RotoWire writers team again with Morning Read contributors to handicap RSM Classic and answer some of game’s key questions
Morning Read has teamed again with the fantasy golf and gaming experts at RotoWire to bring you a more complete look at which players are set to thrive – and others who will struggle – this week on the PGA Tour. In the third installment of our series, our two groups answer some of the game’s biggest questions now that the Masters has finished. The PGA Tour plays its penultimate 2020 event this week, returning to Sea Island (Ga.) Resort for the RSM Classic (click here for tee times and here for prize money).
So, let’s get to it:
Dustin Johnson won the Masters by five shots and set a scoring record in the process. Is he the best player in the game today? If not, who is?
Len Hochberg, RotoWire senior golf writer: Really, the question should be, who's second: Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy or Bryson DeChambeau? There's no question who's first, and it's not even close. You might have to go back to Tiger Woods in his heyday to find such a gap between Nos. 1 and 2.
Mike Purkey, Morning Read contributor: Johnson is, by far, and whoever is next is a distant second. Johnson has had all of the tools for a long time. Now, he's a complete player and easily could win the Masters again in April.
Gary Van Sickle, Morning Read contributor: As Tiger Woods said when asked in the Butler Cabin whether he was ready to present the green jacket to Johnson, "Absolutely." His consistency is almost Tiger-esque. Putting was the last missing piece of the puzzle for D.J. If he's going to putt like he did at Augusta from now on, he'll pile up wins like Woods used to do.
Greg Vara, RotoWire lead golf writer: Dustin Johnson is the best going. When Brooks Koepka is healthy, I'd still take him at the majors, but week in and week out, it's D.J. I'd put Justin Thomas in that mix as well, but he hasn't gotten it done at the majors recently. Rory McIlroy is not in the conversation for me until he wins another major. It's been six years!
What will be your lasting memory of the 2020 Masters?
Hochberg: How much winning it meant to Dustin Johnson, and how emotional he got. The longstanding belief in golf was that he forgot about all those major losses immediately. It does not seem possible that winning could mean so much if losing meant so little.
Purkey: Johnson's 8-iron to 6 feet at the par-3 sixth hole on Sunday. He had made bogeys on Nos. 4 and 5, and it looked like it could be another major slipping away in the final round. Making the birdie on No. 6 just might have won Johnson the Masters.
Van Sickle: The course views from the drone cameras. I didn't miss the gallery roars because I could see the golf course so much better without all those pesky fans in the way. The new drone cameras gave us all a better look, and from angles we'd never seen before. It was way cool.
Vara: The easy scoring conditions. I'd say the lack of fans, but I'm already used to seeing tiny galleries, so it really didn't faze me much this past week. The scoring conditions were as easy as it gets at the Masters. Not only was the wind absent, but the grounds were soft all week and the greens never got to that "scary" level that they often reach by Sunday at Augusta.
This week, the PGA Tour moves to Sea Island for the RSM Classic. The field is surprisingly strong. Who looks like a good bet at current odds?
Hochberg: We're back to a maxed-out field of 156 for the first time this season. Even though it's a strong field, it's wide open. Some of these guys could have Masters hangovers. Tyrrell Hatton won't be one of them, as he missed the cut (he missed in all three majors this year). He could be pretty fired up after an all awful week at Augusta.
Purkey: Dylan Frittelli (60-1) is coming off a T-5 at the Masters. He is bound to be riding a wave of confidence.
Van Sickle: Stewart Cink won two months ago at the Safeway Open, was T-12 at the Sanderson Farms Championship and T-4 in Bermuda three weeks ago. Yes, he's 47, but he's on a roll. Cink ranks sixth in greens hit in regulation on the PGA Tour and makes a good flyer bet at 100-1.
Vara: Corey Conners (30-1). Conners got off to a slow start this past week, but he fought his way back into the top-10 at the Masters. His slow start kept him under the under, which is why his odds are so high this week. That top-10 was his second in his past three starts.
What is your one bold prediction for pro golf that you think will come true by the end of the year?
Hochberg: Rickie Fowler will fall out of the top 50 for the first time since 2011 and not automatically qualify for the 2021 Masters. It could happen next week, pending the RSM Classic. He's ranked 48th now, having fallen from 23rd at the beginning of the year. There's no Hero World Challenge with its "free" OWGR points to save him this year. He doesn't have a top 10 since January.
Purkey: A news outlet will report that the USGA will seriously consider reducing the size of driver heads and using a ball for elite competition that flies 15 percent shorter than at present.
Van Sickle: The USGA will pull the plug on its rules change regarding lost-ball searches, restoring it to the traditional five minutes instead of this year's new limit, three minutes. Contenders in two major championships in a row – Harris English, first hole of the final round of the U.S. Open at Winged Foot, and Bryson DeChambeau, just off the third green Friday at Augusta – lost balls that surely wouldn't have been lost if fans were present, or if they'd had another two minutes to look. It was an ill-conceived change that should be fixed.
Vara: Maybe not so bold, but I'm not expecting fans to be back any time soon. It looked as if we were starting slowly to get back to normal, but with the pandemic coming back stronger than before, expect the tournaments – at least in the first half of the season – to play it safe.
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