US Masters Paul McGinley: Why I don't fancy Rory or Shane to win the US Masters
Betting on the Masters has become an annual tradition as popular as a punt on the Grand National.
But if you planned to splash the cash on Rory McIlroy or Shane Lowry, or "Mad Scientist" Bryson DeChambeau, think again. Fans will be following the action on Sky Sports over the next few days, and lead analyst Paul McGinley has his eye on form horses Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele or Tyrrell Hatton.
"I have nothing against them but the bottom line is that their form is poor," he said of Lowry, McIlroy and defending champion Tiger Woods.
The numbers don't lie and having learned from Bernhard Langer early in his career that success at Augusta hinges on iron play, not putting, he's ruling McIlroy out for now.
That the winner of the 'strokes gained approach' category has won the Masters three times since 2014 and come second and third in the other two years is a red flag against the Holywood star.
"I don't fancy him, I have to say," McGinley said. "I think he would be a surprise winner if he were to win, he showed no form post-lockdown of any significance. All his categories have massively dropped off, not just his iron play. He was third in iron play going into the lockdown and from lockdown to now he is 58th.
"That's why I would be surprised if he really raised a gallop this week on top of the fact there is a massive weight of history on his shoulders. He played so-so a couple of weeks ago [at Sherwood], had 29 birdies, more birdies than he has ever had before and said all I have to do is cut out the mistakes. But that's easier said than done. A lot of the mistakes are coming from poor iron play."
As for Lowry, McGinley points to his inconsistent form as something that's normal for players coming to terms with winning their first Major.
"After the euphoria of winning, and thinking, 'The floodgates have opened, here we go', a lot of guys regress initially after winning a Major championship.
"I have no doubt he will play well enough to get on that Ryder Cup team next year and move forward, but at the moment, we are just seeing a bit of volatility, and a lot of it is down to the expectation of being a Major champion."
With soft conditions expected at Augusta, McGinley expects aggressive players such as Dustin Johnson and two-time champion Bubba Watson to shine but fancies that a fan-free Augusta National will be conducive to producing the season's third first-time Major winner which bodes well for Rahm, Schauffele or Hatton.
"They would be the three I'd look at statistically as the guys that are trending," McGinley said. As for DeChambeau, who McGinley believes has merely "joined the party" in terms of big-hitting, he sees the dense trees and water at Augusta as big obstacles. "He is one of the guys I would put down as one of the favourites, but I'm not seeing him going to Augusta and playing a different game than anybody else just like Tiger did in '97."
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