As part of The Caddie Network’s proud partnership with Golf Digest in 2019, five of our caddies worked with Editorial Director, Max Adler, ahead of the Masters to answer 11 questions that uncover the secrets to this year at Augusta National.
Below is a portion of Adler’s piece, which answers such questions as: Who will win? Can Patrick Reed defend? Which top players will miss the cut? And more…
Masters 2019: Caddie confidential—11 questions that uncover the secrets to this year at Augusta National
By Max Adler
Editorial Director, Golf Digest
When it comes to predicting who’s going to play well and who isn’t, caddies are the ultimate source. They’re even closer to the pulse during Masters Week as the tradition of players hanging out at the “caddie shack” beside the practice range has grown. In keeping with the other grand structures on the property, the comfortable spread of food, TVs and chairs creates a nice break away from it all. Indeed, only rookies and former champions tend to use the busier main clubhouse.
For the first time, Golf Digest has partnered with The Caddie Network to bring you the uncensored thoughts of five caddies who will be working the 2019 Masters. (You’ve heard of The Caddie Network? Yet another sign of the rising station of loopers, the media entity opened in 2018 and has more than 150 caddies who receive equity in the company for their cooperation in creating content.) All we’ll divulge about the following five voices is that, in aggregate, they’ve caddied in 67 Masters and been a part of 22 top-10 finishes and three wins. For a more cohesive reading experience, we’ve assigned them aliases using Augusta National hole names: Tea Olive, Juniper, Carolina Cherry, White Dogwood and Firethorn.
Who’s going to win this year?
WHITE DOGWOOD: Dustin Johnson. When he’s on, he’s the best in the world. Mentally, he’s perfect for Augusta because he doesn’t get rattled by a tough break, and he doesn’t give an F about anyone else. I’m still dumbfounded that he hasn’t won the Masters. I think he knows it’s time to prove to his boy Brooks Koepka that he’s still No. 1.
JUNIPER: Ditto on Dustin. Augusta is getting longer and longer, so driving is becoming even more important.
TEA OLIVE: Justin Rose. He’s the No. 1-ranked player in the world. Most of all, for the biggest events, he prepares better. All told, he has 15 top-10 finishes in the majors, including the win at Merion. Since 2009, he’s finished outside the top 20 in the Masters just once and has been a runner-up twice [2015 and 2017]. New clubs, new clothes, new sponsors—he’s coming into his own.
FIRETHORN: I’m taking Rosey, too. Who could possibly have more confidence now? He’s become a better putter, and he loves the place. As for Dustin, it’s not just a flight of stairs that’s kept him from winning it. The course doesn’t suit his eye. He likes to hit a cut, and it’s not a great shape for the course. That means more 3-woods off tees and more pressure on putting, and DJ isn’t a great fast-greens putter.
CAROLINA CHERRY: Bubba Watson. Hits it long, hits it right to left and loves putting on fast, undulating greens—I don’t know why, because I grew up near where he did, and it was hard to find greens anywhere faster than six on the Stimp. Bubba’s the kind of guy who plays way better when he’s comfortable, and something about Augusta puts him at ease. Maybe the clean tree lines help him see clearly how he needs to shape shots. He’ll finish his career with four green jackets.
Any chance Patrick Reed successfully defends?
JUNIPER: I was surprised he won last year, but not shocked. He has an amazing short game and one of the strongest heads on tour. That said, I see him putting too much pressure on himself to defend.
WHITE DOGWOOD: Patrick is a player who rides his play, and it gives him great confidence. But it’s hard to follow up. He also had some tough months after the Ryder Cup. A lot went on there with how he tried to take down his captain and teammates. Those are hard things to overcome. I don’t think his iron play is consistent enough to repeat, and his driver hasn’t been quite the same since.
TEA OLIVE: Once you win at Augusta, it’s always possible to win again. Probably more true there than at any other course.
Who else is going to factor?
WHITE DOGWOOD: Jordan Spieth. I don’t care how bad he’s playing, he’ll find it at Augusta. The place is special to him. It’s truly amazing how he reads and putts those greens. I was fortunate to see it up close a few times in recent years, just how aggressive he gets with the putter there. He has some demons on 12, but he’s strong and will overcome them and win another Masters, for sure.
FIRETHORN: Louis Oosthuizen has his mind ready to play this year. He’s come so close at Augusta, and he’s a great speed putter.
JUNIPER: I think Phil Mickelson has one last run in him to become the oldest Masters champion in history [at 48]. He has a ton of course knowledge and is able to elevate his game when he really wants to.
Top players likely to miss the cut?
TEA OLIVE: Bryson DeChambeau. Even though he’s won a bunch, I see the place taking him out of his zone. There are too many elevation changes and slopes on the greens for him to work out precisely. He likes prepping on the practice green with a slope device, which Augusta doesn’t allow. The guy wears caddies out with how much information he wants. I see him getting frustrated without his green-reading book. He hasn’t developed the patience for majors yet.
WHITE DOGWOOD: Bryson drives it great, and his aggressive iron play is impressive. What concerns me is his chipping. He seems somewhat limited on shot selection because his clubs are long and super upright, which makes it difficult to get under the ball at Augusta. He’s proven to be a very emotional player, which can prevent you from winning majors.
CAROLINA CHERRY: Call me crazy, but I think Tiger’s more due to miss the cut than ever. Obviously, his record here is all-time, but it just feels like his driver woes can pop up anytime now. You can’t hit into the quadrants of those firm greens when you’re out of position. And Father Time is catching up with his putter.
What do you predict for Tiger Woods in all the majors?
WHITE DOGWOOD: He can totally compete and win at Augusta this year. He would want nothing more than to get his 15th major there. He knows the place better than anyone—yes, even Phil. Tiger’s next-best chance for a major this year will be the PGA at Bethpage, where he’s won before. It’s a long course that requires great iron play and a great short game—both his strengths—and PGA setups are always the fairest test. I don’t know much about Royal Portrush, and neither does Tiger, so I’d say the U.S. Open will be his third-best chance. Pebble Beach will be the shortest major course this season, and it will probably have the tightest fairways. Perfect for Tiger’s stinger 2-iron.
JUNIPER: I’d rank Tiger’s chances at the majors in 2019 as (1) U.S. Open—don’t think I need to expound given what he did there in 2000. (2) Masters—he knows where he can and can’t spray the driver. (3) Open Championship—won’t have to hit a lot of drivers, and the success last year at Carnoustie will give him confidence. (4) PGA—I wouldn’t count him out from any tournament, but I’ve got to put this last. Some cold New York May weather and that 43-year-old body won’t mix.
To read the complete caddie questionnaire, click here to visit Golf Digest.