On Sunday, hours apart but halfway around the world from each other, Justin Rose won the Farmers Insurance Open following Bryson DeChambeau’s Omega Dubai Desert Classic title victory. They won by a combined nine, and neither tournament was even close. This is not exactly groundbreaking news, but the No. 1 and No. 5 players in the world should be the top two favorites now to win the 2019 Masters.
They aren’t … not yet, anyway. Both are near the top, but neither is at the top.
- Tiger Woods: 11-1
- Dustin Johnson: 12-1
- Jordan Spieth: 12-1
- Justin Rose: 12-1
- Rory McIlroy: 12-1
- Justin Thomas: 14-1
- Brooks Koepka: 14-1
- Bryson DeChambeau: 16-1
- Jon Rahm: 16-1
I get it. I get how betting works and why Tiger Woods is ahead of both Rose and DeChambeau and why everyone else is up there. All I’m saying is that right now, as of the end of January, those two are the most likely to win the first major of the season. There are a number of different things converging here, the first of which is recent form. Here’s a table depicting what has been a preposterous 17-month stretch for both DeChambeau and Rose.
Average finish (excluding MCs)
This is laugh-out-loud impressive. Rose is averaging better than a top-10 finish in his last 35 events. Are you kidding me? DeChambeau’s numbers, while not as impressive as Rose’s (which are not of this planet), are still as good or better than anybody else in the world. And if you shrink the period of time to only include recent events, they’re even more impressive. All five of DeChambeau’s wins have come since last May, and he has just one missed cut in that span of time.
He also has a nice — albeit brief — history at Augusta National. As an amateur back in 2016, while paired with Spieth, DeChambeau flirted with the lead late in the day on Friday before making a triple on the 18th hole of his second round. A par there and he would have been tied (!) with Rory McIlroy in second place, one back of Spieth going into the weekend. Instead, he finished T21 in his best of two finishes at Augusta National. But that was then, and this is now. DeChambeau has conquered everything, it seems, except for a major championship. He knows that, and he also knows it’s the next step in becoming the best player on the planet.
“Last year, I was hitting the ball really well most of the year, but it seemed like at every major, my ball-striking kind of left me for a little bit at those majors,” said DeChambeau after his romp in Dubai on Sunday. “That’s really why I didn’t play as best as I could.”
Rose, on the other hand, never seems to be without his ball-striking, even at Augusta. He has finished in the top 25 at the Masters every year since 2009 and has top 10s in three of the last four years, including runner-up finishes in 2015 and 2017. He has owned Augusta as much as one can own Augusta without being able to take home a green jacket. Rose rarely plays this quality of golf this early in the season, though, and he’s on an all-time heater — as you can see from the table above.
“Everything has worked out better than I would have hoped for sure the first couple weeks,” Rose said of his victory on Sunday with new equipment. “Winning in January, we talked about I think 2002 was the last time I won in January. Definitely sets up the year, means you can really focus on not having to chase points as much and you can build a schedule that works for you and try and peak for the majors.”
As I watched both golfers pull into the winner’s circle on Sunday morning (and evening, depending on where you live), I couldn’t help but think that peaking won’t be a problem. For lesser players? Sure. But both of these men have been on long streaks that don’t show any signs of wobbling anytime soon.
So when DeChambeau and Rose are locked up in a two-man fistfight down the stretch at Augusta in 10 weeks from now, don’t be surprised. Their trajectories have been pointing directly at that for a long time now. You can see it coming from a long way away, and I’m not sure there’s much anybody can do to stop it.
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