The Masters Tournament Power Rankings
We have made it to the year’s first major. April always seems to come quickly, and that is even more so the case this year with the new schedule and the PLAYERS already in the rearview mirror. If last week’s event reminded us of anything, it is that these guys in the PGA Tour are really, really good.
Anyone who has a PGA Tour card, or is able to qualify for an event on Monday in this case, has the game to win these days. Corey Conners proved exactly that by surprising the field and earning the very last invitation to Augusta National Golf Club for The Masters Tournament this week. With the field complete, we can focus our attention on who will emerge and claim the green jacket this Sunday.
Unlike last week at the Valero Texas Open, we can safely expect that a first-time participant won’t slip on the coveted blazer. Experience is everything at Augusta, and it is typical that the champion has the right combination of form, course history, and moxie that particular week. We have seen a few outliers, like Danny Willet in 2016, but by in large this is one for the cream of the crop. The players consistently ranked in the world’s top 25 have put in the necessary time and dealt with the challenges throughout years of trying. Anything can happen, but I will do my best to show you what the tea leaves are telling me.
15. Jordan Spieth
I put Spieth last on this list (again) for a reason. He did what he has done all season long last week at the Valero Texas Open, showing flashes of his former self but not piecing together all four days. Opening with consecutive rounds of 68, the Texas native had golf fans flooding the sportsbooks to get their annual Spieth-to win-The-Masters bets placed. But echoing his 2019 thus far, he followed Thursday and Friday success at the Valero with weekend rounds of 73 and 72 leaving him in the dust of Conners and fellow competitors. Believe it or not, his T30 finish was his best result of the season.
I am fading Spieth at Augusta in most week-long formats. However, I do think he will stay the weekend and make some early noise, as has been his mantra this season. Unfortunately, I believe the recent trend will continue and he will fall back significantly over the weekend. Something is wrong, and as golf fans, we can only hope he can conquer his demons. My favorite bet of the week is Spieth to be the first-round leader, but I cannot in good faith condone anything past that. There’s no doubt he loves it here, though, finishing T2, first, T2, T11, and third in five career appearances. He needs a good result this week to stop the bleeding.
14. Bubba Watson
The two-time winner has had a quiet, yet steady start to the 2019 season with multiple T4 finishes already under his belt. Watson has gained a feast-or-famine reputation at Augusta. Since his wins in 2012 and 2014, he only has one top 10 ( T5th last year). A rejuvenated Watson won three times on tour last year and is back up to 17th in the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR). His stats resemble the Ryder Cup mainstay and player who dominated here back in his heyday. As of last week, he sat eighth in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green and second in Driving Distance. We should get an idea early in the week of which Watson shows up. If he’s in contention come Sunday, expect to see some shots you don’t usually see around Augusta from the quirky southpaw.
13. Tiger Woods
The Big Cat lands at 13th on this list relying largely on course history and not current form. Betting odds tell you that Woods is the third-highest favorite coming in, but gamers must adjust knowing that an influx of casual fans are betting on the season’s first major this week. While Woods remains the most dynamic player on tour, his results aren’t anywhere near what we saw from him in the early 2000s, when he was winning close to one in every four events played. As much as many want to romanticize the past, we must live in the present. Woods’ best finish on tour this season is a recent T5 at the Dell Match Play, where he won the showdown with Rory McIlroy then bowed out quietly to Lucas Bjerregaard. His best finish in a stroke play event so far this season is a T10 at the WGC-Mexico Championship. With four wins here, the last of which was in 2005, he could play this course blindfolded. As always, the stats show a well-rounded golfer who ranks eighth on Tour in SG: Tee-to-Green, second in Driving Distance and third in SG: Off-The-Tee. Is this the week?
12. Bryson DeChambeau
The scientist might be the biggest story on Tour since this time last year. Winning a total of five times worldwide, he comes in as a favorite to win his first major. This will be his third trip around Augusta, as he has a T21 and a T38 to his name in two attempts thus far. He would land a lot higher if experience were not so important at The Masters, but there are just too many golfers who are playing well and have had success here. He sits at eighth in SG: Off-the-Tee, 18th in SG: Total, and fifth in birdie average. If DeChambeau can get out to a hot start and is reading the greens well, don’t be surprised to see him in contention Sunday. He has already proven that his learning curve is a lot shorter than others.
11. Jason Day
It has been an up-and-down, hot-and-cold year for Day, who once again has had to withdraw from a few events due to various medical issues. However, when he plays and is feeling good, Day has been the contender we have come used to seeing. Despite a rocky season health-wise, he still has four top-10 finishes and sits 36th in the FedexCup Standings. He has great experience at Augusta, too, with seven top 28s here since 2011. Sixth in SG: Off-the-Tee, fifth in SG: Putting, and seventh in SG: Total, Day is a phenomenal player through the bag. If he is feeling good, he will be there.
10. Brooks Koepka
The ever-dangerous major extraordinaire is back for round one of the 2o19 offerings. Koepka has gained a reputation for emerging at extremely difficult courses, and Augusta is no exception. In only three appearances, Koepka has improved each time, going T33, T21, and T11, respectively, since his first appearance in 2016. He started the year off strong by winning The CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges and has been consistent, currently sitting at 11th in the FedExCup rankings. Don’t overlook this sleeping giant, who is fifth in eagles on tour and 15th in driving distance. He loves the big stage, and Augusta is the logical next step in solidifying his name as one of the best major performers of his generation.
9. Paul Casey
Casey was the first player this year to repeat, and he did it at one of the most difficult courses on tour in TPC Copperhead by winning the Valspar Championship. Another streaking experienced player coming into Augusta, he’s ranked 11th in the world. Casey has a phenomenal track record here as well with seven top-15 placements since 2004. Ninth in Driving Accuracy and 11th in SG: Off-the-Tee, he has climbed all the way up to fourth in the FedExCup Standings. Casey should be comfortable headed into this big week.
8. Francesco Molinari
The Italian has also enjoyed a dramatic upswing since last year’s Masters. The newly minted Open Championship winner has risen all the way to seventh in the OWGR and 16th in the FedExCup fresh off his most recent win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Molinari showed that his undefeated performance at the Ryder Cup was no fluke, taking third place at the Dell Match Play in his most recent appearance two weeks ago. He’s had mixed results at Augusta, placing no higher than T19 in 2012. Ranked 24th in SG: Putting and fifth in Sand Save Percentage, the streaky Molinari might be the hottest player in the world right now.
7. Tommy Fleetwood
The Brit has been nails in his first full season on the PGA Tour and seems primed to find the winner’s circle soon. He has experienced a little bit of Sunday jitters, blowing his first two leads on tour, but continues to crash leaderboards with three top-10 finishes. He’s fourth in SG: Off-the-Tee, fifth in SG: Total, fifth in SG: Tee-to-Green, and fourth in Sand Save %. Appearing here twice, he placed T62 in 2017 and T17 last year. The hairy, flamboyant Fleetwood will almost certainly make some noise this weekend in Georgia.
6. Justin Thomas
While he hasn’t cracked the winner’s circle yet this season, Thomas has done just about everything else one could do. With five top-1os and over $2 million in earnings on the season, he is still someone capable of taking over a tournament at any minute. He ranks fifth on Tour in SG: Approach, 10th in SG: Around-the-Green, third in SG: Total, and third in SG: Tee-to-Green. That may be the most impressive collection of stats of anyone on this list. Thomas is also in the grouping of young players who have improved at Augusta with each passing year. Starting in 2016, he has gone T39, T22, and T17 last season. He is a piñata just waiting to explode with fantasy candy; will this be the week he busts out?
5. Jon Rahm
Another simmering young player finds himself high on this list. Rahm has followed up a fantastic 2017-2018 with another action-packed start to this season. Rahm already boasts eight top-12s on the young season and seems to find his way onto the leaderboard no matter what course conditions, weather, or level of experience he is dealing with that week. The Spaniard is second in SG: Off-the-Tee and 12th in SG: Total. He has only appeared here twice but has improved with each visit: T27 in 2017 and fourth last year. The man who makes the 13th-most birdies on tour will be looking to fill it up at Augusta again this week.
4. Rickie Fowler
Fowler definitely falls into the category of a workhorse at Augusta, and that certainly has not hurt him in his rise to stardom. Fowler has backed up the hype his season by finally prevailing in Scottsdale, and he’s currently in command of his FedExCup season at eighth entering this week. Fowler will look to improve on that rank at a course where he has long been the bridesmaid. With a solo second last year and three other top-25 finishes, Fowler always seems to be scorned at Augusta on Sundays. Putting has been his key to success this season, as he ranks seventh in SG: Putting. That will prove important this weekend if he wants to step up to the altar and slip on the silky green jacket.
3. Dustin Johnson
Undoubtedly the most physically talented player on the PGA Tour in my eyes, Johnson has amazed us with his power and finesse for a while now. He and Justin Rose have been passing the world number one ranking back and forth this season. With five top-10 finishes and two wins, the only question is why he doesn’t win more often. He has improved with time at Augusta as well and seems to have figured it out recently with top 10s in his last three attempts. No one — except maybe Johnson — will be surprised to see him prevail.
2. Justin Rose
My favorite to get the monkey off his back and finally win here headed into the young season. McIlroy’s smoking start to the season has pushed him to 1A, but I am still feeling good about the Englishman’s chances this week. Back in the saddle as the world’s number one player, Rose will try to top his two second-place finishes here. It seems like a foregone conclusion that he will win a green jacket eventually, as he has not finished outside the top 10 since 2008. He’s third in birdie average, 14th in SG: Total, and has already won this season. What’s not to like?
1. Rory McIlroy
One of the largest betting favorites we have seen entering a major tournament in recent memory, Tiger excluded, McIlroy checks in as high as 6-1 to win on some betting sites. The lofty expectations are largely warranted, as he has looked as dominant as ever recently. His worst start since the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii was his T9 at the WGC MatchPlay a few weeks back, where he looked fantastic but ran into Woods in the quarterfinals. First on tour in SG: Total, Off-the-Tee, and Tee-to-Green, he will attempt to win the career grand slam again. Having finished inside the top 10 every year at August since 2014, there’s no reason this can’t be the year.