic at this seasons first major.

With that lets look and see how the staff predicts this years event:

1. Who is your winner? At what score? What's your reasoning?

George Promenschenkel
If it's a dry fast course, I like Zach Johnson's chances to control the ball around the course and wear out the field. But with the year we've had, I hate to make a weather-dependent pick, so I'm taking Matt Kuchar at 286 (-2). He's shown that he has the game. He finished in the top ten at Augusta the last two Masters. The guy is due for a breakthrough major win.

Tristan Hilton
I honestly don't know. Since I've been doing these things, I don't think that there is one where I haven't picked Tiger (maybe one other time, but I'm not sure). The back is obviously going to be a big question for him heading into this. How about Jordan Spieth getting his first major. He's played well this year recording a 7 top 25s (three of which were top tens and one of those was a runner-up finish) in just nine events this year.

Jamieson Weiss
Rickie Fowler, -12. I don't know why. He's played well this year but not too well. He got a haircut. That's all I got.

Michael C. Hepp
Normally I like to pour over the early season stats to see who has statistically done very well during the season and has the right pedigree to win at Augusta. I found very little this year to impress me. I very much want to pick Justin Rose, but he early season stats are not encouraging. Still he has played Augusta well in the past and now has a major to feel comfortable when the pressure is on. So I will go with him. My backup pick is Jason Day. The winner will be -8.

Mike McLoughlin
I think Adam Scott defends at -10. He strips it and continues to putt well. He's played incredibly well at the Major Championships for the last two years. In five starts this year he has three top-10's with a third place finish at his last start. The latter being the Arnold Palmer Invitational where he dominated most of the week. The way he is playing he can definitely do it again.

Erik J. Barzeski
I don't have a 60-sided die to roll, which I may as well. Is Charles Coody playing again this year? Is Gary Player going to keep hitting after his opening tee shot? They have about as good a chance as anyone, it would seem.

Because I like his shoes, I'm picking Ryan Moore at -6 (because six is one of my favorite numbers). And if I happen to get this right (I won't), I'll take no credit for it other than cosmic alignment of the stars (and then I'll wish I'd submitted a bracket for a chance at winning a billion dollars, as both are about equally likely).

2. With Tiger out, Phil Mickelson should be licking his chops, but he has recently pulled out due to injury as well. What are your thoughts on how Phil will tackle Augusta in 2014?

George Promenschenkel
Predicting what Mickelson will do in a given week is like picking the Dayton Flyers into the Elite Eight. It's just not easy to do. Mickelson's short game and imagination always seem like the perfect match for Augusta. Couple that with the fact that he can hit it a country mile and he should be a great pick.

Unfortunately, aside from a bad back or sprained wrist, a pulled oblique could be just about as bad an injury to play with as a golfer could have. You are going to feel it on every swing, probably on the backswing, downswing, and follow through. However, Phil being Phil, it might actually help him to stay within himself and not try to do too much. That leaves putting, which could go either way with Phil, and there are few more difficult places to putt than Augusta. I think he'll be high on the leader board on Sunday, but the putter will balk on a few shortish ones and keep him from winning another green jacket.

Tristan Hilton
I don't think that Tiger being out will really influence how Phil goes about his business at Augusta. He is an aggressive player who plays well at that course and I wouldn't be surprised to see his name towards the top of the leaderboard. As mentioned, he has had to WD lately due to injury, but I don't think that'll be too big of an issue. I think we'll see a healthy Phil for the Masters.

Jamieson Weiss
It's weird to think that Phil Mickelson won the British Open last year. Do people remember that? I sometimes forget it. Less than a year ago, Phil Mickelson won the only major we were all positive he would never conquer, and he did it by making up a five-shot deficit on Sunday.

That said, I don't expect much from Phil. An oblique injury doesn't sound fun for someone who relies so heavily on thrashing at the golf ball. It seems like one of those injuries where either it'll be healed in time and Phil won't have any pain, or it will be a nagging constant on every single swing, and he will just have to deal with it. It's Augusta, so I doubt he'll miss the cut, but I certainly don't expect a sixth major.

Michael C. Hepp
Phil loves himself some Augusta. Everything about this week is going to increase his adrenaline levels and push him to play well this week. I look for Phil to be right there but just missing out. I actually believe no Tiger hurts Phil more than helps him. Lately he has played really well in the presence of Tiger. My bet is he would rather have Tiger there than not.

Mike McLoughlin
Phil's a wild card but I think he'll play well. He physically gears up for Augusta because he feels like he has to swing harder and get the most out of certain drives on certain holes. Maybe not swinging at 100% speed will help him. His best swings tend to be his 3/4 swings, so this could be a great week for him if he stays patient.

Erik J. Barzeski
I think it has no effect, and Phil sniffs the top five but can't quite close it out on Sunday. Augusta suits him, and his injury didn't seem to bother him in Houston.

3. Most of the PGA Tour events so far in 2014 have been won by relative unknowns, such as Patrick Reed at Doral, Russell Henley at the Honda, Jimmy Walker at Pebble Beach, Matt Jones in Houston… Considering this trend, who is your dark horse and can you even see them winning?

George Promenschenkel
Well, Sandy Lyle says he can still win at Augusta, so… Just kidding. My dark horse is Patrick Reed. He has some experience at Augusta National (he played it on a few occasions as a member of the Augusta State golf team) and he is one of the game's hottest players right now. I could see him in contention for the first three rounds, at least. But winning in your first Masters? I think that's a lot to ask.

Tristan Hilton
Who knows? Going into each one of those weeks, it would have been hard to pick any of those guys and yet they all won. With the way that some of the tournaments have gone this year, I can see pretty much anybody in the field winning, although some might be a bit more of a surprise than others.

Jamieson Weiss
My underdog is the only PGA Tour player whose name translates to "thunder bear:" Thorbjorn Olesen. He hasn't played great this year, but he did finish T6 at last year's Masters, which is more than Patrick Reed can say.

Michael C. Hepp
I need a long hitter who is a good putter for my dark horse. I like Harris English. I could even see him winning.

Mike McLoughlin
I'm going with Graham DeLaet. He played well at the President's Cup last year and thrives when the pressure is on. He's also top ten in GIR and that can be a huge asset at Augusta.

Erik J. Barzeski
Mike took my first pick. Plus, he's Canadian. My second pick is Ryan Moore, because it's gotta be the shoes.

Adam Scott

4. Last year's winner, Adam Scott, has had a strong start to the season. What do you expect from him at this year's event?

George Promenschenkel
Adam Scott is hard to read. Despite the green jacket last year, I think it's still fair to say that with that swing and all that talent he should have won far more by now. Though I don't expect him to repeat, I do expect his swing to keep him in the hunt. In fact, without his recent Sunday collapse at Bay Hill, I might be picking him, but I think that's a big ask at Augusta. It will be his first go round as a Masters winner, and that alone could be distraction enough to take Scott slightly out of his game plan.

Tristan Hilton
I think Adam Scott will have a great showing at the Masters. He's been playing well and now has the confidence that comes with having won a major. Giving away the tournament at Bay Hill won't help, but he's bounced back from worse meltdowns (i.e. the Open Championship).

Jamieson Weiss
Scott has a bunch of high finishes at The Masters, but to expect another strong week on the greens out of one of the Tour's worst putters is asking a bit much. I could see another late-Sunday charge by Scott, but I doubt we'll see a repeat.

Michael C. Hepp
I see Adam doing really well. Not winning but being a chaser on the last day. I think he has geared his game for the majors now, plus he knows Augusta really well. I think rounds like is final round at Bay Hill was a blip and his game is in prime shape. Why not pick him to win? I just think there is too much pressure on the winner from the previous year with the champions dinner, etc. So I think he will contend but not win.

Mike McLoughlin
From my first answer, I think he'll have a good week :-)

Erik J. Barzeski
I think his putting reverts to the norm. T16. His ballstriking keeps him in it, but he can't hole the putts he needs to hole.

5. This winter Augusta got a quick redesign from Mother Nature in taking down the Eisenhower tree. How do you expect this change to affect the outcome and any other thoughts you have on the loss of this landmark tree?

George Promenschenkel
The 65 ft. Eisenhower Tree occasionally played havoc with the Masters' field (just ask Tiger about 2011), but many of the game's longer hitters could bomb drives over it. (When/if Augusta replaces the tree I suspect it will be closer to the green to stop that sort of thing.) For those who couldn't fly it that far and high, the loblolly pine definitely influenced their play, even though the landing area remaining right of the tree was reasonably large compared with some fairways the Tour routinely plays. The loss of Ike's Tree doesn't make Nandina a pushover, however. The primary defense on #17 has always been the green. It will make getting there in regulation a little easier, but players still have to putt

Tristan Hilton
No, I don't expect the loss of the Eisenhower Tree to effect the outcome of the tournament at all. While it had become a landmark on the course, it was just one tree. It's sad to see it go as it was part of the history of the course.

Jamieson Weiss
Only one tree in history has been despised by a President and Tiger Woods alike, and that's the Eisenhower tree. It might make it a little bit easier for erratic drivers coming down the stretch on Sunday, but overall it's become somewhat of an obsoleted hazard.

It took half a season of Tiger's 2011 away from us, so from that perspective, good riddance.

Michael C. Hepp
I feel this change helps the shorter hitters because it makes the playing field a bit more level. I say that because it appeared the bomber would just crush it over the tree and the shorter hitter would need to maneuver the ball around it. Now that the tree is gone the shorter hitter can take a more direct path to the hole effectively shortening for the shorter hitter. On the average it is only one hole, but I think the shorter hitter now has the advantage.

Mike McLoughlin
I'm not sure if they'll plant another tree or a small row of trees to "protect" the left side. I'm sure something will be there and it will fit the hole as well as the Eisenhower tree did. I'm guessing it will open the hole up a little, at least visually.

In terms of the tournament, I don't think it's played a huge role in the last few years and I don't see it having an impact this year.

Erik J. Barzeski
It's the only hazard in the world that seemed to irritate only the best player in the world throughout the last 15 years or so, so I know at least one person who is happy to see it go. I suspect they'll replace it, farther down the fairway, or perhaps pinch the fairway like they do on 15 with a series of trees from the left. I'd love to see it have a higher floor - deflect shots down, make people play around it, but if you're directly under it don't require the super squat stance from pine straw. Tiger agrees. :)

Photo credits: © Fred Vuich.

Discussion

  1. JERoethel says:

    I'm a big Ryan Moore fan. I am shattered that he is Erik's pick.

  2. Well, Ryan did win the Par 3 contest...

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