Former winning European Ryder Cup captain, Paul McGinley has identified three players he believes will prove hard to beat at this week’s Masters. Through his role as a pundit with Sky Sports, the Dubliner has been inundated with data and statistics that point towards a potential Augusta champion and after earlier ruling out the prospects of Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry, he’s now named his leading three picks ahead of Thursday’s opening round in Georgia.
“I fancy guys with form, wherever they are from, I don’t care,” said McGinley, who explains his though process in detail before getting to his selections here. “I look at statistics, and I look at who is playing the best and who is most suited to playing around this golf course. Who is primed to win based on their form and their statistics? And there are three guys…
“Let’s go back to the two majors that have been played behind locked doors. Of course, it is different for the players out there. And it is no coincidence that two rookies have won in terms of major wins. We’ve Collin Morikawa win, and now we’ve seen Bryson win his first major championship. I don’t think it’s a coincidence the fact that they both played without a crowd. I wouldn’t be surprised to see that continue this week and three guys come to mind.
“I believe it’s only a matter of time before they start winning Major championships. They all have lots of form, and they all have the skill set to win around Augusta in terms of the strokes gained approach and how they play the game. They hit the ball a long way, and they are very good iron players and they play aggressively. Next week is going to be about aggressive play because of the soft conditions.
“And those three guys are Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele and Tyrrell Hatton. They would be the three I’d look at statistically as the guys that are trending. Rory [McIlroy] has trended in previous years, and I have been very bullish about his chances, but his form is not there at the moment for me to give a strong feeling that Rory can do it. And it is the same with Shane Lowry.
“I tipped Shane to win the Open last year on the Wednesday, live on Sky because he was in form and I had a sense of where he was at and where his form was at and the way he was playing. That’s what I base my assumptions on and why I will discount Rory and Shane, and I will discount Tiger. It is highly unusual to go from a poor run of form into winning a major championship. Generally, you see guys trending before they win and for that reason, I look to guys who haven’t won majors before in Xander, Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton.”
However, as bullish as McGinley himself sounds on the chances of that trio, this particular renewal looks wide open and the Dubliner didn’t stop there in assessing the chances of a few other players teeing up this week not without hope at the Cathedral in the Pines.
“Another guy I’d put in there who is in great form over the last four or five weeks and has won twice around there is Bubba Watson,” McGinley added. “Keep an eye out for him. This long golf course will suit him as well, the aggressive play will suit him and quietly he has gone about compiling a nice run of form.
“Dustin Johnson is another one. Again, lots of form. I think he has played nine Masters, his first five, he missed the cut more times than he played well [he went T30, T38, T38, T13, MC then T6, T4, T10, T2) and never had a top-10. And his last four he has had four top 10s in a row. So this guy is getting used to playing this golf course. This guy was really focussed and brilliant in winning the FedEx in August (won Tour Championship and FedEx on 6 Sept).
“I know he has had Covid since and is playing over in Houston (where he tied second) so keep an eye on him because he’s a guy that’s trending and one of those guys in the right place mentally to go on and continue that run of form. Morikawa showed some really good form before he went on to twin. Bryson the same before he went on to win. I am a great believer in that, and I make my assumptions based on form and the golf course they are going to be playing.”
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