Wayne Riley: “The English Boys Have A Good Chance”
Who would have thought in this day and age of hitting bombs and reducing par 5 to a drive and a wedge that we’d be talking about two 40-plus Englishmen after day one of The Masters?
Paul Casey was just great, he had five birdies and a straightforward eagle at the 2nd, and, while he’s come in under the radar a bit, he was tied second at this year’s PGA Championship.
This is his 14th time at Augusta and there’s nothing like a bit of experience, though this, so far, is a totally different Augusta.
The ball’s not running out, it’s hitting slopes and sticking and it’s not the Masters as we know it. I don’t really like watching it the way it’s playing right now but it will dry out and things will change.
Casey is a straight ball hitter and a great driver and, better still, he’s a knuckle-ball hitter. He can keep it flat so he can get some roll, and it won’t be plugging, and that means he can reach the par 5s and that’s the secret to Augusta, you need to make hay on the par 5s.
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So many of them can win it and Casey is definitely in that category. Look at Danny Willett and Bubba Watson (twice) in recent years, they earned it coming home and it might be different this year but it doesn’t matter how you win – you’re not going to look back in 10 years and think about it being played in November, you’ll still have the jacket and you’ll still be at the Champions Dinner.
Lee Westwood is the same and his chances are also really good. I think Friday will be massive to get in the mix for the weekend but Lee knows what it takes to do well here; he’s been second a couple of times and he’s got Helen on the bag which is great.
He hasn’t been to Augusta since 2017 but he’s in a nice place in his golfing life with nothing to prove and this would be the icing on the cake.
For both Casey and Westwood the speed of the greens might help them as they’re not overly quick and that might be right up their street.
Otherwise Bryson DeChambeau was sensational. He got off to a bad start and hit a silly 7-iron off the pine straw so maybe he’ll have to rein that back in and sometimes play the percentages but he’ll be overjoyed.
His confidence will only have increased as 70 was as high as he could have shot and that is a huge positive. Had he shot seven under his confidence wouldn’t have changed, he now knows that he can hit some wonky shots and still manage two under.
I still think he’s one of the players to beat, but one guy swung it better than all of them – Tiger Woods.
It’s going to be a lot of fun.
Wayne Riley is a Golf Monthly columnist and Sky Sports Commentator.
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