I know it’s hard to believe, but in just one week we’ll be talking about how the azaleas are blooming, how Rory McIlroy can add the Career Grand Slam to his resumé, and the possibility of Tiger winning his 15th major victory. We’ll be talking about the incredible breathtaking beauty of Augusta National and we’ll be listening to the roars from the patrons as they cascade through the Georgia pines.
Iced tea is the leading beverage consumed during Masters week, so it makes perfect sense to read the tea leaves from last week’s WGC–Dell Match Play Championship to identify who is most likely to add that elusive Green Jacket to their wardrobe.
Let’s begin with the number one player in the world, Dustin Johnson. D.J. left Austin Country Club after losing two of his first three matches, not The Masters confidence boost he was seeking. Then, in my opinion, the two names most talked about, Rory Mcllroy and Tiger Woods, both took a step backward.
After beating Rory in the sweet-16 round, Tiger scored some “major” points with me, and his chances for his 15th Major win were looking good, until he came up short on a clutch four-foot putt against the very talented but little known 27-year-old from Denmark who plays mostly on the European Tour, Lucas Bjerregaard. So, in my book, both Rory and Tiger left Austin with a minus on the confidence meter.
Local Austin favorite and former University of Texas standout, Jordan Spieth, who has dominated at The Masters with a win, two runner ups, and a third place, is struggling with his game, and just appears to be lost right now. It’s imperative to have a hot putter on the tricky greens at Augusta and one of Spieth’s strengths has always been his ability to make 20 to 25-foot putts, but right now, a five-footer has Jordan shaking in his boots.
At the end of 2018, his world ranking was #17 and as of today, it’s #32. Whether he admits it or not, he’s trending in the wrong direction. However, I’m looking for The Masters to turn his game around. I’m hoping that my tea leaf reading skills are lacking, otherwise it doesn’t look too good for some of the biggest names in the game to prevail down Magnolia Lane.
Meanwhile, a big congratulations to the winner of the World Golf Championships Dell Match Play, Kevin Kisner, who has strong ties to the East End. His trusty caddie is East Hampton’s Duane Bock. It was quite a week for Duane, both high and low. The high obviously came from the win, but the low came from the passing of a good friend from ALS shortly before the start of the Match Play. Duane paid tribute to his good friend by having his initials on his hat all week.
Kevin refers to himself as a grinder. “Grinder” in the dictionary is described as an athlete who succeeds through hard work rather than exceptional ability, however, to beat 63 of the world’s top golfers takes exceptional ability, and it was certainly on display in Austin. This victory for Kisner was number three on PGA Tour and by far the biggest of his career. One thing that makes this victory so amazing is that Kevin finished second a year ago in the same event on the same course, Austin Country Club, and he was determined to finish one better this year, and he did.
When Kevin graduated from Georgia, his goal was to play on the PGA Tour. His Dad gave him $16,000 to chase his dream and to get his career started on the mini-tours, and he is very proud of the fact that he never had to ask for more. He made money in his first two events and won his third tournament. He certainly had his ups and downs since then, graduating to the Web.com Tour and then the PGA Tour, and now he is a World Golf Champion.
The $16,000 investment proved to be a good one. Winning the Dell Match Play, Kevin earned a whopping $1,745,000 and I’m pretty sure Duane will enjoy the traditional 10-percent payday.
The next mountain left to climb for Kevin is a major championship. Kisner said he felt comfortable at Austin Country Club and I’m sure he will feel just as comfortable at Augusta, just a 45-minute drive from his home in Aiken.
By the way, I’m on a pretty good roll predicting winners so far this year. Before The Players started, I predicted Rory would come out on top, and he did. On Friday of Match Play week, I predicted Kevin Kisner would come out on top, and he did. Now the question is . . . who do I pick for The Masters? You’ll find that out next week.