Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth, and Justin Thomas

USA Today

2019 Masters Prediction

Four days of golf Christmas.

April 11, 2019 - 9:21 am

87 players in the field.

88 keys on the baby grand piano.

One green jacket waiting for a champion after 72 holes.

The masters is here. Four days of golf Christmas. And as I speak into the microphone right now—most of the field has already put the peg in at tea olive and started their first trip around Augusta National. But that’s not gonna stop me from doing a preview and even giving out my prediction for who will win. Because last I checked—it’s Thursday. And the Masters doesn’t start until the back nine on Sunday.

So let’s go. Let’s dive in. And let’s do this right and start with the defending champ: Patrick Reed. The pseudo-local who played his college golf down the road at Augusta University and ripped the green jacket last year with an all-time brass Sunday holding off a charging Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler. You know this dude’s rap. He’s a lone wolf who eats all the hate for breakfast. He has a well-chronicled estrangement from his family. He ran the entire Ryder Cup team through the woodchipper last September. He complained about free Red Sox tickets. And he doesn’t give a damn how badly none of you want to see him go back-to-back. Problem for Reed is that going back-to-back at Augusta is damn near impossible. Only three dudes have ever done it. Two of them are Tiger and Jack and one them was freaking knighted by the queen; sir Nick Faldo. And Reed hasn’t won anything since the Masters last year. He also isn’t in even in the top-60 for driving, driving accuracy, greens in regulation, or scoring average. So he might be the defending champ—but his Sunday this year is going to end with him helping someone else into the sport coat.

Then there’s the world number 1: Justin Rose. The reigning FedEx cup champ. Hard not to love this guy coming in. And I do. Especially since his last four masters have all resulted in top-12 finishes including two runner-ups. The dude knows how to play at Augusta—he’s just never finished. I said on the podcast with Steve Elkington this week that I liked Rose a lot. And I’m not coming off of that. I just a like another stick a little bit better this week—which I’ll get to in a minute. Don’t get it twisted. Rose is gonna be there on the weekend. Hell he might even be in the final pairing on Sunday. He’s just not my pick. Definitely, definitely a threat. But not my pick.

Now, Justin Rose might the world number 1, but he’s not the betting favorite. Those odds belong to Rory McIlroy —who is playing his best golf ever right now. But you best believe this: no one has more pressure on them this week than Roar’s. No one. Not Pat Reed. Not the cat. Not DJ. No one. Because Rory isn’t just looking for his first green jacket—he’s also looking to complete the career grand slam. And that’s a whole other anvil in his bag. Yes, Rory has done nothing but put up top-5’s this year and he even won the players a few weeks back. But he hasn’t won in a final pairing for over 13 months. And he’s been in nine of them. So if this is the week—and I don’t think it is—then it’s going to be a come from behind victory. Remember last year when he was with Patty Reed in the last group? Neither do I. Because they stopped showing his shots on the back nine. That’s how bad he faded. And that was less than 24 hours after he said all the pressure was on Reed. Sure he bombs the hell out of the ball. But his wedges have been loose. And that doesn’t work at Augusta. Not on those greens. To me—Rory is easy money. Not for you. But for your bookie.

Dustin Johnson is easy to like here… with because of how far he hits the big stick and how damn stoic and aloof he comes off. The guy flat lines in the biggest moments. You can’t teach that. And he wins a lot. Problem is—he doesn’t win majors. Just the one US Open at Oakmont back in 2016. The guy should have half a dozen right now but he doesn’t. And for as good as he is everywhere else—he’s not that great at Augusta. He as many 30th or worse finishes as he does top-10’s. So until he proves he can win a Masters, I’m never gonna go put my name on him doing it for a first time.

Now don’t be surprised if you see a flag from a European country at the top of the board all week long. Jon Rahm, tommy golf course Jesus Fleetwood and Franky Molinari are all threats to win. Jon Rahm loves the track and finished 4th last year. Golf course Jesus is so due for a win it’s not even funny. And Frankie Moles is coming off a British Open, a brilliant Ryder Cup, a win at the Arnold Palmer and is putting better than anyone. Not my picks but they’ll be littered all over the board this week.

Am I forgetting anyone? Oh yeah. The Cat. 14 years removed from his last Masters win coming into Augusta this year laser focused. You’ve read the stories. He’s been getting to the range before everyone and staying till the sun goes down. He’s got the driver going straight. He’s hitting his irons on the screws. It’s all working for him. Except that one little club in the bag more important than any other. The Scotty Cameron. The flat stick. His true sidepiece. The one he’s won 13 of his 14 major’s win. That’s a major issue for the Cat. So much so that he brought in a putting guru a few weeks back to unmelt his mind. Last year he came in hyped as hell and finished tied for 32nd. This year he might even have more hype because of the tour championship win at Eastlake. I will never put it past the Cat to win. He’s a freak and can summon greatness like no one else. He contended in two majors last year. But if he’s putting bad—look the hell out. Augusta isn’t a grind-it-out track. The winner will be somewhere between 10-under and 15-under. So he’s gotta get it going and get it going fast. And it all hinges on the putter.

Now to my pick. Look—predictions are a lose/lose proposition. If you’re wrong, you get killed. If you’re right, no one gives you credit. And predictions are especially stupid in golf when there are 87 guys playing this week and someone named Danny Willet has won before. But I know everyone wants them and I am a man of the people. A true giver. So I’ll do it.

Justin Thomas. That’s my pick win the 2019 Masters. I think he’s got the best game on tour and is absolutely primed to rip a jacket. This is a guy who the PGA Championship two years ago. A guy who lived in Jordan Spieth’s shadow but worked his way out of it with 9 career wins. A guy who’s dad is a pro and has been teaching him since he was eight. A guy who is probably a better player than Spieth and Brooks Koepka but is looking up at them when it comes to majors. JT knows to be a legend he’s gotta win the big ones. And it doesn’t get any bigger than the Masters. And he told the media yesterday he’s been giving Augusta National too much respect in the past. And that it’s hurt him. He said that. And that this year his strategy is going to be much more aggressive. He’s going to play the course—it’s not going to play him. And I love it. Dude is gonna come out firing. Scared money don’t make money. And jt ain’t scared.

That’s my pick. A jungle guy who loves creamy peanut butter and is ready to conquer the hallowed track in Georgia. Dam straight I’m rolling with JT.

Regardless of what happens—it’s gonna be the best four days in golf. Always has been. Always will be. Grab your pimento cheese and ice up some domestics. Let's do this.