2014 Masters preview, picks + predictions, plus the Driver-Off-The-Deck BOLD Play of the Week #Azaleas

As Jim Nantz would say, hello friends, and welcome to the 2014 Masters.  The tournament that needs no introduction is officially here.  Heck, even my golfs-twice-a-year-at-most wife is excited.  It truly is a tradition unlike any other.  Continuous loop all week on the Masters music?  Yes, please. 

Could it possibly be the most wide open Masters ever?  I recall that same question being posed the past several years, but this year, it might ring more true than ever, as there certainly is no one single dominant player on Tour like there was in year’s past, in fact Mr red shirt/HGH isn’t even here this week.  Let’s just say that the field and the tournament won’t be missing him.

Don’t let these early week weather reports fool you.  Yes, Monday has been a washed out, rainy mess, but the rest of the week looks warm and dry, meaning by the end of the week the course will be slick and crusty as usual, giving a HEAVY lean to experience on this daunting track.

So, who’s my pick to take home the green jacket this year?  Who will surprise and who’s the major bust of the week?  Well, keep on reading my friends.

Just a so-so week for my picks last week as Phil and DeLaet were somewhat solid, but Keegan, Kokrak and Baddeley disappointed.  I did nail Webb as my BUST of the week (finished t-61st).

LOCKZILLAS (Last Week: Keegan t-43rd, Kokrak MC, Phil t-12th)

Matt Kuchar
Matt Kuchar
– Oh golly Matty, you badly let one slip away on Sunday at the Shell Houston Open.  Nevertheless, that deflating feeling will quickly be gone once Kuch sets foot on Augusta.  Playoff loss and t-4th his past two events and t-8th and t-3rd here the past two years.  He’ll be very highly picked this week, but sometimes going chalky is the right move.  Kuch is an absolute LOCKZILLA pick this week.

Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson
– Well, well, well, I flat out guaranteed a top 10 by Phil at last week’s Shell Houston Open and he, well finished one stroke out of the top ten in t-12th.  Nevertheless, it was an out of nowhere high finish, which is just soooooo Lefty.  And now, we’re at the place that Phil loves most.  From 2000 to 2010, Phil had one, that’s right ONLY ONE finish outside the top 10 here (a t-24th in ’07).  Recall that he also was the man to beat on Sunday in ’12, ultimately fading to a t-3rd finish.  Plain and simple, Phil is a legend in this game and lives for this tournament, and I’m don’t care that he said that he’s “nervous” about this week.  Once he tees off on Thursday, instincts will take over and he’ll feel those azalea juices flowing once again.  Victory?  Maybe.  Top 5?  Guaranteed.

SEMI-FLIER (Last Week: Baddeley MC)

Brandt Snedeker
Brandt Snedeker
– It’s easy to forget about guys who haven’t played much recently, and Brandt fits that bill perfectly as his last start was Bay Hill, where he finished a sneaky good t-8th.  I’ve been fading Brandt all season following his rib injury from November (and it’s been paying off nicely), but now is the time to heavily buy on Sneds.  Why?  Simply check out his track record here- t-6th last year, which was preceded by two MCs the two weeks prior (yup, he elevates his game for Augusta), t-19th in ’12, t-15th in ’11 and t-3rd in ’08.  He’ll be under-owned this week, but don’t make that mistake.  Brandt is a rock solid top 15 guaranteed with big upside to finish much higher.

HOSEL-ROCKET BUST (Last Week: Webb t-61st)

Jordan Spieth
Jordan Spieth
– While I’m highly bullish on young Jordan’s future potential and love cheering for the kid—this week has fade written all over it.  Not only is it his first ever Masters appearance, but his form has been slipping of late as well, as he missed the cut last week at the Shell Houston Open and was +6 early on at the Valero Texas Open the week prior (although he did rebound to a 10th place finish).  My point is that his lack of experience at this revered track will bite him this week, particularly if he gets off to a rocky start.  Expect it to be a Spieth-less weekend at this year’s Masters.

DRIVER-OFF-THE-DECK BOLD PLAY OF THE WEEK (Last Week: DeLaet t-19th)

Stewart Cink
Stewart Cink
– How did the washed-up Tour veteran Stewy Cink even get into this year’s Masters field?  Well, recall that major champs get Masters invites for the 5 years following their victories, and since Cink won the ’09 British Open (over Tom Watson of course), this is the final year he’ll be receiving that coveted invite.  But, what 99% of people grazing right past his name won’t realize is that Stewart’s game is beginning to round into some form, going 8 for 11 on cuts made in this PGA tour wraparound season.  While that’s nothing overly brilliant, consider he finished t-25th here last year and was t-3rd back in ’08.  Throw in his possibly final ever Masters appearance—unless he finishes top 12 this year—and no doubt he’s extra motivated to post a high finish this week, and again, almost no one in any pool that you’re in will even consider picking him.  Oh yeah, and he’s a Georgia boy.  #Azaleas

#isitThursdayyet

Joel Harrington
@joel4deepgolf

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