The Masters Awaits!!
It's here, it's here!! I don't know about you, but I've been waiting quite awhile for this week to arrive. I try not to get too excited too early, but this year just feels like there's going to be some great golf and all kinds of players in the mix.
As I'm sure you might have read, one player who won't be in the mix is Tiger Woods. There had been speculation for months on whether he'd be teeing it up or not, but I saw the Tweets that told us he'd be at the Champions dinner but would not be playing.
If you haven't browsed the field yet, you should!
You can find it here: www.masters.com/en_US/players/player_list.html
There are currently 93 players in the field with a chance for someone to punch their ticket to Augusta with a win at the Shell Houston Open.
Not just anyone can get into the Masters...players are invited based on a list of 19 qualifications. The number one criteria is Past Champion. There are 18 past champions currently in the field, 11 of which are playing based solely on their Past Champion status. This is a lifetime invitation!
Other Major Winners receive a 5-year invitation, and this year will be the last year for 2012 British Open Champion Ernie Els, unless he can find another qualification for 2018. Els is currently the 409th ranked player in the world, so it seems his best bet is to finish in the Top 12 at Augusta or in the Top 4 at another Major this year. I'm rooting for him!
All full FedEx Cup points PGA Tournament winners get an invite and there are 9 players heading to the Masters with this as their only qualification...players include, James Hahn, Charley Hoffman, MacKenzie Hughes, Billy Hurley III, Rod Pampling, Pat Perez, Brendan Steele, Brian Stuard, and Hudson Swafford.
Being the Top 50 on the World Golf Ranking (OWGR) gets you an invite, too! Top 50 at the end of 2016 plus, Top 50 the week before the Masters. Four players moved into the Top 50 in 2017 to get their invite...Jeunghun Wang, Hideto Tanihara, Tommy Fleetwood, and Ross Fisher played their way in, with Fleetwood moving from 99th at the end of 2016 to 33rd this past week.
I can't believe I waited this long to bring up my favorite player...Steve Stricker!! Stricker is back at Augusta because of his Top 4 finish at the British Open last year. The only other player making it to the Masters based on a Top 4 finish alone was Daniel Summerhays, who finished 3rd in the PGA Championship last year by carding a -4 (66) in his final round. Summerhays (who I didn't know much about) earned his PGA Tour Card in 2011 and has improved on the money list each year since, earning just over $2 million in 2016, but he's going to need some inspiration this week only making 6 cuts in 11 events so far this season.
A neat thing about the Masters invitee criteria list is that there are 5 qualifications for Amateurs...Amateur Curtis Luck from Australia qualified as the US Amateur and Asia-Pacific Amateur champion...I'm thinking he might be worth watching!
While some players made it based on 1 qualification, there were 3 golfers who made it by qualifying in 7 different categories. Can you guess? They are: Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlory, and Jason Day, with Spieth the only one with a Masters win.
There are currently 18 invitees coming for the first time - can you imagine??!! Amazing! Will we have another qualifying because of a win at the Shell Houston Open?
Regardless of how they qualified, each one of the invitees is in for a week full of challenges, opportunities, and memories. I can't wait to watch it all!!
(More Masters thoughts coming soon!)
I cringed when I logged on on my web site to see how long it was since I had updated. Two months for general updates and 3 months for a blog post - geesh!! This is not new to me...it seems this time of year causes all kinds of distractions for me, and once I get out of a groove it takes me awhile to get back into it.
But today, it's Sunday, I'm smelling the angel food cake I have in the oven and I'm on the sofa watching The Memorial! It's been awhile since I've watched golf on TV, but with Matt Kuchar in the hunt I'm excited about it!! So why not take some time to catch up on golf thoughts!
It's a cold December morning in Minnesota and on days like this my mind tends to wander back to summer and golf! And as we see another year come to a close I also think back to my yearly predictions. If you have followed my yearly crystal golf ball posts you probably know that these are usually more entertaining than accurate, but on occasion I have some good guesses! I'm cringing just a little to read what I predicted because, honestly, this wasn't a year where I followed the PGA Tour very closely. So I apologize in advance if my crystal ball is more horrible than usual - I'll be researching as I go, so let's get to it!!
As per tradition, I will do the Majors first. You know who I want to pick for the Masters. I mean I REALLY want to, but even though he has recently had surgery and hopes to be 100% this spring, I'm going to forego my obvious heart pick and go with my other heart pick - Matt Kuchar. Kuchar held a share of the lead in the final round in 2014 but just couldn't keep it up going into the back 9. He's SO due for a Major and I think this Georgia Tech grad would be a perfect pick for 2015.
Well, this didn't go well! Kuchar made the cut but ended up with a T46 finish at +2...he had 3 even par rounds and a 2nd round 74 which never got him rolling. As I'm sure you remember, it was Jordan Spieth who donned the green jacket with a 4-stroke win over Mickelson and Rose. I'm not going to lie, I did give Spieth a standing ovation in my living room...it was a great Masters!!
I can't believe I didn't post anything following the 2015 Masters win by Jordan Spieth. But as usual, Masters weeks takes a lot out of me! Even though Spieth was in the drivers seat all of Sunday, I was exhausted by the time the Green Jacket ceremony was happening. My Masters tradition of watching it alone at home stayed in tact and there was barely time to have my lunch and snacks since there were so few commercials. I suppose Masters Sunday could have been boring for some, but I think part of me wondered if Spieth would be able to withstand the pressure of it all and seal the deal. Having Phil Mickelson in the mix was fun for me and all of his fans, and honestly, having Justin Rose trying to make a charge was fun, too. But the truth is, I was thrilled for Spieth. He's a great golfer and a great ambassador for the game, and he seemed to love every moment of it, too. He received my standing ovation in my living room and when he went to Harbour Town the next week I had even more respect for him. The Masters lived up to my expectations, and more!
Well, I'm cutting it a little closer to the end of the year than I thought I would to get my 2014 predictions out, but I'm here! I started this little tradition over at www.tees2greens.com and if you followed any of those, you know that my prediction record usually hovers between marginal and almost hilarous...until last year!!
When I looked back on my 2013 predictions in November, I discovered that I picked 2 of the 4 Major winners! (Justin Rose - US Open and Jason Dufner - PGA Championship) That alone vaulted me over any other year, but I had some decent other guesses, too. You can review all of my picks here. But now it's time to move on to 2014!
Each December for the past several years I have put out a list of all kinds of predictions for each PGA Tour season and last year mine were posted at www.tees2greens.com. At the end of each season I the go back to see how I did - this is usually a combination of entertaining and humbling - I don't think I've picked a Major winner in 5 years. Some of my predictions are not bad though! So without further ado...
A Year Ago I wrote: "My 2012 results were marginal at best and I went 0 for everything on the big events (again). But when has that ever stopped me?" So I'm just a little bit nervous to see how I did again this year...I'm researching as I go along, so let's dive in! (what I wrote last year is in blue)
Let's look at the Major's First:
"I have decided to set aside my dream that Steve Stricker will win a green jacket. I was all set to lock him in until I read about his decision to severely limit is play in 2013 (only 10 events) and the very recent discovery that he is having some pain issues with his left side. And then there's that little part of me that thinks that if I DON'T pick him he'll win! So if it can't be my favorite player, then I'm putting in Sam Johnson's favorite player Dustin Johnson as the winner of the Masters."
Well that strategy didn't work! Dustin finished T-13 (8 shots back of winner Adam Scott), but he was only 1 shot off the lead after a first round 67 and followed it up with a 76. Ugh. Stricker? A T-20 finish. I couldn't be happier for Adam Scott though!!
The US Open is all about patience and dealing with the bad that you know will come at some point. I'm going out of my usual list of favorites and picking Justin Rose. He's got a great game and can fly under the radar...sort of like what Webb Simpson did last year.
WHAT??!! I got this right??!! YES!! I'll be honest, I didn't remember who won the US Open this year so when I went to look it up and realized that I had actually picked the winner I did a little happy dance. It was a tough test of golf and he finished the tournament +1, winning by 2 strokes over Jason Day and Phil Mickelson. THANK YOU Justin Rose!! (photo Hallowell/Getty Images)
The Open Championship will be a Muirfield this year. Ernie Els will be defending where he won in 2002, and we don't have much history for current players at this track. If we see again what we saw at the end of 2012, I think the winner will be Rory McIlory.
If I had only known then what I know now...McIlroy was a non-factor at Muirfield, missing the cut. But I was one of many many people (like my Mom!) who was thrilled that Phil Mickelson got his first British Open.
I'm a sucker for the PGA Championship, and Rory's win there was nothing short of spectacular. In 2013, Oak Hill will be hosting the event and I've got this feeling that Jason Dufner might just get what eluded him in 2011.
HELLO!! What?! Another correct pick? Why yes it is. Dufner held it all together, facing Jim Furyk in the final group to win by 2 shots. It's hard not to like a guy who posts a photo of himself sleeping with the Wannamaker Trophy. Thank you Jason!!
The Players Championship was a joy for me last year. Seeing Matt Kuchar beat arguably the best field in golf made me grin from ear to ear, just like him. But in 2013 I think we're going to see Luke Donald dig deep and take this win.
Donald had a ho-hum T19 finish, ending up 8 shots behind winner Tiger Woods (who won by 2 strokes over Kevin Streelman). Luke needs to get is game back so I can keep picking him!
What? No Tiger you say? I know, I know. But I do think Tiger will have a successful 2013 season. He will contend in 3 of the 4 majors and be in the top 5 in 2. Woods will also win 2 times and be one of the 5 guys controlling his own destiny at the FedEx Cup finals.
Hmmm...successful might have been an understatement to the 5 wins (and 10 top 10s's) in 16 starts in 2013. Tiger contended in 2 of the 4 Majors and finished in the Top 5 in 1 event (T4 at the Masters) and had a T6 at the British (I was so close on that one!). Tiger was also #1 in FedEx Cup points going into the Tour Championship so overall I'd call this a pretty good prediction!
Phil Mickelson will have a similar season to 2012, I think he will win early (Phoenix Open?!), contend in a few majors, and will then win again, possibly at a WGC event.
Holy Schnikes!! Phil Mickelson DID win the Phoenix Open in 2013 - Wow. He did contend in 2 Majors (winning 1!) and while he only had those 2 wins, he also had two 2nd's and two 3rd's in 2013. Yay Phil!
I don't have Matt Kuchar winning a Major this year, but he will win in 2013 and again be in the top 10 in FedEx Cup points at the end of the season.
Matt had a GREAT 2013 (at least in my eyes) - 2 wins (the Match Play and the Memorial) included in his 8 Top 10 finishes in 23 events. Matt was also in the 6th in the FedEx Cup standings. Way to go MATT!
Bubba Watson hasn't disappointed me in 2 years, so let's make the 3rd time a charm! Watson will have 2 wins this season, at least 7 top 10's and will be another one that will have a chance to win the FedEx Cup.
Whoops. Bubba's winning streak ended in 2013, posting only 3 top 10's for the season and was not a factor in the FedEx Cup. Here's hoping he bounces back in 2014!
2012 FedEx Cup winner Brandt Snedeker will play some consistent golf and will have a putting hot streak to get him 1 win this season.
Sneds exceeded my prediction by having 2 wins (The AT&T Pebble Beach & RBC Canadian Open) along with 2 second place finishes. I call this a win!
Brendon deJonge WILL get a Tour win in 2013!!
Unfortunately, deJonge did not post a win in 2013 (he only had 4 top 10's in 30 starts), but at $1.7 million for the season, I don't think he's complaining. deJonge also got many accolades for his performance at the President's Cup, so here's hoping he can figure out how to take a trophy home in 2014. I'm not giving up on you, Brendon!!
Hunter Mahan, who seemed on and off last year, will have a solid season and will post 8 Top 10's and 1 win.
Okay, maybe I was a bit early on the Mahan comeback - Hunter finished 2013 with 5 top 10's with his best finish being a 2nd at the Match play.
Adam Scott will win somewhere in the southeast and also post 8 top 10's.
Well, if southeast means Augusta National, I'm on the money! What a sweet win for Scott at the Masters. Scott only carded 6 top 10's this season, but he only played 16 events on Tour (and made 16 cuts!)...I'd say I did pretty good here!
Newly "Nike'd" up Nick Watney will prove he's worth the investment with a win and a Top 10 finish in the FedEx Cup.
I guess Watney has a little more work to do - he went winless in '13 with a 2nd place at the BMW Championship (a nice final round 64), and the best he could do was 15th on the FedEx points list. Nick is too nice of guy not to have more success so I'm hoping for a good season this year.
Will Webb Simpson go winless? I think he will, but he'll have at least 3 top 3 finishes and be in contention all season long.
Well, I was actually right on not winning, but he only had 1 2nd place finish and 5 top 10's in 25 events. He did have a nice 4th place finish at the Tour Championship, and he had a nice win at the Shriner's event in October (2013-14 season). He's also one of the favorite for this week's McGladrey event in GA.
Bo Van Pelt will be in the winner's circle at least once and will post double digit Top 25's again this year.
I don't know what happened to BVP in 2013. In '12 he was a finishing powerhouse and a stable on everyone's Fantasy Golf team. He has to be disappointed in his 1 top 10 finish and 7 top 25's, and only earning $956K for the year. Will we see a bounce back in '14??
Erik Compton found himself back at Q-school again this fall and after earning his way back to the Tour for 2013, I think he's ready to dig in and play some good golf. I predict he will improve his missed cuts stats from '12 and only miss 5, an improvement of 4 from last season. He will also improve his Top 25 stat to 5.
Compton was able to play 24 events in the 2013 season, but unfortunately he missed 10 cuts (and had 1 WD) - he did have 4 top 25 finishes (inc. 1 top 10!), so he's continuing to work on bettering his status on Tour. Hoping for a great '14 for this 2-time heart transplant recipient.
If you follow my Q-school updates, you know I'm really excited that Minnesotan Donald Constable (a lefty!!) was able to successfully navigate the 2012 Q-school maze and make it to the Tour. I'm not sure how many events he'll get in, but he's at the Sony this week and I'm going out on a limb to say he'll make the cut here! I think he'll be a surprise at the PGA and he will retain his card for 2014.
I was shocked to see that Constable didn't make a single cut in the 16 events he played in. 0-16, ouch. But upon looking as his scores, it looks like most times he was just outside the cut line on several events. This lefty will need to prove himself again and hopefully earn his way back to the big dance.
Ah, Rory McIlory...it's hard for me not to like him, and if Stricker fades into less play, he's got potential to be my favorite player. He's earned every bit of his accolades and I don't see his #1 player status going away any time soon. Besides the Major I already predicted, I think McIlory will win 3 more times around the world (including the PGA Tour events) and will be your FedEx Cup champion.
Oh man, this was one strange year for the "former" #1 player in the world. No wins on the PGA Tour and finished 50th in FedEx Cup points (that is NOT a typo!) It was painful to see such talent struggle but he's young and ready to bounce back!
But I will end with my favorite heart pick of all time, Steve Stricker. While brokenhearted at his limited schedule announcement, I think he's going to make the most of his 10 events in 2013. He will make every cut and make a run at the Shell Houston Open...there will be 3 top 10's in his future, and always a place in my heart.
You know I'm smiling, right? 13 for 13 cuts made - YES!! So he didn't make a run at the Shell Houston Open (T38), he DID have 4 2nd place finishes and 8 top 10's in 13 events!! (11 top 25's!! He had a WONDERFUL President's Cup and I think he's looking forward to another successful season in 2014.
WHOA! Hands down my best predictions ever!! Two Majors?! That alone vaulted me over the top, but overall I was pretty good...a few underestimations and a few glaring over-estimations keep me in check though. As always, I love going back and reviewing the year to get me excited for the upcoming season.
Watch for my 2014 predictions in December.
I love golf and I love to write, so I can't think of anything better than having a happy place like this to write about golf to my heart's content. Thanks for joining me!