ENRG Sport’s Masters 2019 Predictions
Ahead of the 2019 Masters kicking off at Augusta National on Thursday, two of ENRG Sport’s main golf experts, Gregor Kerr and Kris Gourlay, picked their three favourites each to win the first major of the year.
Where to begin with the last 12 months for the worldwide treasured (unless you’re American) Italian, who claimed his first major in the summer with The Open at Carnoustie. This was in addition to three more victories in tour last year, while he has already claimed the Arnold Palmer Invitational last month. His electric form from the previous campaign is yet to sizzle down. He arrives a completely different player than the one who finished tied for 20 last year.
However, his record at Augusta is perhaps the least convincing of the frontrunners, with just two top-20 finishes. This is a different Molinari though, far more ruthless and full of self-belief than in years gone by. He can now be truly considered one of golf’s ‘superstars’ and victory this weekend would seal his spot at the sport’s top table.
Perhaps one of the best players yet to claim the Masters, the world number one has a fine record at Augusta. With runner-up finishes in 2015 and 2017, he also has five top-ten finishes in the year’s opening major. The Englishman returned to the top of the world rankings last week despite not competing, having won at Torrey Pines in January and racking up two top ten finishes in March.
His distance control, especially after changing clubs at the start of the year, will be key at Augusta National, particularly on the famous par three 16th. The ability to stay straight on the driver means that he will be unlikely to find himself in the trees often. Along with rookies such as Matt Wallace and Eddie Pepperell, Rose is one of record 11 English players in this week’s field.
A player who has developed a reputation as a major-winning machine, the back-to-back US Open saw his hopes of competing at last year’s competition dashed after a broken wrist meant that he had to withdraw. His reluctant media approach, which appears to be changing, has often meant that the PGA Championship winner sneaks under the radar in terms of favourites. It would be foolish to not consider him amongst the running this year considering his record on the big stage and a capability to thrive under pressure.
He claimed victory early this season, with the CJ Cup coming in October and finishing tied for second at The Honda Classic. His form hasn’t been so hot in recent weeks though, finishing tied for 56th at both the WGC Match Play and the Players Championship, after missing the cut at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. His style of play will vary differently compared to 12 months ago, having lost 24 pounds since November, with his usually powerful drive becoming less relied upon.
With the Northern Irishman needing the famous green jacket to complete the major grand slam and heading to Augusta in fine form, he’s an obvious favourite amongst fans and bookmakers. Rory will be playing with a swagger having just won The Players Championship and will be spurred on by the record of winning The Masters just weeks after a victory at TPC Sawgrass, a record only Tiger Woods has achieved.
McIlroy came agonisingly close last year with a T5 finish, as a final round of 74 ultimately ended his dream of winning all 4 majors. Aside from his recent victory at The Players Championship, Rory has racked up some decent finishes so far in 2019. 2nd at the WGC Mexico and two T4 finishes at the Genesis open and Sentry Tournament of Champions has put him as firm favourite, if ever there is one.
Since his heroic performances at the Ryder Cup, Fleetwood has been adored by fans all around the world and become one of the most consistent performers in the golfing world. Based on current form, he is not regarded as one of the favourites in Augusta, but I think he could be a real dark horse this week.
Although Fleetwood did not have an impressive performance at the Dell match play, he did record a solid T5 finish at the Players and a T3 finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. This will only be Fleetwood’s 3rd Masters, as he is a fairly new member of the PGA Tour. In his first performance in 2017 he failed to make the cut and recorded a T17 finish in 2018. However, 2nd place at last years U.S Open and a T12 finish at The Open Championship proves he has what it takes to go all the way and win his first major.
What would any Masters preview be without the only and only Tiger Woods? After his astonishing comeback from injury to win the 2018 Tour Championship, ending his 5-year winning drought, Big Cat has been set loose. Although his recent form in 2019 has been nothing spectacular, we all know Woods can produce a special moment on any given day, as he is easily one of the, if not the best, golfer of all time.
I’m sure the crowd in Augusta will be rooting for the 14-time major champion as they always do and a strong performance beating the likes of Rory Mcilroy and Patrick Cantlay over 18 holes at the Dell Technologies Match Play will only make him hungrier for number 15, the one that will probably, if won, mean the most to him after such a tiresome few years outside of the sport. Fitness could prove to be Tiger’s main downfall, that and consistency. Two rounds in one day at the Match Play fairly grew on Woods as he looked wobbly-kneed after his defeat to Lucas Bjerregaard.
There is always the chance of Woods losing concentration and throwing away holes as he has done so often since his return from injury, double and triple bogeys have become his arch nemesis. The eventual outcome, regardless of which one it is, should be entertaining.