Rory's Slam at last? NCG predicts the Masters
The NCG team of Alex Perry, Dan Murphy, Mark Townsend, Steve Carroll, Hannah Holden, Harvey Jamison and Joe Hughes have jotted down their Masters predictions for us to enjoy before and after the 2019 edition of the Augusta showpiece…
Before we get to your winner, any outsiders we should keep an eye on?
Alex: Everyone wants an Eddie Pepperell top 10, don’t they?
Hannah: Pepperell has played great recently and his 3rd place in his Players debut proves he can do it on the biggest stage.
Steve: I’ve written a whole piece dedicated to the outsiders I think could get into the frame at Augusta. The prices of Brandt Snedeker and Keith Mitchell are too big.
Dan: Snedeker has a more than decent record here over the years and seems injury-free and back to his best. I’m also interested to see if Xander Schauffele’s incredibly impressive major record is an anomaly or a sign of things to come.
Mark: Is Henrik Stenson now considered an outsider? If so then him. If not then Haotong Li is ridiculously underrated.
Harvey: He should already have a major to his name and Hideki Matsuyama’s record since 2015 is magnificent.
Joe: Marc Leishman has two top-10 finishes here so he clearly knows his way around Augusta.
And who will be the surprise flop?
Steve: Bryson DeChambeau hasn’t played well for a while and 38th last year doesn’t bode well. He should be a bigger price than 25/1.
Hannah: DeChambeau’s short game isn’t good enough to compete at Augusta.
Alex: DeChambeau’s purple patch is over and not looking like picking up any time soon.
Mark: This is an easy thing to say but the man who’s won three of the last seven majors, Brooks Koepka.
Dan: I had high hopes from a long way out for Justin Thomas but I have a suspicion that he has gone cold at just the wrong time. He hasn’t really got it right at the Masters just yet, though I am sure he will. But perhaps not this year.
Harvey: After the most awkward Champions Dinner in history, Patrick Reed to miss the cut? Yes please.
Joe: Phil Mickelson will not only miss the cut, but by a few shots too.
One more question before you reveal your winner: Who do you want to win?
Alex: My top 3 would be McIlroy (Slam), Tiger Woods (incredible story), then Jordan Spieth (best friend). Probably Pepperell fourth.
Mark: I’m still haunted by the sight of him slumped on his driver in 2011 so will always say McIlroy until he finally does it.
Steve: Rory. Or Jordan. Always one of those two players.
Hannah: I’d love to see McIlroy complete his Grand Slam.
Dan: Tiger please. It would be one of the best sports, let alone golf, stories, of all time.
Harvey: It’s got to be Tiger.
Joe: Of all the players without a major, there’s nobody I’d rather see win one than Ian Poulter.
So who will be slipping into the Green Jacket on Sunday?
Joe: Rory McIlroy will look good in green.
Dan: I’ve long been suspicious of McIlroy at Augusta but the combination of ever-increasing maturity, a succession of five straight Masters top-10s and the fact his form this season has been exceptional suggests to me that this could be his year.
Harvey: So much heartbreak and nights spent sobbing into a pillow – and that’s just me. So McIlroy, please.
Hannah: McIlroy is playing great and has had so many good results already this season.
Alex: McIlroy. Next.
Mark: We do this at every major, identify five clear favourites and then someone else sneaks in. Jason Day is due another one.
Steve: Brooks Koepka, who was injured last year, has improved every time he has played Augusta National. Given he’s the current man for the majors, I’d expect a strong challenge this time. I always think this course is perfect for DJ but he’s never quite managed it.
And finally, because he’s the only golfer we care about, where will Tiger finish?
Mark: I think I care more about at least 15 other players before I start thinking about Tiger. Top 10 but won’t threaten.
Steve: I think he’s in better shape than he was 12 months ago and lots of wise pundits reckon Augusta is his best chance to get to No. 15. But he hasn’t won here since 2005, and his putting and short game isn’t what it once was. Top 20, but not really in the frame, for me.
Alex: He’ll threaten on Saturday only to fade on Sunday to finish T6.
Joe: I’d love him to be challenging but I’d say around the 25 mark.
Dan: My heart says he wins, my head says that a courageous but ultimately futile top-15 is much more likely.
Harvey: Even for a man who hasn’t played in three of the last five Masters, a top 15 is realistic.
Hannah: After his win over McIlroy at the Match Play we can’t rule him out, though I don’t think he’ll get over the line. Top 20.