The Masters unveiled the tee times and pairings for the first and second rounds of the season’s first (men’s) major. Overall, I’d say that there are some good ones, but there weren’t many where I was like, Oh, I’d definitely follow THAT group. Actually, maybe there is one, but I’m on the fence.
I bolded the pairings that stood out to me. I probably could have picked a few more, but since it’s the Masters, the smallest field by far at a major, I would’ve ended up choosing half the groups.
World no. 1 and the betting favorite Dustin Johnson is paired with two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson and reigning PGA champion Jimmy Walker — all are considered bombers. This threesome is most likely the “one” I mentioned above if I had to pick a group to follow.
Here’s the full list of the groupings for Thursday and Friday at Augusta National:
8 a.m./11:07 a.m.: Daniel Summerhays and Russell Henley.
8:11 a.m./11:18 a.m.: Trevor Immelman, Brendan Steele and Jhonattan Vegas.
8:22 a.m./11:29 a.m.: Mike Weir, Billy Hurley III and Scott Piercy.
8:33 a.m./11:40 am.: Larry Mize, Brian Stuard and Stewart Hagestad.
8:44 a.m./11:51 a.m.: Soren Kjeldsen, Kevin Chappell and Jim Furyk.
8:55 a.m./12:13 p.m.: Sandy Lyle, Sean O’Hair and Scott Gregory.
9:06 a.m./12:24 p.m.: Zach Johnson, Louis Oosthuizen and Adam Hadwin. (Two former Masters champions and a recent first-time winner and newlywed and Canadian! — who doesn’t love Canadians? Hadwin is a great dude, for what it’s worth.)
9:17 a.m./12:35 p.m.: Tommy Fleetwood, Gary Woodland and J.B. Holmes.
9:28 a.m./12:46 p.m.: Adam Scott, Kevin Kisner and Andy Sullivan. (Three nice guys. Scott obviously won the 2013 Masters for his one and only major championship. Kisner is a local and lives in Aiken, South Carolina, which is basically Georgia — it’s like 30-40 minutes away from Augusta. And Andy is always smiling and just a likable guy, so it’s hard to not root for him.)
9:39 a.m./12:57 p.m.: Francesco Molinari, Daniel Berger and Thomas Pieters.
10:01 a.m./1:08 p.m.: Fred Couples, Paul Casey and Kevin Na. (If Freddie is in the group, then, well, he’s automatically a favorite to watch. It also happens that I like Na and Casey a lot, too. Casey might be a decent dark horse pick, for those asking…)
10:12 a.m./1:19 p.m.: Russell Knox, Rickie Fowler and Hideki Matsuyama. (I’m sure some people are all about this group since it’s got two of the most popular young stars in the game. Fowler won the Honda Classic in March (or end of February? I can’t keep track). Matsuyama, who won the Phoenix Open, was on this ridiculous hot streak for months, where it seemed like he never missed a shot, but he’s suddenly fallen off the face of the earth ever since a missed cut at Riviera.)
10:23 a.m./1:30 p.m.: Branden Grace, Brooks Koepka and Jeunghun Wang.
10:34 a.m./1:41 p.m.: Jordan Spieth, Martin Kaymer and Matthew Fitzpatrick. (I mean, everyone will be watching Spieth this week. I think I speak for not only myself but also Spieth that I can’t wait for him to get through the first round and the 12th hole, so we can stop talking and asking him about it. I’m sick of hearing that question asked re: “demons” or what have you, so it’s pretty obvious he’s tired of that whole narrative, too. I guess that’s the price you pay for being defending champion, having a five-shot lead on the back nine and then making a quadruple-bogey on the 12th, but still, it’s like, do we really have to discuss this AGAIN?? So, we’ll all be relieved to get it out of the way. I know he missed the cut at Houston, but I wouldn’t read too much into it. I think he has a switch that turns on when he arrives at Augusta and it’s unlike any other. #sorrynotsorry)
10:45 a.m./1:52 p.m.: Phil Mickelson, Rafael Cabrera-Bello and Si Woo Kim.
10:56 a.m./2:03 p.m.: Brandt Snedeker, Justin Rose and Jason Day. (Can’t lose with this group. I’d consider all three perhaps somewhat sneaky contenders this week. Rose is a good pick. He’s been consistent and kind of knocking on the door in his seven starts in 2017, which includes five top-15 finishes. He’s one of the best ballstrikers in the game, and he’s finished in the top 10 at Augusta the past two years, including T2 in 2015. As for Day, he’s flying under the radar and no one is sure what we’ll see from him since we’ve seen so little of him this year. But he’s got that weight off his back with the good news from his mom’s battle with cancer and a very positive prognosis post-surgery, so that should free him up. I also think he has a switch that lights up at Augusta.)
11:07 a.m./8 a.m.: Rod Pampling and William McGirt.
11:18 a.m./8:11 a.m.: Mark O’Meara, Hudson Swafford and Roberto Castro.
11:29 a.m./8:22 a.m.: Ian Woosnam, James Hahn and Brad Dalke.
11:40 a.m./8:33 a.m.: Ross Fisher, Pat Perez and Byeong Hun An.
11:51 a.m./8:44 a.m.: Jose Maria Olazabal, Ryan Moore and Webb Simpson.
12:13 p.m./8:55 a.m.: Ernie Els, Jason Dufner and Bernd Wiesberger.
12:24 p.m./9:06 a.m.: Danny Willett, Matt Kuchar and Curtis Luck.
12:35 p.m./9:17 a.m.: Vijay Singh, Emiliano Grillo and Toto Gana.
12:46 p.m./9:28 a.m.: Angel Cabrera, Henrik Stenson and Tyrrell Hatton.
12:57 p.m./9:39 a.m.: Charl Schwartzel, Steve Stricker and Mackenzie Hughes.
1:08 p.m./10:01 a.m.: Charley Hoffman, Chris Wood and Yuta Ikeda.
1:19 p.m./10:12 a.m.: Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Shane Lowry. (Three solid players. Three solid guys. Two have some history (and/or demons) at Augusta National.)
1:30 p.m./10:23 a.m.: Bernhard Langer, Alex Noren (not a bad dark horse pick….) and Patrick Reed.
1:41 p.m./10:34 a.m.: Rory McIlroy, Hideto Tanihara and Jon Rahm. (Everyone knows even if I don’t pick Rory as my favorite, it’s implied that I would like to see him win [every week] and complete the career grand slam. I’m sure he would like to finally vindicate himself after what happened at the 2011 Masters on the back nine. I still cringe thinking about that tee shot on 10…and all of it… Tanihara gave DJ a run for his money at the semifinals at the Match Play event a few weeks ago, and so did Rahm in the finals. Obviously, Rahm is the latest “IT” kid as a rookie with a win under his belt and he’s been in contention consistently in big events. After falling short in Mexico, he tweeted that he wanted to go head-to-head with DJ at Augusta. He got that wish a few weeks early in Austin, but perhaps he’ll have another shot this week. “Conventional wisdom” doesn’t favor rookies at the Masters, but hell, that book is being rewritten and who knows.
1:52 p.m./10:45 a.m.: Marc Leishman, Bill Haas and Justin Thomas.
2:03 p.m./10:56 a.m.: Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson and Jimmy Walker. (Bombers. Major winners. World no. 1. Winners from two of last year’s majors. What else you need? This is the must-watch group if you have to pick one, but if you’re actually at Augusta, I would skip the crowds and pick a more low-key threesome of solid players to follow, and then sit somewhere like Amen Corner or perhaps around the 15th green/16th tee/green, where you can watch multiple shots.)
My favorite for the week? I think I answered that already, but I picked Spieth a few months ago and I’ll stick to it. Obviously, Rory is always the guy I’d like to see win and especially at the Masters. You can’t count out DJ, of course. Word is he’s been tinkering with the bounce of his wedges for those tight lies around the greens at Augusta National. However, with the way he’s been hitting it, he hasn’t really missed many greens and Augusta is a second shot course, so we’ll see.
I’ll be more official about my picks and dark horses on Wednesday.
It’ll be interesting how the weather will factor into everything in the first two rounds. The forecast calls for fairly cool temperatures (low 60s) and very windy conditions (20-35mph) — as if doesn’t swirl and gust enough on an average day at Augusta! But hey, bring it on, I want to see them take on some tough conditions. Or I wouldn’t mind, but perhaps that’s also because I’m not there — at the same time, once the tournament starts, it’s hard for the media to leave the press center since the whole phone policy thing and not being able to know what’s going on and needing to be connected, etc.
TV schedule and viewing options/info:
First and foremost, download the Masters app on your iPhone and/or iPad and/or all applicable devices. It’s really good and every year it gets better. Same goes for Masters.com. Shout-out to the digital media team, as all their platforms are top of the line, but what else would you expect for the Masters and Augusta National?! Yep, everything is efficient and absolutely perfect if you’re on the outside looking in! Remember: Nothing that you’ll see ever is accidental and/or coincidental.
The Masters digital platforms will offer a Featured Groups channel. This will become available about five minutes before the first tee time and will provide 18-hole, spotlight coverage of two select groups during morning and afternoon play.
Thursday Featured Group Schedule
9:06am Zach Johnson, Louis Oosthuizen and Adam Hadwin
9:28am Adam Scott, Kevin Kisner, Andy Sullivan
1:41pm Rory McIlroy, Hideto Tanihara, Jon Rahm
2:03pm Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Jimmy Walker
Friday Featured Group Schedule
9:06am Danny Willett, Matt Kuchar, Curtis Luck
9:28am Angel Cabrera, Henrik Stenson, Tyrell Hatton
1:41pm Jordan Spieth, Martin Kaymer, Matt Fitzpatrick
2:03pm Brandt Snedeker, Justin Rose, Jason Day
That’s a pretty solid line-up!
There will also be live feeds streaming coverage of the practice facilities, Amen Corner and the 15th and 16th holes, which are available on the app and Masters.com.
TV and online schedule of events for the rest of the week:
- Par-3 Contest (ESPN and Masters.com, 3-5 p.m.)
- Round 1 (Masters.com; ESPN, 3-7:30 p.m.)
- Round 2 (Masters.com; ESPN, 3-7:30 p.m.)
- Round 3 (Masters.com; CBS, 3-7:30 p.m.)
- Round 4 (Masters.com; CBS, 2-7 p.m. or finish)