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Master's Preview

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Columnist and Golfer

Columnist and Golfer

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Photo by Pisey Suo

Columnist and Golfer

Eric Roy, Staff Columnist

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Masters Preview 2017

By Eric Roy

AUGUSTA, GA- Here we are days prior to Master’s Weekend. All eyes will be turned to the small town on the Georgia to the first major of the year. Many of the world’s best have already shown promising signs early in the season for a showdown at the National. Also, the year marks the 20th anniversary of Tiger’s obliteration of records to win his first career major at the age of 21. However, due to his ongoing health issues related to his back, Woods will not play in this year’s tournament. This begs the question: Will another young star emulate Woods’ prowess on that fateful day in 1997? Or can one of the tour veterans pull off an upset? As Augusta National has demonstrated in the past, strategy will dictate who will hold strong against the pressure and who may lose their nerve.

Using what I have seen on both the European and PGA Tours so far this season, I have been able to come up with the following top ten players to watch.

10)Jason Day– A player whose game seems custom-fit to Augusta. High and long drives paired with towering approach shots that can hold the firm and fast greens at Augusta. And when that putter gets hot, watch out! However, due to his ongoing health issues he continues to be a big question mark every week played. Also, with his mother currently going through chemotherapy, he understandable may have trouble focusing while playing the course.

9)Tyrrell Hatton– A relative unknown to American golf, I actually had to check the spelling of his name three times prior to this entry. The British golfer comes into the Masters playing some really good golf, garnering three top tens in his last five events. While it is unclear how he will hold up to the pressure, he will definitely have his best game going into it.

8)Phil Mickelson– The 47 year old veteran and three-time Masters Champion continues to compete at the highest levels of golf. His putting is currently is good as ever and he feels personally that the work he and his swing coach have been putting in is beginning to pay off

7)Jon Rahm– Fresh out of ASU, the 22 year old set on breaking Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major wins is firing on all cylinders going into this week. After battling back from a large deficit at last week’s Dell Technologies Match Play to bring play to the last hole with the number one player in the world, he has shown he has the grit to be successful at Augusta.

6)Rickie Fowler– A player who is finally realizing his full potential. He won the Honda Classic at the difficult PGA National Championship course and contended this past week at the Shell Houston Open.  

5)Hideki MatsuyamaAlready considered by many to be the best golfer ever to come out of Japan, his superb ball striking skills will aid him in his play at The Masters. Since being a strong iron player he has long been considered one of the hallmarks of Master’s champions.  He will have a good shot at winning. However, he will also need to couple this play with superb putting, a realm he sometimes has trouble with.

4)Justin Thomas– A player who doesn’t seem to have many weaknesses, he looks to be a strong contender at this year’s tournament. Winning the first two tournaments he has played this year, he enters The Masters on a relative hot streak. Also, from following him on social media, I have noticed he has played many practice rounds at Augusta Prior to this week.

3)Jordan Spieth– Always a contender here at Augusta, he has already shown promising signs this season by winning at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. He is striking the ball much better than he did last year when he experienced some technical difficulties at the twelfth hole on Sunday last year. If his putting is as good as always, be sure to look for him on the leaderboard.   

2)Rory Mcilroy– The young prodigy from Northern Ireland is now 27, and gunning to win the last leg of the Career Grand Slam. He has experienced heartbreak at Augusta before, coming agonizingly close on multiple occasions. As he has shown in his 4 major titles, he has the skill and mental toughness to be successful, but for him to win he will need to have a tremendous week for putting. He will always be an entertaining player to watch on the leaderboards.

1)Dustin Johnson– Coming into this week having won his last three starts, Johnson is playing some unbelievable golf. Leading the PGA Tour in strokes gained tee-to-green and rolling the flat stick better than he ever has, he seems to be taylor-made(no pun intended) for Augusta. If he can hold his mental game together, I would not be surprised to see Johnson contending this weekend. Editorial Note: Unfortunately, accidents happen to even the best players.  Dustin hurt his back in a slip down the stairs at his home just prior to Masters Week.  He’ll have to watch this one on the sideline.

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